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New app makes political advertising inescapable

There's no getting away from them
Courtesy Bright Orange Advertising, by permission

This year's Congressional and Senatorial campaigns won't be the first bitterly fought ones in American history. But they will be the first that can send you targeted advertising wherever you go, according to a July 2 MediaPost Data and Targeting Insider report. So even if you don't particularly want to follow the election campaign, the campaign will follow you.

You'll be the target of political display ads when you work on your desktop or laptop computer, when you make or take a call on your smartphone, when you're reading a book or watching a movie on your tablet, even in your family room as you veg out on your couch in front of the smart TV.

This intrusive app has been in the works since 2011. Now, conveniently at the end of this year's primary season, the United States Patent and Technology Office, in its wisdom, has granted it US Patent #8,763,033. So without fear of its proprietary technology being copied, the developers, Audience Partners, can market it to candidates or online ad publishers such as Yahoo – who can, in turn, unleash it on the rest of us.

Talk about your tax dollars at work.

Big Brother is watching

The app uses "voter registration records and a host of other data," the MediaPost report says. This "other data" that this app sucks up includes your voter regsitration, your party affiliation, your voting history, and your political geography.

Having amassed all this information,

Depending on which of the four screens the ad gets served, the platform with either match the voter registration data to information in a cookie or a device ID, anonymously. The patent gives the company access to billions of proprietary cookies and nearly 100 million anonymous mobile phone and tablet IDs.

The technology even learns to optimize the political pitch for the device you're using at the time – whether you're on a website, using a mobile app or watching a reality show.

One small mercy is that "advertisers can only use for political campaigns or advocacy campaigns to promote a piece of legislation, proposition on the ballet [sic] or social cause. Restrictions at the state level prohibit the data being used for commercial targeting."

Thank heaven for state-level restrictions.

Nothing to see here, folks

According to Audience Partners CEO Jeff Dittus, his company's pervasive new technology represents an extension of degree, not a change in kind. It's just a digital evolution of the targeting techniques politicians have used for years in direct-mail and door-to-door campaigning, he says.

"It was exotic when we started and now it's expected," he told MediaPost, but "[p]oliticians have grown accustomed to micro-targeting."

Between now and November, it looks like all millions of us voters with digital devices will have the opportunity to grow accustomed to it, too.

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