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Obama’s Ad Men Turning Movie Nights Into Mini-Elections

AMG Co-Founders Larry Grisolano & Jeff Link
Analytics Media Group co-founders Larry Grisolano, right, and Jeff Link speak during an interview in Washington D.C., on July 11, 2013. Photographer: Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

Two of the masterminds behind President Barack Obama’s analytics-fueled campaign-advertising operation say they’ve been inundated with inquiries from corporate executives eager to apply the tactics that won the 2012 presidential race to their marketing efforts.

“We’re sort of handing out water in the desert,” Larry Grisolano, the co-founder of Analytics Media Group, said at a Bloomberg Government luncheon yesterday in Washington.

The company, established in December to take their strategy for reaching voters and sell it to corporations trying to reach customers, sees the automotive, insurance, and movie industries as prime targets for their services, said Jeff Link, the chief executive officer of the firm.

They’re sectors in which consumers routinely make choices - - what movie to see or which car model to buy -- just as voters do every election year.

“Our whole approach is, why buy places when you can buy people?” Link said, describing how the firm uses a method that crunches television-viewing information with consumer data to target voters and consumers in a far more specialized way than traditional advertising campaigns.

In the 2012 campaign, the strategy allowed Obama’s team to slice and dice the voters they needed to reach so thinly -- and pinpoint which programs they would be watching at which times -- that they were able to spend their money more efficiently.

Cable Ads

While Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would run five or six advertisements around television news programs, whose viewers had mostly made up their minds on whom to back in the race, Obama was running eight times as many commercials on cable, Grisolano said. The Romney campaign bought advertising on 18 cable networks during the campaign, Link said, compared with 60 for the Obama campaign, including niche stations such as TV Land, which airs many reruns and comedy programs, and Big Ten Network, a sports station.

Prospective clients that could benefit from that sort of precision, they said, include automakers who want more efficiency in their $1 billion-plus advertising buys and yogurt purveyors interested in reclaiming lost market-share from competitors.

Even with the move to the corporate world, the two campaign veterans are keeping their feet firmly grounded in Democratic politics.

Grisolano, the Chicago-based partner at AKPD Message and Media who served as the Obama campaign’s director of paid media in both 2008 and 2012, is working on the Iowa campaign of Representative Bruce Braley, running to succeed retiring Senator Tom Harkin. He’s also handling media for former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley’s Illinois gubernatorial run and New York Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign.

Link, an Iowa native and former Harkin aide who runs the Des Moines-based political firm LinkStrategies, is also working with Braley.

“I guarantee our clients are going to have well-targeted buys,” Grisolano said.

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