Editor’s note: Do to reporter error, the first version of this post misspelled Marty Meyer’s name.
Before it was a formal company, the first iteration of what is now El Toro, a Louisville-based targeted marketing firm, was evolving in the world of political campaigns.
Because the operatives who run political campaigns “have great data” about likely voters, said Marty Meyer, vice president of political accounts at El Toro.
This year, Meyer, CEO Stacy Griggs and the El Toro staff put to work what they had learned, taking that great data and using their patent-pending IP targeting software to work for 23 candidates in three states.
The results: Candidates using El Toro’s system for the May 20 primaries won in aggregate 78 percent of the races, Griggs said. El Toro worked for most – though not all – candidates because, Griggs said, IP targeting can give candidates more “touches” for far less money than the electronic media and even direct mail.
In a data-driven business, Griggs makes a persuasive case for injecting high-tech into campaigning.
In two areas, El Toro worked for two similar “green” candidates, neither of whom were swimming in money, Griggs said. In the county where El Toro was involved, they won by eight or nine points more than in the county where El Toro wasn’t involved.
In an A-B test, two very similar counties from the demography standpoint, the El Toro county got better results, he said.
The acid test is to poll a group of people, “hit them with our system, then poll them again and see how the needle moves,” Griggs said.
While IP targeting can measure accurately data on open rates and such, campaign targeting is not an exact science that can factor out one candidate’s innate advantages, including positions, work ethic and charisma, or lack of, and voter apathy.
El Toro does have one advantage: Marty Meyer.
“I grew up in this world. I know everyone. I’ve known Jerry Abramson since I was 7,” said Meyer, who left Metro Councilman David Yates’ staff to join El Toro.
In fact, Yates used what was to become El Toro’s technology to fundraise before the company was founded in August 2013.
Griggs naturally advocates candidates moving some of the money they would have spent on television and direct mail into IP targeting.
“It’s not replacing (direct mail), but it’s certainly an effective way to also hit the audience,” he said.
El Toro uses data from third-party providers and clients, with techs mapping millions of IP addresses. This creates what Griggs calls “a phone book for the Internet.” They use that phone book to send campaign advertising for clients ranging from car companies to candidates.
In campaigns, the target audience becomes target audiences, Meyer said. They can use campaign’s demographic detail to tweak a candidate’s message for a range of voter segments: women, men, seniors, new voters, gun rights supporters or gun rights opponents.
In Florida, one candidate had a list of just Jewish Democratic voters, Griggs said. “We don’t know how she got a list of Jewish Democratic voters, but there are all kinds of voter lists out there ….”
The conventional thinking in campaigns is that to win, “we need to engage (likely voters) five times,” Meyer said. “It costs money to do those five touches.”
Direct mail can cost as much as 80 cents per piece while IP targeting costs about a penny and a half per touch, Griggs said. For the cost of one piece of direct mail, El Toro candidates can touch a voter 60 times, “and that’s powerful,” Meyer said.
Griggs concedes Internet marketing doesn’t have the same resonance as a direct mail piece. But Internet marketing has the advantage of multiple touches for far less than 70 cents, he said.
Moreover, Griggs has some pretty compelling data to make El Toro’s case.
• A detailed analysis of five races using a control group and two targeted groups per race shows in areas that were targeted 30 extra times per household, the El Toro candidate received on average 11 percent more votes.
• El Toro won a three-way primary for family court judge in Jefferson County, though its candidate was outspent 4-to-1 by the favorite.
• El Toro won a primary for state representative for a candidate whose opponent outspent him two-to-one.
• El Toro helped a first-term state senator from Arkansas fend off a well-financed challenger by increasing her name recognition numbers 8 percent in a seven-day period prior to the election.
• Helped pass a ballot initiative banning genetically modified crops in southern Oregon, which passed with more than 66 percent of the vote. The GMO initiative was outspent three-to-one.
That GMO results were 15 percent better in the county El Toro worked than the neighboring county with the same ballot initiative, but no El Toro, Griggs said.
Out of the five El Toro losses, two of the campaigns didn’t spend sufficiently on IP targeting, and El Toro couldn’t serve enough ads to hit resonance with the their target audience, he said. An effective IP targeting campaign typically costs candidates about $10,000, Griggs said.
Of course, the question in campaigns comes down to, “Would their candidates have won without El Toro?
Only one El Toro candidate we tried to interview agreed to talk about her El Toro experience.
Angela Leet, who won her Republican primary race in Louisville’s Metro Council District 7, is something of an anomaly in that she herself is an engineer.
Angela and Lee Leet are local business owners. Lee Leet built the restaurant tech firm QSR Automations, one of the largest Louisville-based technology firms. Angela’s company, ALEETCO, offers construction management services.
Angela Leet and the El Toro crew agree on one thing: She would have won her race with or without El Toro’s help. Leet added that she didn’t see a huge difference in campaign email open rates between El Toro’s effort and other media.
“I’d like to know more about their algorithm.”
Leet calls the concept “interesting,” adding it may be ahead of its time.