“We’re using machine learning to predict and assign political preference to users,” said Eric Hoppe, Pandora’s group product manager. “Fundamentally, it’s done on a scale from zero to one – if we don’t have strong predictive power in a certain case, we need to find additional data points to use in that model until we do see distinct patterns, but if it’s not clear, then we don’t force the issue.”
For the 2016 election, Pandora is taking its targeting a step further by partnering with a large political data provider to add voter registration data into the mix, a process that’s more in the deterministic vein. Hoppe declined to name the data provider Pandora is using.
Because Pandora listeners need to share an email address when they sign up for the service, Pandora can make a one-to-one match between its own user records and the records of registered voters.
The result is five buckets comprised of tens of millions of users each that advertisers can buy for targeting purposes: strong Democrat, lean Democrat, strong Republican, lean Republican and undecided voters.
Solid targeting is one of the biggest challenges facing political advertisers, said Jamie Bowers, digital director at National Media, a full-service buy-side ad agency that has handled campaigns for mainly Republican clients, including Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“DSPs, DMPs and ad networks offer every which way to target through data providers, but they don’t necessarily have the scale and they aren’t necessarily as granular as we would like,” Bowers said.
Last year, National Media ran a campaign on Pandora for Rick Scott during his successful, and somewhat contested, bid for the Florida governorship, layering political and Hispanic targeting segments together to reach both Spanish- and English-speaking Hispanic voters.
When the votes were in, Scott had garnered a higher percentage of Hispanic votes than anticipated, said Bowers, who noted that National Media is planning to take advantage of Pandora’s revamped political segments over the coming season.
“People use Pandora as a casual listening device, as an entertainment vehicle they listen to on their commute, on their desktop at work, while they’re on a walk – they’re just listening all day long,” Bowers said. “And that’s something quite different from running an ad on the nightly news. It’s intimate.”