By Julie Miller, Vanity Fair
New information today on how President Obama was able to edge out Mitt Romney when it came to clever television advertising: The New York Times reports that the Obama campaign used a data system/Transformers villain called "the Optimizer" to determine what likely and undecided voters were watching on television. After gathering information from the campaign's "e-mail list, Facebook and millions of door-to-door discussions conducted by volunteers in swing states," strategists ranked voters most to least likely to support Obama. They then gave this information and cable-box research to a part-time janitor at the nearest Ivy League college, who, after one dramatic session at a hallway chalkboard, came up with a brilliant solution to the formula: the campaign should allocate more advertising funds to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, ESPN, and, amazingly, TV Land, the basic-cable network devoted to reruns of MASH, Murder, She Wrote, and Gilligan's Island.
Explaining the decision to advertise in the latter, most surprising destination, advertising strategist Jim Margolis told the Times that the campaign was targeting "folks who may not be as political, may not be deciding until later." (Not to mention folks who can impressively tolerate Home Improvement and King of Queens episodes invading their I Love Lucy programming blocks.) "A lot of these people are lower-information voters," he continued, "not necessarily tuned to politics and watching a little more programming that is out of the main lane of what most of us think of." Speaking of obscure television programming and its relation to this year's election, we wonder how many campaigns (if any) targeted HGTV during Love It or Leave It, the "very calming" choice of Hillary Clinton.
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