Jeff Dittus and Rich Masterson are happy about the Republicans' surge in the polls for this November's elections to Congress. Not just because it's their party. Also because they own and operate CampaignGrid LLC, a Ft. Washington firm they say is finding and targeting online voters for 70 GOP candidates and political donor groups, backing a range of hopefuls, from Nevada tea-party conservative Senate candidate Sharron Angle, to Main Line-Berks County moderate Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa.
That's up from 30 races last year, when their clients included Chris Christie's successful campaign to beat then-New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine. Dittus says he's increased staff to 15, from last year's eight, and added an office near Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington.
How's this work? For example: After Corzine backers associated Christie with healthcare-spending cuts, including opposition to breast cancer exams, CampaignGrid pushed an ad noting Christie's mother was a breast cancer survivor. As Dittus said, "We put that video in an online ad and sent it to the moms of New Jersey," targeting swing districts. "Our polling showed it worked."
CampaignGrid says it's built a database of more than 60 million registered voters. "We take the national voter file, the list of every registered voter in the U.S., with their voting history and party affiliation. And a lot of information on them as people -- consumer information, income level, education, male-female, ethnicity, all the things that you're terribly interested in as a voter.
"We take that data and, in a non-personally-identifiable way, we know you're a Republican executive who went to college and lives in Gwynned Valley. We tailor our message to that individual based on those situations.
"We run Gerlach's TV ads on the Internet so there is no waste. With broadcast TV, he's advertising in New Jersey and Delaware to people who can't vote for him." The firm tries out different messages and focuses on those that get the best national polling response -- for example, anti-tax ads in wealthy neighborhoods.
Online targeting "eliminates the need for focus groups" and lets campaigns cut back on polling and spokespeople.
Yesterday the firm rolled out a new wave of video ads. Dittus and Masterson say they're eager for the election so they can start selling their service for next year's national vote. And no, they're not taking calls from Democratic candidates, but Dittus says he's open to licensing the service.