THE BLOG
11/04/2018 11:40 SAST | Updated 11/04/2018 12:18 SAST

Trump Isn't The First To Use Micro-Targeting. Obama Did, Too

When Obama used Facebook micro-retargeting, it was "fresh and innovative". So why is it evil when Trump and Cambridge Analytica use it?

J. Scott Applewhite/ POOL New / Reuters
US President Donald Trump (L) and former president Barack Obama (R).

In 2012, the Obama campaign up-ended politics with energetic optimistic messaging and innovative marketing to match. They knew that to win they needed to get young American voters to the polls. Many of these voters had long since given up using landline phones and saw them as belonging to the era of horse-drawn fire engines and arranged marriages to one's most attractive cousin.

The Obama campaign thus ditched the traditional use of landlines linked to a physical address and boldly jumped into the world of digital media, reaching out to voters through Facebook.

They used the insight that what people like, share and who they are friends with tells you a lot about them, and used this information to target specific messages tailored to what was important to them.

Fast Company reports that Carol Davidsen, the director of integration and media analytics for Obama, said at the time that "Facebook was surprised to learn how much data could be pulled out of its graph API... we were able to download the entire social network of the U.S." In short, they did exactly what those scary villainous villains at Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign did.

In fact, they invented it.

Micro-targeting had very little to do with it and isn't right or wrong. It's just a marketing tool.

So why was this approach to marketing fresh and innovative when Obama did it, and evil beyond words when the Trump campaign did exactly the same thing? Because people like myself don't support Trump and cannot believe he somehow succeeded in getting elected president of the most powerful country on Earth.

It's no coincidence that the demon of micro-targeting through Facebook has been blamed for the surprising result of the Brexit referendum.

Once again, media-orientated elites could simply not believe that people hadn't done what they wanted them to do. HOW could this have happened? HOW could we be so mistaken?? Er... um... evil micro-targeting of course.

Perhaps, rather than focusing on the hundred thousand or so voters who may have been persuaded by social media meddling to get out and vote, or not vote, or vote the way we didn't want them to, we should pay attention to the millions of voters in the U.S. and U.K. who felt so alienated by the liberal worldview that they stormed the polls to vote for Trump and Brexit. They felt this so strongly that they voted for policies and candidates that are detrimental to their economic interests. They did so because we had failed them.

We failed them by ignoring their economic pain, making fun of things they hold dear and laughing at the fact that they didn't drink soy cappuccinos and had never taken their dogs to canine pilates.

Micro-targeting had very little to do with it and isn't right or wrong, it's just a marketing tool – a marketing tool that is only bad when you lose.