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Google Launches New AdWords Targeting Option: Congressional Districts

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Politicians, rejoice! Google now offers AdWords targeting within specific Congressional districts, rather than by ZIP code. This allows politicians and their campaign teams to more precisely target voters, as ZIP codes or town lines don’t always correspond with voting districts.

Elections are big money and Google is trying to increase their share of spend of the massive ad budgets available to politicians. On their Four Screens to Victory politics and elections ads toolkit site, Google says:

Voters use an average of 14.7 sources of information to help make their candidate selection and are connected to multiple devices throughout the day (Google/Shopper Sciences, 2011). Whether your goal is a seat on the town council, building up support for your chosen issue, or the White House, integrated marketing efforts must engage voters across four screens: television, computers, tablets and mobile phones.

Using the above map screenshot, Google explains the benefits of district targeting over ZIP code. “Say you are running for Congress in the 6th District of Maryland - which features a highly publicized race between Ten-term incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett and Montgomery County businessman John Delaney. The 6th is located in western Maryland, and has been a longtime GOP stronghold, but was drastically reshaped by redistricting which has made it more competitive,” explains Charles Scrase, Google Politics & Election Team representative. “Barlett and Delaney’s campaigns are waging a battle in the oddly shaped district that has voters in many zip codes, towns and communities looks like this (see map).”

He continues, “This district is a great example - it includes voters who live in the Washington D.C. media market. But, as you can see from the map, buying TV ads in DC won’t reach your voters in the 6th District.”

The new targeting option is available with search, display, mobile, and video ads. This announcement expands Google’s use of geographic information system solutions firm Azavea’s Cicero API; in May this year, Google integrated Cicero’s API with their Maps to offer free access to the most current political maps.

At that time, Google Politics & Election Team member Jesse Friedman explained the need for enhanced political maps:

Why is this data so hard to come by, and why did it take until now to get it? Well, the US Constitution requires rebalancing representation between the states based on population shifts, making each district within a state just about equal in population. However, each state determines how to draw new district lines. To cut a long story short, each of the 43 states with at least two Representatives uses its own process and timeline to draw and approve the lines.

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