The amount of money spent on US election campaigns continues to rise and rise. Obama spent a staggering $1 billion on his re-election effort in 2012. But it wasn’t just an impressively large budget which kept him in the White House; it was a sophisticated use of data and technology to market his campaign at laser-focused target groups. This week, Republican Firm Targeted Victory have unveiled tools to allow candidates to take a similarly data-driven approach- on a much smaller budget.

“The question coming out of 2012, when it comes to ‘Big Data’ is one of scale,” said Elizabeth Wilner, who oversees the Campaign Media Analysis Group for Kantar Media, one of Targeted Victory’s partners. “There’s huge potential in down-ballot races.”

Both parties have focused on developing technology similar to the methods used by Obama’s team to target ads. But so far, such data-driven efforts have mainly been available for the big-ticket races, like Senatorial and gubernatorial races. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is believed that Targeted Victory is the first of its kind to offer scaled-down targeting options to candidates with comparatively modest budgets. It is expected that they won’t have a market monopoly for long however, with companies working for both parties scrambling to get technologies ready in time for the fall campaigns.

You may be wondering what a “modest” budget looks like, in a field where billions are poured each year to secure federal positions. The answer is $15,000. For that price, a candidate can reserve a targeted television ad, with a few clicks of a mouse.

Targeted Victory are already a major player in online advertising and fundraising. By adding targeted TV ads to their services- and partnering with television-measurement firm Rentrak, consumer research giant Acxiom and the GOP’s two biggest data portals, i360 and Data Trust to do so- Targeted Victory may prove a real threat to conventional media vendors on the campaign trail.

Chris Wilson, president of Rentrak, summarised: ““Campaigns that are successful in 2014 and beyond will be driven by the intelligent use of data and their desire to, as efficiently as possible, allocate their resources.” In 2014, success hinges upon spending smart, not spending hard.

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(Image credit: Light Brigading)

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