Cambridge Analytica: 'Getting people to vote no different from marketing toothpaste'

Cambridge Analytica commercial VP Richard Robinson said there is no fundamental difference between getting someone to vote and persuading them to swap toothpaste brands.

Behavioral science and microtargeting company Cambridge Analytica is credited with helping to swing President Donald Trump’s election and the Brexit vote. Robinson outlined the company’s workings at a speech at ad tech conference Dmexco.

"Enabling somebody and encouraging somebody to go out to vote on a wet Wednesday morning is no different in my mind to persuading and encouraging somebody to move from one toothpaste brand to another," said Robinson. "It is about understanding what message is relevant to that person at that time when they are in that particular mind set."

Cambridge Analytica believes what sets it apart from other research companies is how it looks at data on several levels and "through a different lens."

In addition to the traditional practices of asking people demographic-based information such as who they are and what they do, Cambridge Analytica also seeks a "deeper level" of understanding as who they are as individuals.

"We try to actually understand what are their motivations, what are their attitudes and opinions, what are their behavioral models that the follow? Whether it is a model for planned behavior, or the locus of control, or even personality, we try to understand that," explained Robinson. "And from that, we then work out and do a creative look at what is the best way to engage with these people. Is it via video on this platform? If someone is a certain behavioral type or personality type, it may be putting them at the center of an image that really resonates with them in that way, or a different image for a different group."

Cambridge Analytica mixes in first-party data and any other publicly available third-party data to build up a full picture of a person.

Robinson said that what had been missing is overlaying "the person" on data that has previously been available to advertisers.

"It is humanizing marketing," said Robinson.

However, this personal approach does not require the creation of thousands of different creative messages.

"The creative bit is absolutely crucial," said Robinson. "You can bucket these people into smaller groups, also the creative engagement has to be across all platforms. Every way you engage with that individual you need to keep that messaging and storytelling going through it."

Robinson argued that consumers need not be perturbed by this psychographic-based methodology of marketing. 

"The panacea and where I would love us to get to is [consumers saying] ‘I actually don’t mind you communicating with me because you are adding value to what I’m getting’ – there is some value exchange there," concluded Robinson. "You are getting data on me and I’m getting something back that is meaningful to me."

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