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Campaigns & Elections Newsletter - Steve Savastano on FB Targeting Restrictions

Originally published in Campaigns & Elections Newsletter on Dec. 12, 2021

Industry News and Notes

The Rise of First-Party Data and the Great Un-Siloing

Steve Savastano was less than a week into a new job at Go BIG Media when Meta announced its latest ad targeting restrictions for Facebook last month.

As the Republican digital shop’s newly minted senior director of data & insights, colleagues and clients were turning to him for insight.

"That solidified what I feel: first-party targeting and audiences are going to be of paramount importance and can really set apart digital agencies this coming cycle and beyond," he said. "A lot of agencies might be panicking a bit, but it is a really good opportunity."

It’s time to start asking questions like: "How do we measure success looking at client data versus third-party platform data? What’s the best place to start, and what’s the most effective and then how do we deliver that appropriately?"

Savastano is uniquely suited for the role he now finds himself in. He started in the industry at the grassroots level, interning for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) 2013 reelect while still in college. He went on to manage some local races in New Jersey before jumping on Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential primary campaign.

That led to a role leading Data Trust’s client services team, where his responsibilities included everything from helping a pollster get a better connect rate on a sample to helping a digital firm get the most digital ads on target to assisting an advocacy organization that had canvassers in the field. "It was a good, well-rounded experience," he said.

Now, he’s focused on helping clients make sure their various data sets can "talk" to each other. For example, he notes that the data from walk lists, offline data, donor lists and people reached with digital ads should all be connected.

"A lot of campaigns still view that as a fragmented process," he said. "There’s a ton of room to unify those data sets and provide a single experience for clients and campaigns."


Down-Ballot, Audience Data Is King

Speaking of data, one of the first things Democratic digital consultant Cheryl Hori recommends for down-ballot clients is that they get their audience data squared away. Hori, who has a piece in C&E today, says before candidates spend a single dollar, they need to figure out: "Where do your voters spend their time online? How old are they? What do they care about?"

She adds: "A 65-year-old voter who still has the newspaper delivered to their front door will behave significantly differently online than a Gen Z voter who’s excited to vote for the first time."

In the piece she details how with a $25,000 budget, she helped navigate a client through a competitive city council primary in New York City: "Through organic social media efforts, our candidate came to the table knowing exactly who her key demographics were — and what platforms they engage with the most."

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