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DMAW EdVent Recap: Post-Election Evening: Big Data = Big Dollars – How Did They Do It?

by Danielle Hart

On Thursday, February 21st, both left and right side direct marketing experts convened to hear two of the biggest names in political fundraising speak about their success with raising over a billion dollars during the past election. The DMAW presented Mike Conlow, the Deputy Chief Technology Officer for the Obama for America campaign and Patrick Ruffini, Republican Political Strategist and President of Engage to provide the audience with their insight.

The panel discussion opened with the question “What was the major turning point in November’s election?”

Mike started the dialog by emphasizing how important the decision to invest in technology (analytics & data) early in the campaign was to the success of the Obama for America (OFA) campaign. The OFA campaign staffed over 200 people and invested early to overcome any problems they encountered before the campaign. Mike revealed that in the beginning of the campaign, the OFA staff tweeting was frowned upon, but by the end of the campaign the staff was given example messages that they had the choice to tweet in their own words.

Patrick, representing the Republican side of the story indicated that technology was the difference between the outcomes of the two campaigns and that there was no tweeting policy for the Republican Party.

The two were then asked “What do you think will be the next technological advancement?”

Patrick was passionate in his response that the amount of social information will contribute to the success of future political campaigns. He predicts that the social graph will marry the political graph and the information people post on Facebook and other social media channels will allow campaigns to micro-target people based on their behavior.

Mike added that he believes the information about the competition’s marketing efforts will become more available and that Google might be the one to sell some of this information. He also predicts advancement in the ability to better target TV ads towards specific audiences.

The discussion concluded with the question “What is the most important tip to take away from this panel?”

Both panelists agreed on how important our networks are in today’s society. Whether it’s a cold call, a Facebook message, or a knock on the door, if it’s from someone you know, you will be much more receptive to the message. Leveraging this concept for campaigns and putting your message in the hands of someone that can influence your target audience will drive success for any campaign.

Throughout the discussion, both Mike and Patrick laughed at the lighthearted comments of opposing political party affiliations. After the discussion, the two fessed up that it was their first time meeting in person and they had only had Twitter interactions before the event. In the end, despite the political party Direct Marketers affiliate with, we can all agree that the lessons learned from Mike and Patrick will help us in future direct response campaigns.


Danielle HartDanielle Hart doubles as an Online Fundraising Account Manager at The Engage Group and a Postal Logistics Account Manager at MailSmart Logistics. She can be reached at or found on her personal website at