Microsoft to offer Xbox Live data for targeted political ads

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As the 2014 midterm election cycle takes off, Microsoft is pushing targeted ads on a variety of platforms — including Xbox Live, Skype and MSN.

To get the program started, Microsoft even appealed directly to conservatives, by issuing promotional materials at last week’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Tech companies are starting to wake up to the power (and profits) of the thriving political ad market, writes Brian Fung in the Washington Post.

Ads would appear on the Xbox Live dashboard and other Microsoft properties, which would apply Microsoft user IDs to other available data to create an Xbox Live user account.

Campaigns use the information to target selected demographic classifications, or even specific congressional districts. Providing their own list of voter email addresses, Microsoft then can connect the data with the Xbox Live accounts, to add even more accurate voter information.

White male teens — the stereotypical gamer— no longer represents the average Xbox Live user. Of 25 million subscribers in the United States, 38 percent are women. Forty percent of users are married, and more than half have children.

They represent the main demographics, the most coveted in several political races.

Microsoft has been aggressively working to market to women, Latinos and millennials, Fung notes.

For example, other Microsoft properties, such as MSN, have consumer categories such as “Ciudad Strivers” and “Nuevo Horizons” that try to go beyond the typical identifiers like age, income level and type of residence.

This type of data mining fits perfectly with politicians who place a high priority on microtargeting, making Microsoft’s technology a significant player in political advertising.

Political advertising is just Microsoft’s latest attempt to dominate the living room. Pay-TV providers may already have the capacity for targeted advertising, but only recently have satellite providers begun to roll it out on a larger scale.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.