How We Used Data to Win the Presidential Election by Dan Siroker

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This is the keynote presentation I gave at the Online Marketing Summit in San Diego on February 24, 2010.

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  • Barack Obama came and spoke here at Google back in November 2007 and I was lucky enough to be attendance when he spoke.

    I want to share a few clips from that talk to help explain why I didn’t to quit my job here at Google and go work for the campaign.


  • His last words are why I quit
    Went to Chicago and slept on the floor of the one person I knew in Chicago.


  • Before I get into what we did at the campaign and the lessons we learned, let me give some context and explain how the campaign worked.
    Disclaimer: lots of other parts of the campaign used data, I’m going to focus on New Media
  • Before I get into what we did at the campaign and the lessons we learned, let me give some context and explain how the campaign worked.
    Disclaimer: lots of other parts of the campaign used data, I’m going to focus on New Media
  • Before I get into what we did at the campaign and the lessons we learned, let me give some context and explain how the campaign worked.
    Disclaimer: lots of other parts of the campaign used data, I’m going to focus on New Media
  • Before I get into what we did at the campaign and the lessons we learned, let me give some context and explain how the campaign worked.
    Disclaimer: lots of other parts of the campaign used data, I’m going to focus on New Media
  • I lead a team of six engineers and analysts. Not all are pictures here. All of the great things I’m going to talk about today were because of their hard work and determination.

  • I’m going to first share some of the results from the campaign then explain how we achieved those results and the share the lessons learned along the way.
  • Probably familiar with this
  • Maybe weren’t aware of this: 913 total years of YouTube watching.
    1382 years on our website. Total translate to over 2 millennia of time spent living and breathing Obama

    More than twice as many unique visitors came to barackobama.com than voted for John McCain


  • All of this success would not have been possible without fundraising.
  • Online includes some money raised in traditional fundraisers as well
  • Now I’d like to share the top 5 lessons my team learned during the campaign.

    This is not a to do list of how to win an election, but rather a methodology to make data-driven decisions.

  • This is how we defined success.
  • The most important part of defining success is to...

  • defining quantifiable success metrics to measure that success.
  • Let me show you what that means with our last experiment
  • Let me show you what that means with our last experiment
  • Let me show you what that means with our last experiment
  • Let me show you what that means with our last experiment

    Lot of firms focus on the first and last parts of this funnel
  • So that’s lesson #1, now lesson #2

















  • Translates to over 4 million of the 13 million email subscribers we ended up with
  • Translates to over 4 million of the 13 million email subscribers we ended up with



  • So that’s lesson #2, now lesson #3
  • This lesson is in and of itself a generalization but it also happens to be true.
  • Here is another concrete example of the benefits of segmenting users into separate buckets and not over-generalizing.
  • Campaign-value percent improvement:
    Net value per impression (after fulfillment cost) + subsequent value
    Had we picked one it would have been sub-optimal
    $3 million dollar improvement we would not have had otherwise
  • This is true in many cases.
    Just because the last experiment worked doesn’t mean we have to show the splash page every time. Don’t show the splash page for repeat visits
    Email split tests based on previous highest contribution.
    So that’s lesson #3: never over-generalize.


  • Bill Clinton speech

    You can rarely create special moments, you can only take advantage of them when they are given to you.
  • September 2nd at Republican National Convention
  • Made over 10 million dollars in less than 24 hours.



















  • How We Used Data to Win the Presidential Election by Dan Siroker

    1. 1. How We Used Data to Win the Presidential Election Dan Siroker Email me: Follow me: dan@optimizely.com @dsiroker
    2. 2. Barack Obama
    3. 3. Barack Obama David Plouffe
    4. 4. Barack Obama David Plouffe Correspondence Field Policy Operations ... Communications New Media Paid Media Finance
    5. 5. Barack Obama David Plouffe Correspondence Field Policy Operations ... Communications New Media Paid Media Finance Marketing Email Blog Analytics Design Video Organizing
    6. 6. Results
    7. 7. Popular Vote Electoral Vote Other (1%) 1,865,617 McCain 173 McCain (46%) Obama (53%) 59,934,814 69,456,897 Obama 365 Source: Federal Election Commission
    8. 8. McCain Obama 3 100 150 2.4 80 120 1.8 60 90 Millions 1.2 40 60 0.6 20 30 0 0 0 Facebook Friends YouTube Video Views Unique Website Visitors Source: Facebook,YouTube, and Google Trends
    9. 9. Unique Website Visitors Source: Google Trends
    10. 10. Money Raised PRIMARY GENERAL OBAMA JANUARY JANUARY JANUARY ‘07 ‘08 CLINTON McCAIN ‘09 A EL N N EC O TI U N O C N EM D AY EN T Source: Stephen Geer
    11. 11. Money Raised McCain $201 million Obama $656 million Note: Does not include federal funds Source: Federal Election Commission
    12. 12. Money Raised Obama (Offline) McCain $156 million $201 million Obama (Online) $500 million Note: Does not include federal funds Source: Washington Post and Federal Election Commission
    13. 13. Lessons Learned
    14. 14. Lesson #1: Define success.
    15. 15. Chuck Kennedy-Pool/Getty Images
    16. 16. Lesson #1: Define success.
    17. 17. Lesson #1: Define success .
    18. 18. Lesson #1: Define quantifiable success metrics.
    19. 19. Website Email signup Raise money
    20. 20. click thru rate Website sign up rate Email signup $ per recipient Raise money
    21. 21. click thru # of clicks rate = # of impressions Website sign up # of signups rate = # of pageviews Email signup $ per $ amount raised recipient = # of recipients Raise money
    22. 22. click thru # of clicks rate = # of impressions Website sign up # of signups rate = # of pageviews Email signup $ per $ amount raised recipient = # of recipients Raise money
    23. 23. Lesson #1: Define quantifiable success metrics.
    24. 24. Lesson #2: Question assumptions.
    25. 25. Media Button
    26. 26. Splash page experiment Variations: Button: Media: 1. Sign Up 1. Get Involved Image 2. Learn More 2. Family Image 3. Join Us Now 3. Change Image 4. Sign Up Now 4. Barack’s Video 5. Springfield Video 6. Sam’s Video
    27. 27. Button: “Sign Up”
    28. 28. Button: “Learn More”
    29. 29. Button: “Join Us Now”
    30. 30. Button: “Sign Up Now”
    31. 31. Splash page experiment Variations: Button: Media: 1. Sign Up 1. Get Involved Image 2. Learn More 2. Family Image 3. Join Us Now 3. Change Image 4. Sign Up Now 4. Barack’s Video 5. Springfield Video 6. Sam’s Video
    32. 32. Media: “Get Involved”
    33. 33. Media: “Family”
    34. 34. Media: “Change”
    35. 35. Media: “Barack’s Video”
    36. 36. Media: “Springfield Video”
    37. 37. Media: “Sam’s Video”
    38. 38. Splash page experiment Variations: Button: Media: 1. Sign Up 1. Get Involved Image 2. Learn More 2. Family Image 3. Join Us Now 3. Change Image 4. Sign Up Now 4. Barack’s Video 5. Springfield Video 6. Sam’s Video
    39. 39. Splash page experiment Variations: Button: Media: 1. Sign Up 1. Get Involved Image 2. Learn More 2. Family Image 3. Join Us Now 3. Change Image 4. Sign Up Now 4. Barack’s Video 5. Springfield Video 6. Sam’s Video
    40. 40. Splash page experiment Variations: Button: Media: 1. Sign Up 1. Get Involved Image 2. Learn More 2. Family Image 3. Join Us Now 3. Change Image 4. Sign Up Now 4. Barack’s Video 5. Springfield Video 6. Sam’s Video
    41. 41. Splash page experiment results
    42. 42. Splash page experiment results
    43. 43. Splash page experiment results
    44. 44. Splash page experiment results Email Volunteers Amount Raised Subscriptions Original: 7,120,000 712,000 $143,000,000 +40.6% +2,880,000 +288,000 +$57,000,000 New: 10,000,000 1,000,000 $200,000,000
    45. 45. Splash page experiment results Email Volunteers Amount Raised Subscriptions Original: 7,120,000 712,000 $143,000,000 +40.6% +2,880,000 +288,000 +$57,000,000 New: 10,000,000 1,000,000 $200,000,000
    46. 46. Splash page experiment results Email Volunteers Amount Raised Subscriptions Original: 7,120,000 712,000 $143,000,000 +40.6% +2,880,000 +288,000 +$57,000,000 New: 10,000,000 1,000,000 $200,000,000
    47. 47. Lesson #2: Question assumptions.
    48. 48. Lesson #3: Divide and conquer.
    49. 49. Donation button experiment Variations
    50. 50. Donation button experiment results Never Signed Up, Previously Variations Signed Up Never Donated Donated 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% +2.3% +27.8% +16.3% -27.8% N/A N/A +15.2% -24.6% +11.9% +8.5% +2.9% +18.4%
    51. 51. Lesson #3: Divide and conquer.
    52. 52. Lesson #4: Take advantage of circumstances.
    53. 53. Courtesy: Bradley Portnoy Taken: August 27th, 2008 9:42PM
    54. 54. Lesson #4: Take advantage of circumstances.
    55. 55. Lesson #5: Start today.
    56. 56. Timeline 1/17 evening: Approached by Clinton Foundation 1/18 evening: Experiment #1 (8 variations) 1/19 morning: Experiment #2 (8 variations) 1/19 evening: Experiment #3 (7 variations) 1/20 morning: Experiment #4 (2 variations)
    57. 57. #1: Original Page
    58. 58. #2: One column with image
    59. 59. #3: Two columns with image
    60. 60. #4: “Support Haiti” button
    61. 61. #5 Hide “verified by” icon
    62. 62. #6 Increase label font size
    63. 63. #7 Hide title & phone number fields
    64. 64. #8 Pre-select $250
    65. 65. Results Variation $ per pageview Improvement Original $51.30 0.00% One column with image $50.63 -1.31% Two columns with image $55.42 +8.03% “Support Haiti” button $59.38 +15.75% Hide “verified by” icon $48.50 -5.44% Increase label font size $52.50 +2.35% Hide title & phone fields $56.92 +10.97% Pre-select $250 N/A N/A
    66. 66. Impact Total improvement: +10.2% Total additional raised (1/20 - 2/23): $1,022,571
    67. 67. Demo
    68. 68. Lesson #5: Start today.
    69. 69. Lessons Learned 1. Define quantifiable success metrics. 2. Question assumptions. 3. Divide and conquer. 4. Take advantage of circumstances. 5. Start today.
    70. 70. Email me: Follow me: dan@optimizely.com @dsiroker

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