Microsoft Targets Political Ads For Xbox Live, User Data Used To Lure Conservatives

By William Usher 2014-03-07 11:30:18 discussion comments
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Targeted marketing is nothing new. You get your demographic you want to target the ads to, and you target the ads to them. Oftentimes, the trouble is finding the right marketing spots that target your demographic... or rather, that used to be a trouble.

Microsoft has long been held under the microscope when it comes to user data following the PRISM scandal. Well, they're not quite done with being under the microscope when it comes to user data and sharing personal information.

In a detailed write-up by the Washington Post, Microsoft is using their Xbox Live user base – and all the nitty, gritty details of that base – to help cull advertising funds from the conservative political arena.

The story grabbed legs when Microsoft was spotted handing out promotional material on March 6th, this past Thursday, at the CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

As noted in the write-up...
“The ads, which would appear on the Xbox Live dashboard and other Microsoft products, combine Microsoft user IDs and other public data to build a profile of Xbox users. Campaigns can then blast ads to selected demographic categories, or to specific congressional districts. And if the campaign brings its own list of voter e-mail addresses, Microsoft can match the additional data with individual customer accounts for even more accurate voter targeting.”

As most people know, Presidential elections can move big money through all avenues of advertisement. Microsoft garnered some momentum during the 2012 elections when current President Barack Obama opted to use Xbox Live and very specific video games to advertise to the youth generation. Microsoft wants to take it a step further, and a step away from just “youths”.

According to the article, Microsoft pitched to conservatives Xbox Live as a prime platform for active political ad campaigning. Supposedly, there are 25 million Xbox Live subscribers in America, 38% of which are female. Out of those 25 million, nearly half are married, with 40% of XBL users having tied the knot (a prime demographic for the conservative party). And out of those 40% nearly half of all of them have children.

As noted by the Washington Post...
“Microsoft is particularly aggressive in selling its ability to reach women, Latinos and millennials...”

A lot of people might be wondering how on Earth Microsoft managed to cull this kind of specific data from their pool of Xbox Live users. Well, the reality is that this kind of thing has been going on for a while.

Previously, we wrote about how the Xbox dashboard has been optimized for ads. It allows advertisers to easily put into the spaces exactly what they want you to see. But the more pertinent question is: how do they know what you want to see?

Well, this ties back into the privacy statements about user information and data sharing. Microsoft makes it known in their privacy policies and terms of agreement that they may share “limited” information with third parties... such as political parties. Here's the exact quote from the updated privacy policy regarding the Xbox Live end-user agreement...
“Xbox Services are supported by advertising. Because Microsoft serves advertisements on the console and on our own web sites as well as those of our advertising and publisher partners, we are able to compile information over time about your use of Xbox services and the types of pages, content and ads you visited or viewed online. This information is used for many purposes, including to help select and display targeted advertisements that we believe may be of interest to you.”

Shocked? Don't be.

While Albert Penello, Microsoft's director of product planning, made comments from disgust at the possibility of Kinect or other Xbox services being utilized by big business (which includes politics) to advertise to users by manipulating user data and information, it doesn't really matter because that's exactly what's happening. Penello may have pandered to those who value the privacy of their information with his comments, but in the end, this is big business and maintaining that business is all about marketing.

Interestingly enough, when the Washington Post reached out for a response from Microsoft regarding their pitch to conservatives for targeted advertising in congressional sectors for elections (and re-elections), the Redmond company declined to comment.

Maybe if we give Microsoft a ring they'll be more likely to respond to little 'ole us, eh?
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