Yahoo is making a major move into the online political ad space in 2012. The company is looking to bolster its online ad and targeting options for advertisers across its registration base of some 170 million users.

Along with a renewed commitment to election coverage and a partnership with ABC News, Yahoo has also partnered with Cox Digital Solutions and CampaignGrid on the advertising side. C&E recently chatted with Bryan Schroeder, Yahoo’s senior director of advertiser product marketing and solutions to talk about the company’s online offerings for 2012.

C&E: When you look across the online marketplace where do you see Yahoo fitting into the campaign space in 2012?

Schroeder: As you look across the landscape there are various types of ad networks, but many of them do not have the registered user relationship that Yahoo has. Their ability to match online populations to political data is sometimes just a mish mash. Because we have that registered user relationship, the levels of precision are much higher. When you talk about really feeling confident that you’re reaching the right audience, that’s where we believe we differentiate. It’s also the wealth of data we have access to not just in the political arena, but also the wealth of data we collect on our sites. We have 170 million registered users at Yahoo, and when you overlay that with the targeting capability CampaignGrid brings it allows us to find over 100 million registered voters across Yahoo media properties. Measurement is another key piece of it and employing techniques to understand whether digital campaigns really perform.

C&E: Talk about the measurement side, because that’s still where many strategists have doubts.

Schroeder: Generally speaking, there’s a huge push within Yahoo to illustrate that digital media performs. So we have some innovative programs across different categories where we can actually help marketers understand the impact that digital has on offline transactions. When it comes to political advertising, the main push we’ve made is around surveying, but we’re definitely getting into a place where we’re looking at ways to poll, too. I think it’s a little bit early, because the challenge is figuring out how you look downstream and determine whether this has an impact. But the partnership and the data are there. You also have to look at it through the privacy lens. The trick is to balance it so we can get the effective measurement, but also be privacy conscious.

C&E: Where is Yahoo on the privacy side of this?

Schroeder: There’s always the risk that without proper education users will look at certain practices and be concerned about how data is being used. So we approach this through education and we like to call it transparency and control. On our privacy page we inform our user base about what types of information we collect and how they can potentially opt out, which is the really critical piece. Because we have a persistent relationship with our registered user base, we have a fairly unique ability to allow them to opt out and to do so into the future. You can opt out of targeting across a lot of ad networks, but if that cookie were to be deleted for any reason your wish to be opted out of targeting is no longer honored. But once you opt out with Yahoo, if that cookie were ever to be deleted, we can recognize that you have previously opted out and can put that flag back onto your cookie so that it’s persistent.