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In the last few cycles, billions of dollars have poured into cookie-based digital advertising. But at the same time, the entire basis for our industry — the political cookie — is threatened by growing third-party cookie blocking on browsers, the shift to mobile, and an immature device graph ecosystem. We must do better if we ever seek to gain a bigger share of budgets, and ultimately eliminate the lines between channels.

Behind some digital consultants, you’ll find a selection of wholesalers powering political IP-targeting shops. The consultants reselling this product are good people who made a bad decision. Or here’s a non-IAB approved characterization of this solution: their IP clients are getting bamboozled.

The Challenge of IP Targeting 

The only way to deliver accurate IP targeted ads is to use IP address data from the source: Internet Service Providers (ISPs). By using the IP address provided by the ISP, the targeting is more accurate. Moreover, when IP impression delivery is extended with already-established cookie targeting you get the best of both worlds: extreme precision with ISP-authenticated IP targeting and full household reach via cookies.

There are serious issues with traditional modeled IP targeting without ISP participation. For instance, IP addresses are refreshed often. To wit, if a consumer unplugs their router and plugs it back in, they receive a new IP address. There is a lack of understanding in our business that without an ISP providing access to current IP addresses, it’s impossible to deliver accurate IP-based ads.

Consider this example. A client recently retained our firm to deliver ISP-authenticated IP targeted ads and another modeled IP targeting shop to deliver ads to the same target audience with the same creative and landing page. The results were clear: ISP-authenticated IP targeted ads generated about double the return on investment compared to modeled IP on most key performance indicators. The click-through rate was double, average session duration 30 percent longer, and there were favorable results for reach, bounce rate, and pages per session.

If you’re still targeting via modeled IP at the local or regional level, you deserve to be fired.

Traditional modeled IP targeting works the same messed up way, regardless of the company offering it. You can see how unreliable it is here: http://checkip.org/.

Chances are, the IP address that came up isn’t anywhere near your actual location. With that in mind, the traditional modeled IP-based, voter targeted digital ad address that you think you’re hitting is probably miles away from its intended target.

Consider MaxMind, which assigned more than 600 million IP addresses to a single 623-acre farm outside of Potwin, Kansas. Joe and Theresa Arnold, who rent the farm, were likely served voter targeted IP-targeted ads that were not meant for them.

If you’d like to see for yourself, you can measure the accuracy of modeled IP targeting worldwide here. Their research says just 56 percent of modeled IP targeted ads in America can hit the right city. This is why ISP’s must be involved in IP targeting.

Issues with Traditional Cookie Targeting

Meanwhile, cookie-based ad blocking in America is accelerating. Last fall, Apple released its new Safari browser. Cookie-based voter targeting on the browser disappeared overnight, and with it, so did the bright futures of many cookie-based digital targeting shops. But they might not know it yet because the 2018 campaign season is just now gearing up.

Cookie targeting has its flaws. For example, privacy issues, the potential for cyberattacks, inaccurate user data and information retrieval, and manual shutoff abilities. And without ISP participation, your IP-targeted ads are a mess. To help mitigate this, we invested in the ISP-authenticated IP targeting tool.

By performing cookie targeting in conjunction with ISP-authenticated IP targeting, campaigns can get the precision of home broadband targeting with the ability to further extend their reach digitally through cookie targeting. This creates a combined result that’s higher than any one method alone, and it offers an exact process to deliver relevant ads to specific audiences.

This task can be complicated, and unfortunately modeled IP targeters spent years in the political and public affairs space where nobody called out bad players. But now there’s too much at stake to watch good people use bad tactics.

Jordan Lieberman is the president of Audience Partners: Politics & Public Affairs.