In recent primaries, two kinds of Republican voters have been seeing two different Mitt Romney video ads pop up on local and national news Web sites. The first, called “It’s Time to Return American Optimism,” showed the candidate on the campaign trail explaining how this was an election “to save the soul of America.” It was aimed at committed party members to encourage a large turnout. The second video ad, geared toward voters who have not yet aligned themselves with a candidate, focused more on Mr. Romney as a family man. Versions of the two ads were seen online in Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Kenneth M. Goldstein, the president of the Campaign and Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media, part of the advertising giant WPP, said Mr. Romney’s directed ads represented a sea change in political advertising.
“Forty years ago, you’d watch the same evening news ad as your Democratic neighbor,” Mr. Goldstein said.
The technology that makes such customized advertising possible is called microtargeting, which is similar to the techniques nonpolitical advertisers use to serve up, for example, hotel ads online to people who had shopped for vacations recently.