Pandora Campaigns for Mitt Romney on Your iPhone

Using targeted ads, the online music company asks to share your email with the GOP candidate.

<a href="https://twitter.com/not_hwa/status/232904833873608705">Crystal Harris</a>

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

This story first appeared on the ProPublica website.

North Carolina resident Crystal Harris was listening to Garth Brooks’ “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” when an ad appeared on her iPhone screen, followed by a pop-up message.

“To help Mitt Romney become the next president, Romney for President, Inc would like to use your email address — tap OK to let Pandora share this info,” the message read.

Harris took a screenshot of the request and tweeted it with a one-word comment: #fail.

“Don’t harass me on my email. Don’t stalk me on the apps that I use. To me, that just crossed the line,” Harris said in an interview with ProPublica.

Pandora’s targeted email sharing pitch isn’t new, but it’s being offered to political advertisers for the first time this year, a company spokeswoman said. Both Democrats and Republicans, and both local and national campaigns, have used the service to collect voter emails.

It’s among the latest in a series of increasingly sophisticated tactics that campaigns are using to target narrow groups of voters online — from sending ads to Internet users who have visited a candidate’s website, to creating a mobile app for campaign volunteers that marks the names and addresses of nearby voters on a Google map.

In the case of the Pandora ad, it’s not clear why the Romney pop-up appeared on Harris’ screen — whether she was targeted, because, for instance, she lives in a swing state, or because she was listening to Garth Brooks.

Pandora, which would not comment on any client’s particular strategy, offers both these kinds of targeting: campaigns can send ads to particular listeners based on their favorite artist or type of music, as well as by their age, gender and state, county or congressional district.

Pandora said the email sharing feature simply gives listeners what they want. “Sometimes, a listener wants to learn more about a product that’s being advertised on Pandora, whether it’s a car, a movie, or a political candidate,” said Sean Duggan, Pandora’s vice president of advertising, in an emailed statement. “On mobile, in particular, we offer many ways for a listener to do this: tapping on a banner ad, tap-to-email, tap-to-call or even opting-in to receive emails from the advertiser.”

“Pandora does not make public or share a user’s registration information with third-parties without the user’s explicit consent,” Duggan said.

A Pandora spokeswoman added that the email sharing was “triple opt-in,” since users have to click on the ad, then click OK, before Pandora shares their emails with a campaign or other advertiser.

Users who get emails from a campaign or advertiser always have the option to unsubscribe, the spokeswoman said.

The Romney campaign did not return a request for comment on the ad.

There is evidence that the Romney campaign pays attention to the musical taste of potential supporters. Earlier this year, the campaign told The New York Times that their online targeting research had revealed that people who like jazz were less likely to respond to their online ads.

Harris, who said she’s a registered Democrat, was listening to Pandora on an afternoon run when she received several Romney ads in a row — as well as a Pandora ad for the Obama campaign. Pandora said it was extremely rare for users to receive the same ad multiple times in a short period.

Harris said she loves Pandora but that political ads may convince her to upgrade to an ad-free version of the service.

Interested to learn more about how political groups are using your personal information? See ProPublica’s reporting on Obama’s mobile app, tailored campaign emails and the new wave of targeted online ads.

 

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate