As campaigning for the 2016 U.S. presidential election gets into full swing, candidates on both sides are turning to Optimizely to connect with voters in a more personal way. CNN correspondent Laurie Segall interviewed our Co-Founder and CEO, Dan Siroker to learn how A/B testing changed the game during the Obama 2008 campaign, and to hear how candidates can and are using optimization to gain a competitive edge in the upcoming election.


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See below for excerpts from the interview:


A clip from the interview where Dan walks Laurie through the experiments he ran at the Obama 2008 campaign that led to an extra $60 million in donations.

Laurie Segall, CNN: In politics, where the message is everything… the smallest details could give candidates an edge. The picture that greets you on their official website. The background, and colors. Even the wording. Are you more likely to hand over your email when greeted with “sign me up” or “count me in?” There’s tech that solves that problem and it’s probably already catering to you. CNN has learned candidates from Rand Paul to Hillary Clinton are using it.

Dan Siroker, Optimizely: [The] simple concept of an A/B test is sort of what underlies our platform, which is an experiment. If you go to a website and I go there, we might see different experiences and then they will measure which is the most effective.

Laurie: Dan Siroker is a former Google engineer who left the company to run data analytics for Obama’s campaign in 2007. He built personalization technology to get people to donate and vote… Siroker took the success of Obama’s win and created his own company, Optimizely.

Dan: The core of what we do is what actually helped Obama surpass the traditional big money.

Laurie: He sold the technology to a number of big companies, including CNN which uses it for testing story placement, and political opponents like Mitt  Romney.

Jason Weinstein, Digital Director of the Romney 2012 Campaign: One of the things that we did that worked really well was we focused on localized content. So, if a visitor from the state of Florida came, they saw content related to Florida. Just including the word Florida increased our engagement by 19%.

Laurie: This technology allows campaigns and now a range of companies to experiment with personalized content. As for the political applications, Siroker says it’s a game of Moneyball.

Dan: In this case, just like the Oakland A’s used data to decide who to field and who not to, instead of what perhaps the scouts or the experts would have suggested, they were able to do very, very well. So, that’s the idea of Moneyball, is doing more with less by using data to make better decisions.

Laurie: And, Moneyball applied to politics looks like…

Dan: At the core of it, it’s about being humble. It’s saying, maybe we don’t actually know what’s best, let’s looks at data and use that to help guide us.

Read more articles about how political campaigns are leveraging optimization.