Last week Alexander Nix, co-founder and former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, came to speak to the Political Society on the topic of political consultancy. Whilst admitting that he is often viewed as somewhat of a controversial figure, whom many people label as “some sort of Bond villain or hustler”, the audience of Eton and partner school students were intrigued as he took them on a journey through his career.

His first role was at the Behavioural Dynamics Institute, a non-profit, academic institute concerned with behavioural and informational communication. One of the many projects the organisation undertook concluded that “the audience has the answer to all key strategic campaigns” and “people change people”. This would be integral to Mr Nix’s subsequent work. As he explained, most people’s political affiliations are influenced by those around them. For example, someone might vote for a political party because their friends, family, or peers do.

The audience has the answer to all key strategic campaigns

Alexander Nix

Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy firm, was co-founded by Mr Nix in 2013. Its most well-known campaign linked to an election was the US Presidential Election of 2016. The company had developed their techniques to reach individual voters, with knowledge of political affiliations meaning that advertising could be tailored to the voter. An advertisement based upon the sanctity of the 2nd Amendment would highlight self-defence and protection in urban areas for example, and emphasise tradition and freedom in rural areas.

Aspiring consultants and political analysts in the audience were particularly interested to hear Mr Nix’s thoughts including the importance of being the ‘doctor’, not the ‘pharmacist’. He thinks that in political consultancy one should tell the constituency what they want to hear and then diagnose the problem.

At the company’s zenith it had 20 offices with 280 employees, and was involved with four or five elections per year. In March 2018, however, the company was accused of improperly obtaining personal information on behalf of political clients and folded soon thereafter.