Republicans keep outspending Democrats on persuasion advertising, and this time it’s not just the president:
The difference is especially stark on Facebook, where more than 100 congressional Republican incumbents and challengers and national pro-GOP groups ran anti-impeachment ads in the past month — roughly three times the number of such ads run on the Democratic side, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
None of the 30 Democrats who are being targeted by national GOP groups ran Facebook ads in the past month to counter the attacks, The Post’s analysis shows.
Most of the ads are designed to build lists, but by their nature they frame impeachment as illegitimate:
While some of the GOP ads ask for donations, the majority of them are designed to expand their base, asking people to “like” the Facebook page or fill out surveys on impeachment.”
The big question: should Democrats care? One analyst quoted in the above article describes the ads as more of a PR stunt designed to generate media coverage, though the fact that most are geared toward recruitment tends to undermine that position. And of course, the day-to-day messaging power of Fox News will likely far outweigh even millions of ad impressions on Facebook. But once again, Republicans have been quick to spend money to set the terms of the debate and Democrats haven’t even bothered to answer. Worked great in 2016, right?
Trump’s ads have also played to type: his contributions to the Republican impeachment messaging blitz are characteristically “misleading”, as ABC News likes to call them (“lying” would be another applicable word). Note that from January through August of 2016, Republican congressional candidates outspent Democrats FORTY to one on digital ads — a ratio that dwindled to a mere 4:1 Republican advantage in the campaign’s closing months. Lies or truth, that’s a lot of unanswered messaging.
Democratic presidential campaigns have spent big money to build their small-donor lists this cycle, and many down-ballot Democrats DID invest in digital advertising in 2018, including in formats beyond Facebook. Plus, many on the Democratic side have embraced the potential of organizing on the ground early — like now — to turn out voters in a year. Still, I fear too many Democrats ignore the potential of persuasion advertising to shape voter perceptions over both the short and long terms. We cede that ground to Republicans at our peril.