An Unexpected Side Effect of Facebook’s Political Ad Rules: More Ads?

The computer knows what you did last summer

Could Facebook’s new rules for political advertising actually encourage more of it? This idea came up in a discussion with the team at DSPolitical a few weeks ago, and I explored it in detail in my most recent Campaigns & Elections piece.

The gist: before the new rules took effect, your opponents’ digital political advertising was mainly a mystery. Unlike TV ads, digital buys did not have to be disclosed. Campaign staff could only find out what the other side was doing if they or a supporter happened to come across a Facebook ad and remembered to screenshot it.

Under the new ad regime, the platform now retains “Ads Related to Politics and Issues of National Importance” in a searchable archive, along with a rough idea of the budget involved and the audience reached for each one. A great tool for opposition research! Plus, as campaigns and advocacy groups SEE that their opponents are spending money online, they’ll naturally consider responding in kind — if they have the budget.

I still can’t comprehend why campaigns lag so far behind commercial brands when it comes to allocating money for digital advertising. Democratic congressional campaigns were outspent 4:1 online in the last months of the 2016 cycle! Will pulling the curtain back on Facebook ads change the situation? Read the piece and see what you think.


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Colin Delany
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