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How FB advertising works, and how it applies to political campaigns [A.G. Martinez / Wired]

February 27, 2018

Article with the sensational title “How Trump Conquered Facebook – Without Russian Ads”, really about how the advertisement-targeting machinery works in. Easy read, and important. Author is a FB manager or exec.


[via NC]

In the specific case of the 2016 election, my take-home’s are:

  1. FB and Google knows everything you’ve ever done on the internet and with your credit card and have the two neatly cross referenced (but you already knew that)
  2. The FB pricing model rewards advertisers for engaging ads, by giving them a discount. Swing-state social media users found Trump ads more engaging. This in turn gave a cost advantage to further social media ad spending by Trump, for those specific populations. Presumably, there is a psychological effect where once the audience is trained, their engagement with further ads is reflexive. Self-reinforcing loop.
  3. Team Clinton had a similar self-reinforcing loop of ad-spending-effectiveness for coastal-urban audiences, which apparently her advertising team chased. She destroyed Trump in CA, for example. Unfortunately, not a swing state.
  4. Even besides the dynamics of the automagic ad targeting/pricing model, swing state audiences cost less to reach than coastal-urban, simply because they’re less valuable eyeballs in the overall ad market. However this doesn’t favor any candidate in particular.

Now since I’ve weaned myself off FB some years ago, I guess none of this affected me. But just a thought — if they have all this super-powerful data about how engaging particular candidates are, mapped out by population and geography, could the DNC not have made a more intelligent choice in the 2016 primaries? Hmm… I bet they had it all.




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