Google and Facebook databases reveal ad spending strategy

Political intelligence gathered from the databases of social media giants are the new tools for campaign strategists.

In a first public view of how U.S. technology companies, including Google and Facebook, are yanking advertisements that break their online political ads rules.

The duo also provided unprecedented insight into opponents’ online marketing, enabling them to capitalize on weaknesses, said political strategists.

These tools have been developed following a response by U.S. prosecutors alleging that Russian agents had deceptively interfered in the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections with advertisements purchased from them.

Russia has denied the charges.

According to U.S. security experts, the Russians have changed their tactics this year.

From May 2018 to October 2018, as per a finding by RealClearPolitics, which tracks political opinion polls, Google and Facebook had removed 436 ads that were related to 34 contestants for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Based on ranges in the databases, the 436 ads were displayed up to 20.5 million times and cost up to $582,000, amounting to a fraction of the millions of dollars spent online in those races.

When asked for comment, Google said it is committed to bringing greater transparency to political ads. Facebook said the database is a way the company is held accountable, “even if it means our mistakes are on display.”

Google’s database covers $54 million in spending by U.S. campaigns since May and Facebook $354 million, according to their respective databases. Facebook’s figure is bigger partly because its database includes ads not only from federal races but also for state contests, national issues and get-out-the-vote efforts.

According to 5 campaign strategists, their advertising tactics underwent change based on the finding of their opponents’ ad spending, age group, states and which gender saw the messages, as revealed by the databases.

Kevin Bingle, an Ohio-based digital consultant said, his team reviewed opponents on Facebook’s database daily to take advantage of gaps in their strategy.

Morgan revealed his team tripled its online ad budget to $600,000 for a San Francisco affordable housing tax after Facebook’s database showed the other side’s ads were reaching non-Californians.

He went on to add, this political intelligence “let us know that digital was a place we could run up the score”.

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