February 25, 2021

“Trump Is So Saturated”: Anti-Trump Attack Ads Might Actually Be Helping Him, Democratic Group Finds – Vanity Fair

In politics there are different types of advertising, each with its own goals and each serving different parts of a campaign. Technology has made much of the process more efficient. With advertising for donations or volunteer sign-ups, political campaigns can tap the large-scale optimization tools offered by big tech platforms and see quickly which ads are working and which aren’t. If a potential supporter in Florida sees a fundraising ad on Facebook or YouTube, for instance, they either click to donate—what’s called a “conversion”—or they don’t. The best-performing content automatically replaces the lowest-performing, with variants as small as font size and color tested over and over again, revealing which versions generate the most engagement. Campaigns can watch this performance in real time and adjust their creative accordingly. 

But with persuasion advertising—the cinematic, music-heavy spots you see on television or in your feeds—campaigns have long relied on pollsters and self-styled gurus to create messages without knowing whether they eventually changed public opinion. The metrics around persuasion advertising remain either primitive or misleading. If a TV spot runs during a big NFL game, for instance, a lot of people will see it—but will it make a mom in Scottsdale more likely to support Biden? A snarky video mocking Trump’s inability to walk down a ramp might generate 1 million retweets, but will it register with a Black person in Jacksonville who didn’t vote in 2016? The outcomes are unmeasured. With persuasion advertising, potential messages are usually poll-tested beforehand, and the ads