A Matchless World

With the state primaries schedule slow down it’s time to survey the digital ad environment for fall.

Like almost everything else, it’s changing. Again.

The ability to use user data to target mobile devices and desktop computers is under new fire. And the one platform campaigns have used as a go-to to reach voters is, well, playing games that will hurt political campaigns.

Let’s start with Facebook. Under fire from brand advertiser (who pay the bills) with suspicions about their political motives under new scrutiny, the platform made an announcement that’s a cynical as anything it’s done so far. And that’s saying something.

Users will have the ability to block all political ads. So if your ad says “paid for by…..” Facebook will let a voter say “never more.”

So Facebook is now officially a casino: Campaigns pay their money, they take their chances on reaching voters and the house always wins. 

We’ve written enough about how so-called voter targeting on the open web is being eroded by various legislative and other protective measures so we’ll skip those revisits (here and here) for some new news.

Apple – as part of its battle for user trust against Facebook and Google – has announced that it will restrict targeting on iPhones. Apps will no longer be able to share data without user permissions. And those permissions must be actively granted so there will be warnings as well as an easy-to-read privacy guide for users.

As one tech newsletter put it: “This definition of tracking includes, data collected for ad targeting, location data, and email lists to share with data brokers, and a third-party [software developer kits] placed in the app to track user behavior.”

So the vendor who’s telling you they can track a phone into a home or event just got their wings clipped. It’s just a matter of time before Google’s Android devices catch up.

This doesn’t mean mobile advertising doesn’t work; it does and Spot-On has seen engagement rates that dwarf desktop for most of our campaigns. Devices can be targeted by language, age and geography, all powerful tools for reaching groups of voters. 

But the inaccurate perception that specific devices can and should be targeted with specific one-to-one ads is now official nonsense.

Our last bit of news concerns the buying and selling of consumer data – the fuel that drives voter targeting. With more publishers paying attention to the revenue generated by their websites, many are casting a jaundice eye on these data resellers who they believe are taking subscriber information without paying for it.

The New York Times is pulling out of its agreements. Other publishers are following – and quickly. So the ability to use this data, which is the backbone voter targeting is weakening. Again.

Oh, and a footnote on the TikTok Tulsa Trump Troll. TikTok, a Chinese-owned company does not accept political ads.

But here’s some good news: Local news outlets reach voters. They talk to people who are engaged with their communities. And they’re getting better at responding to queries about subscriber demographics with surveys suggesting that about 60% of regular local news readers are regular voters.

Spot-On has always believed in the power of local ad placements. Which is why we can help your campaign navigate this often difficult terrain.

Shoot us a note and we’ll share our 10 years of detailed knowledge about placements, outlets and ways to reach voters.