Digital strategists say the campaign industry shouldn’t just return to normal despite Facebook resuming campaign and advocacy advertising Thursday.
The platform’s decision was widely celebrated by consultants with firms on both sides of the aisle quickly firing off back-to-business marketing emails to clients. But that excitement is tempered by worry the platform will again cut off political advertisers, perhaps just as abruptly, in the future.
“I challenge you think beyond business as usual. Our industry is too reliant on the one platform for too much: raising $, reaching voters. And as we’ve seen — it can be taken away in an instant,” Democratic digital consultant Madeline V. Twomey tweeted on Wednesday. “The upside of the ad ban was the willingness to innovate and explore new ways of doing our work (including breaking out of archaic department silos. A voter doesn’t differentiate between an email, an ad and a volunteer call. Neither should we).”
Twomey, who was the Biden campaign’s community content director, pointed to “influencers, creators + partnerships” as where campaigns should be looking beyond Facebook. “I truly believe it’s the future of marketing and campaigning.”
Courtney Weaver, VP of political accounts at GOP digital shop IMGE, told C&E her team had been simultaneously readying creative for the ad resumption while exploring alternatives. With Google back up, they’d restarted using search for email acquisition, while also leaning into list rentals.
“List rentals, I think, will still be a great focus,” she said Wednesday. “If we had lost [Facebook ads], it would have definitely been cutting off an arm in some regards. We were always planning on it coming back in some fashion.”
Democratic digital consultant Beth Becker is bracing for a glitchy restart.
“There were so many glitches when the ban started that we should absolutely expect glitches as the ban ends,” she said.
Becker echoed Twomey’s hope that practitioners will now be more willing to experiment away from Facebook. “No one should be putting all their eggs in one basket,” she said. “I do think a lot of groups got a chance to experiment with other kinds of ads and I always say that paid and organic must exist side by side.”
That said, Facebook remains “the best bang for the buck for … small budget organizations and down-ticket campaigns so I’m extra excited for them.” She added: “I would also hope this proved to the higher ups at Facebook that turning off ads did not turn off misinformation on the platform. … That said, I full expect we’ll see bans like this again in future elections.”
The week’s other big announcement: Google’s Privacy Sandbox. “Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products,” David Temkin, the company’s director of product management, ads privacy and trust, wrote in a blog post. Instead, the company will use machine learning to aggregate users into cohorts of similar interest groups based on their browsing habits, and allow marketers to target that way.
Cindy Ma, a product manager at the Democratic shop DSPolitical, said using model device IDs, IP addresses, and device lat/longs her team is able to compensate for Google’s move.
“Those aren’t going away and will continue to be strong signals that will allow us to target at scale for our campaigns,” said Ma. “I don’t think it will largely apply to how we are currently targeting today.”
On Twitter, BPI Founder Andrew Bleeker summed up a consequential week in ad tech this way: “The result is certainly not the end of targeting, but perhaps the beginning of a new chapter. One where 1p data and panels will lead and where creativity and deep partnerships will be more important than ever.”