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New WMP Research Sheds Light on Political Ads Online

Political ad campaigns on Facebook are not necessarily comparable to political ad campaigns on television, argues a newly-published article from the Wesleyan Media Project’s co-directors.  In a manuscript titled, “The Influence of Goals and Timing: How Campaigns Deploy Ads on Facebook,” which appears in the Journal of Information Technology and Politics, Travis Ridout, Erika Franklin Fowler and Michael Franz suggest that political ads on Facebook pursue a variety of goals—and the goals pursued depend on the timing of the campaign. The research examines Facebook ads placed by 24 different candidates running for U.S. Senate in 2018.  The ads were tracked…
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Calculating Reported Spending on Facebook Advertising

Photo: WOCinTech Chat/Flickr (MIDDLETOWN, CT) September 1, 2020 – With Facebook online ads making up a large part of political advertising, the Wesleyan Media Project (WMP) strives to use the Facebook data in its reporting on campaign spending. To do this, WMP uses the Facebook spending reports that are posted on the Facebook Ad Library website. Between arriving as a download and appearing as a tidbit of information on a website, a report undergoes several transformations, depending on the final use of the information. Some of them involve cleaning up data, others involve classification into political entities. An entity is…
Wesleyan Media Project
September 1, 2020
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Why Is Digital Advertising So Hard to Track?

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr(MIDDLETOWN, CT) August 7, 2020 – Since 2010, the Wesleyan Media Project (WMP) has tracked political advertising on television, but the project only started providing data on digital advertising in 2018—and those numbers carry with them several caveats.  Why is it so hard to track digital advertising?1. The major social media platforms libraries don’t cover all digital advertising. While Facebook (including Instagram) and Google (including YouTube) have provided data on ads since May 2018, most vendors that place advertising on third-party sites do not provide any public information on their political ad sales (Google Ad Networks is the…
2016 ElectionsBlogReleases

Eschewing policy in advertising? Lessons from 2016

Photo: Lorie Shaull   (MIDDLETOWN, CT) February 25, 2020 – Michael Bloomberg’s recent political ad, which portrays Donald Trump as a bully, has prompted discussion on social media about the effectiveness of personal versus policy attacks. Many of these discussions invoked a Wesleyan Media Project analysis from 2016 published in The Forum. In this research, we demonstrated that Clinton ran one of the most unusual presidential advertising campaigns in recent history by focusing overwhelmingly on personal characteristics of her opponent, Trump. While our 2016 study did not speak to effectiveness of personal versus policy ads, there is evidence that candidates suffer…
Wesleyan Media Project
February 25, 2020