In a recent column in The Washington Post, Ellen L. Weintraub, Chair of the Federal Election Commission, reflected on the recent ban by Twitter on political advertising and delivered her argument for a ban instead on microtargeting.
I believe the Chairwoman’s aim is admirable; but her approach is wrong, creating layers of inefficiency and additional obstacles for down-ballot and less-funded candidates to overcome.
Microtargeting is not new. It has existed for many years and has been used across both online and offline mediums, including direct mail, phones, email, and grassroots door-to-door, to deliver targeted messaging to specific audiences of voters. That use extends beyond political advertising to brands selling us their products and services.
Why is the use of microtargeting in digital advertising different?
Why is the use of microtargeting by political campaigns different?
The Chairwoman argues that those who are trying to influence voters should be willing to say to the many what they want to say to a few. That implies that today’s candidates have something to hide.
What the Chairman fails to see is that today’s candidates have something to say.
Today’s issues are some of the most defining in history, from immigration to healthcare to abortion. That candidates seek ways in which they can talk more directly to voters about the issues these voters personally care about is a good thing. That kind of 1:1 or near 1:1 communication allows an individual voter to get the answers he or she wants from candidates about their positions and records on specific issues.
Those are informed voters.
The idea of a ban on microtargeting creates an unlevel playing field that handicaps down-ballot and less-funded campaigns while giving an advantage to those with deep pockets. Microtargeting enables campaigns to spend with intent and target their message with their limited campaign funds to reach voters on the issues they care about most.
If our goal is transparency and holding all players in an election accountable for the information they disperse, then we need to look for real solutions that truly focus on transparency and accountability. Selective bans aren’t the answer.
Data in and of itself is not the enemy.
Read more from Ashley in AdExchanger on audience creation.