Facebook repudiates claims that Trump campaign paid lower rates for polarizing ads
- Facebook’s former VP of advertising Andrew Bosworth said in a tweet yesterday that President Donald Trump’s campaign paid more than Hillary Clinton’s to reach potential voters on the platform during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a CNBC report. From June 21 to Nov. 8, 2016, Trump’s cost-per-1000-impressions was higher than Clinton’s, and in the final weeks of the campaign, Trump’s CPM rate jumped to $35 to $40, while Clinton’s was about $20 to $25, said Bosworth, who is now in charge of consumer hardware at Facebook.
- In a Wired report released last week, it was suggested that Trump paid less than Clinton for Facebook ads. Based on a statement from Brad Parscale, who served as director of Trump’s digital operations in 2016 and has been named manager of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, the piece argued that some of the more sensational and divisive ads from the Trump campaign were rewarded by Facebook’s advertising platform because they had more interactions from users who saw them and were delivered to more people, resulting in a lower cost.
- Until Bosworth’s tweet, Facebook had said that no candidate had a CPM advantage, according to The Verge. Messages that are more polarizing can be more expensive to distribute because they reflect minority-held views, and users may click off of the platform when they see something they disagree with, per a Facebook spokesman cited in the report.
With Bosworth’s latest comments, Facebook is attempting to manage the message and clear up “confusion” surrounding its CPM system and hoping to suppress claims that any one candidate had an advantage. Facebook’s CPM prices depend on audience size and the advertising campaign’s objective, and the Trump and Clinton campaigns had different strategies, Bosworth said on Twitter. The back-and-forth over which campaign paid a higher advertising rate on Facebook in 2016 is noteworthy because it has turned the spotlight on the machinations of Facebook's auction-based system — which very few marketers understand.
This isn’t the first time that Facebook officials have used Twitter to respond to media reports about the social network’s role in the election. Rob Goldman, Facebook’s VP of ads, was recently criticized after tweeting that the media had misrepresented how Russian trolls used the platform, saying that most of the ads were purchased after the election. The comments came after special counsel Robert Muller indicted 13 Russians for interfering with the 2016 election.
Congress has been looking into how Russia may have used social media to influence the 2016 election, and the House and Senate have introduced bipartisan bills that would require Facebook, Google and other digital platforms to disclose information about political ad sponsors, including how much they spend and what audiences are being targeted. The Federal Election Commission vice chair has also drafted a proposal that would require the platforms to add disclaimers to political ads that would identify the sponsor, similar to what’s required for print, radio and TV ads.