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How a digital advertising strategy that helped Trump is used against him


“The thing that Facebook does really well, and that I’ve learned quite a bit on Facebook, is how to measure things,” Barnes said. “When I was thinking about what I wanted to do after Facebook while I was going through this political transformation, I wanted to know: How can I best help defeat Trump in 2020?”

During the 2016 election, Barnes frequently used a Facebook tool known as a “brand lift” to test various messages of conviction online for the Trump campaign. The tool revealed whether some of the online ads were moving people.

This tool has since been removed from political campaigns by Facebook as part of its major restructuring of how campaigns can run on the platform following widespread backlash following the 2016 elections.

With his small team of engineers and data scientists, and plenty of money from Acronym that doesn’t reveal his donors, Mr. Barnes has been able to recreate a similar tool to some extent.

“In the past, it seemed impossible to continuously and consistently test the real impact of ads from people who actually saw them,” said Solomon Messing, chief data scientist at Acronym. “And what we did was come up with a way to do it on Facebook.”

The tests will be conducted in five states – Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina (a full test will include target audience selection, taking an initial survey, serving ads to half of respondents, doing the second survey for all and analyzing the results).

Using an acronym-run voter record, the group casts a wide web for a list of names based in part on election history, propensity to vote for President Trump in 2020, and party registration. The group then sends these results to Facebook in a list to build an audience that can be promoted in those five states.


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