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Opinion | Political advertising on social media

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About the editor:

There is a fundamental connection between your May 22nd front page article about President Trump’s Facebook ads (“Trump’s Facebook Ad Blitz?”). Both articles speak for the extraordinary power of the advertising model of Google and Facebook.

As a former Google brand manager (I gave AdWords its name), I know this model is prone to consumer actions that could potentially affect its effectiveness. I’m not talking about a boycott, but rather the opposite: when users click on ads for candidates they don’t like.

While some campaigns only pay to display their messages, many only pay when a user actually clicks on an ad. If millions of people click on ads for candidates they don’t like, Facebook and Google will generate short-term revenue (Disclosure: I still own some Google stock). In the long term, however, they will lose to other media that are not so easy to manipulate. And campaigns will have wasted large sums of money on people who will never vote for their candidates.

This is garbage for those in Silicon Valley who worship at the altar perfectly targeted advertising, but it gives consumers more power than those who try to manipulate them. If you want to undermine the power of political advertising and social networking at the same time, consider lifting a finger and pressing your mouse in protest.

Doug Edwards
Los Altos, California.
The author was Google’s Marketing Director from 1999 to 2005. He chairs Maplight, a non-partisan nonprofit that tracks the impact of campaign contributions on legislation.

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