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4 Tips for Advertisers During the Extended Facebook & Google Ad Bans

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Our experts share advice for advertisers:

Facebook and Google’s decisions to extend their ban on political advertising for at least another month (and potentially longer) sent many marketers scrambling to shore up their year-end paid media plans. The bans not only impact anyone communicating in the two Georgia Senate runoffs, but many mission-driven organizations that depend on these platforms for holiday season fundraising and yet find themselves being lumped in with political candidates and organizations.

While it’s debatable whether these bans are actually effective in stopping the spread of disinformation, advertisers face two realities: 1) the bans will remain firmly in place for the time being, and 2) advertisers still need to reach audiences on critical issues through the end of the year.

If you’re setting up a digital ad campaign, the first step, of course, is to familiarize yourself with Facebook and Google’s policies to see if your organization might be impacted. If the answer is yes (or maybe), here are four tips for maximizing your impact while the bans remain in place:

  1. Before panicking or pivoting away, check if your messaging will pass. Some organizations, especially those with name recognition, can likely run branded fundraising ads that allude to their mission without going so far into detail to be tripped up by Facebook and Google’s political policies. For instance, “Donate to Planned Parenthood” should comply with platform policies, but “Donate to Protect Women’s Healthcare Access” might not. You can vet messaging with Facebook or Google ahead of time to save time and stress. In addition to the messaging, you’ll also want to check your targeting to make sure you’re communicating with people who are aware of your brand and already know its mission.
  2. Know there are other options with the same capabilities. One of the biggest perceived advantages of Facebook and Google advertising is their ability to target audience lists online. But they aren’t the only platforms that allow advertisers to do this. Social platforms like LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Twitter are the first place to go for an alternative, but you can also do this on a much wider network of websites and channels reachable through programmatic platforms. Utilizing programmatic advertising will allow you to reach virtually any website or channel, including the phones, tablets, desktops, and connected TVs of your audience.
  3. Think beyond matched list targeting as the primary means of communicating. In addition to expanding platforms, you should also expand your targeting methods no matter what platform is being used. Using voter files — databases built with publicly available records of who is registered to vote — is a standard practice in political advertising; however, we also know that voter files list matching often misses many voters, especially voters of color and young people. Instead of relying on this, advertisers should use interest targeting, demographic information, geo-targeting, and lookalike audiences to reach people. Ban or not, these should be a significant component of any targeting plan already. And using a comprehensive targeting method dramatically increases your ability to reach people.
  4. Invest in organic communications. A strategic digital communications strategy doesn’t rely on paid social advertising alone — it must be complemented by smart, creative organic digital content that resonates with people. Online fundraising, in particular, is going to look different for many organizations this year and while we expect challenges to arise, this is also an opportunity to flex new creative muscles. Have you thought about influencers who reach your audience and how you can engage them? What about organizations or publishers you can partner with to leverage their networks? Or how about finally starting that Instagram account for your organization? The best part of investing in your organic strategy now is the compounding effect it will have over time.

Even without Facebook and Google, there are plenty of great online options for reaching and engaging activists, voters, and donors. Whether optimizing on new platforms, or rethinking your budget allocation to strengthen your organic approach, organizations of all kinds can still reach their intended audiences. Starting with an integrated marketing strategy and diverse paid execution allows you to be flexible on your way to a successful outcome.  

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