Closing In

With the Friday announcement that it was cancelling contracts with political ad buyers, Adobe – a venerable Silicon Valley company – is sending a clear signal: Political ads are too hot to handle.

The Adobe news broke at the end of a week that saw The Big Tech Four on the hot seat before Congress and word that Hulu, Facebook, Verizon and Google made an editorial judgement about a political ad.

These are all indication of how the established practices in the online political world are changing – and a hint that they may change again before the election.

Of course, these practices aren’t all that established. The current (but fading) fad for voter targeting – also known as ‘micro-targeting’ really came to the forefront in 2016 when campaigns became convinced – wrongly – that online targeting was the same as mail targeting.

It’s not. It never was, especially for anything smaller than a Congressional race. But using voter targeting to buy remnant ads via platform dashboards – which is what Adobe’s stopped on its platform – is an easy and fast way to buy lots of cheap ads and avoid oversight by regulators. No editorial or legal review. No need for substantiation or disclaimers.

So, oversight is the big news here. Google, Hulu, Facebook and Verizon (which now owns the still-popular Yahoo!) have actually looked at the ad and decided not to run it. Adobe, realizing somewhat belatedly that its acquisition of TubeMogul in late 2016 brought them a political business, decided to remove a potential PR nightmare like the one dogging Facebook.

There’s more change coming between now and the election as shortcuts taken for granted by many online advertisers get closed off. Here are two more important changes we’ll see before Nov. 3.

Apple is ramping up protections against ad tracking. These privacy protections will be part of Apple’s next software updates for all its phones scheduled for mid-September.

On July 12, Facebook announced that the dashboard buttons allowing users to block political ads were fully in place. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to realize that the more political ads a Facebook user sees, the more likely they’ll be to block those ads.

All this against a real world background that is, to understate the situation, a bit unsettled. Congress is making odd noises about election interference. And others are – perhaps not coincidentally – looking at the likelihood that there will be political ad fraud this year. It’s considered all but certain which is another reason why Adobe may have abandon the market.

Not to be outdone, it seems, the US Post Office is warning of a series of crises over mail delivery. Congress is in on this, too because USPS is warning that it may not be able to get ballots to everyone who wants one for voting at home or by mail.

What to do? Well, consider buying digital ads directly from local publishers to reach voters. Don’t know what they’re reading? Spot-On does. And we’ve got the experience and data – a list of 4,000 sites across the country – to support those buys.

Give us a shout. We’ll make your digital headaches go away.

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