Embattled social media giant Facebook actually promoted a case study on its own website in 2011 that praised its usefulness “as a market research tool and as a platform for ad saturation [that] can be used to change public opinion in any political campaign.”
The case study highlighted how a media firm named Chong + Koster was able to successfully sway public opinion against a 2010 Florida ballot measure that would have increased public school class sizes. It noted how Chong + Koster’s “Vote NO on 8” campaign cleverly “used Facebook’s targeting capabilities to serve a variety of ad messages to Floridians by age groups – 18 – 29; 30 – 44; 45 – 54; 55 – 63; 64 and over – separately for both males and females,” and ended up scoring an impressive, improbable victory on Election Day.
“The campaign had a very small budget and needed to maximize the effectiveness of its marketing to persuade voters to vote no on the proposition,” the case study, which is still up on Facebook’s Government and Politics page today, notes. “The backers also knew at the outset that they wanted to find a new model for voter communication. The first goal of the Facebook Ads campaign was to use Facebook as a market research tool to hone the messages identified by a baseline poll specifically for each micro-audience of targeted voters in Florida and for each demographic group. The learnings from this market research would be used across all other media buys. The second goal was to saturate Facebook users in Florida with targeted messages in the month prior to the election.”
The page also states that the most important goal of this Facebook advertisement campaign was to determine whether it could change future political advertising: “The third, and most important goal, was to measure the impact of the online ad program to assess its viability as a new model for voter persuasion.”
In addition, it discusses how Chung + Koster utilized Facebook users’ locations to perfect its microtargeting. “The agency relied on Facebook’s Location Targeting to reach people in two of the most populated counties in Florida, Dade and Broward, which have a combined population of 4.2 million,” the case study explains, before quoting a very satisfied Chong + Koster partner named Tyler Davis. “The methodology for using Facebook as a market research tool is really quite simple and incredibly efficient,” Davis observes in the case study. “For each target audience identified by the poll, we ran a set of Facebook Ads that split-tested a variety of messages and imagery. Then, with Facebook’s real-time performance reporting, we were able to pinpoint the best message/image for each audience, and move those findings to inform display ad production within a week.”
Another one of the firm’s partners, Josh Koster, revealed that the insights his firm gained from its Facebook advertising campaign were so beneficial that it used them to tweak its advertisements on other platforms. “We used Facebook as the master research tool to help determine the creative for banner ads and TV ads online,” Koster explains. “Not only were our display ads based on the results of the Facebook research, but a lot of our ads ran to people who we originally aggregated on a remarketing list through the Facebook acquisition campaign.”
The case study then boasts about the effectiveness of the campaign by bragging about the Facebook advertising campaign’s astounding results:
It then concludes with a section titled “The Future,” which asserts: “Chong & Koster believes that the strategy of using Facebook as a market research tool and as a platform for ad saturation can be used to change public opinion in any political campaign. The agency has already applied the model for other campaigns, and is also working with a number of brands that recognize that this could lead to a new model for brand advertising in the digital era.”
That this bold claim is still featured on Facebook’s Government and Politics page may come as a surprise in light of Facebook’s recent political advertising scandals – particularly last week’s scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm that Facebook suspended after reports of it violating users’ privacy by improperly accessing their data. Yesterday, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) repeated his demand that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testify in front of Congress, and today, the FTC announced it has launched an investigation into the Silicon Valley giant over the scandal. But as Facebook tries to downplay its history of sharing massive amounts of data with political advertisers, this case study from 2011 is a good reminder of how the company used to boast about its ability to help sway elections for clients willing to buy advertisements on the site.
Stay tuned for more.
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