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Breaking Down How Politicians Used Ads In 2019

Breaking Down How Politicians Used Ads In 2019

Politicians are no strangers to objectives, custom audiences, placements, and campaign budget optimization. Just like other savvy business owners and marketers, they’ve figured out that they can reach their audience where they are hanging out—on social media.

And while political ads have been a hot topic of debate lately, their presence, and the strategies and tactics behind them, are an undeniable force in the marketing world.

As of Q2 of 2019, Facebook has 2.41 million monthly users. This means that politicians can reach virtually anybody they need to, especially voters located in the US. 

In this article, we’re going to show you how politicians are using Facebook ads to promote their rallies, ask for donations, and get users’ contact information—because there are a few things we all can learn from these ads, regardless of the political stance they represent.

First, let’s show you how to see the Facebook ads a business page (in this case, a politician’s Facebook page) is running.

NOTE: this can be done to look at ANY business’ ads.

How to See the Ads Being Ran by a Political Candidate or Politician

You can see the paid ads that have run or are currently being run by any Facebook business profile. Here’s how:

#1: Go to their Facebook page and look in the right-hand sidebar for the section labeled “Page Transparency”.

Donald Trump's Facebook Page

#2: Click on the “See More” button.

The "See More" button located on every business or politician's Facebook page in the Page Transparency section

You’ll see a pop-up window like the one below. 

#3: In the bottom right-hand corner, click on “Go to Ad Library”.

The Page Transparency pop-up on Facebook

Now, you’re in this Facebook page’s Ad Library. Here you can see the total amount of money the politician has spent on ads about issues, elections, or politics in the Page’s lifetime and in the past 7 days.

When you scroll down, you’ll see all of the ads the politician is running or has run in the past. Each ad will say if it’s active or inactive, when it started running, and who it is paid for by. Facebook requires all ads categorized to pertain to social issues, elections, or politics to disclose who paid for it.

At the bottom of each ad, there’s a “See Ad Details” button. When you click on this button, you’ll be able to see how many impressions the ad has, how much money has been spent on it, the gender of the users shown the ad, and what country and state(s) the ad is being shown.

The "See Ad Details" button is at the bottom of every business or politician's active or inactive Facebook ad

We’ll get into this part more when we look at specific ads, but for now, you know exactly how to see the backend of political ad campaigns.

Let’s take a look at some of the marketing strategies being used by 2 popular American politicians on Facebook.

Donald Trump

Let’s start with a few data points to get an idea for Trump’s marketing strategy:

  • Trump has spent $21,551,895 on Facebook ads about social issues, elections, or politics since May of 2018
  • In the past 7 days (as of writing this post), he’s spent $354,810
  • His ads are paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee
  • He currently has approximately 950 active ads

As of November 5th, 2019, Trump is running 3 ad campaigns:

  1. CTA to get notifications about Trump rallies
  2. CTA to sign a petition
  3. CTA to buy merchandise

Each campaign follows the same strategy, so we’ll focus on his campaign promoting the CTA for users to get Trump rally notifications.

Here are the 3 CTA’s he is using:

“Make sure you’re a part of this historic campaign by signing up for Trump rally notifications on the Official Rally RSVP List TONIGHT.”

“Show your support and Sign Up for the Official Rally RSVP List to make sure you’ll know exactly when Donald J. Trump will be visiting your city!”

“Sign Up for the Official Rally RSVP List to make sure you’ll know exactly when I’ll be visiting your city!”


For each ad creative, paid ads are being shown to different demographics in different locations. Each ad creative also has one ad shown to only one demographic in one location.

For example, let’s look at this ad creative:

Trump Facebook ad to sign up for Trump rally notifications

There are currently 19 of the same ad creative (image and text) active on Trump’s Facebook page. The difference in each is who is seeing it. For each of the 19 ads, there is a different target demographic and location.

For example, this ad is being shown to 25-34-year-old men, 45-54-year-old men and women, and 65+ year old men. These users are based in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, New York and Maine.

The impressions, money spent, and age, gender, and location for the target audience of this Trump ad

Meanwhile, for the same ad creative, another ad has the demographic and location set to target a different user. This ad is targeting 65+ year-old women in New Jersey.

The target audience of the same Trump ad showing only an audience of 65+ year old women in New Jersey

And this one is targeting 35-44-year-old men in New York.

The target audience of the same Trump ad showing only an audience of 35-44 year old men in New York

This same strategy is being used across the 2 other campaigns that Trump is running.

Each campaign has 19+ ads with the same copy and image with an average of 3 different visuals (2 images and 1+ video) and copy written in 3 different ways.

For example, for the Trump Rally campaigns, here are the 4 different visuals:

2 Examples of Trump Rally Facebook ads with varying photo visuals
2 Examples of Trump Rally Facebook ads with varying videos

And here are the 3 pieces of ad copy being used:

The 3 different ad copies in the same Trump Rally campaign

Now, let’s look at another presidential candidate’s Facebook marketing strategy.

Elizabeth Warren:

  • Warren has spent $4,895,380 on Facebook ads about social issues, elections or politics since May of 2018
  • In the past 7 days (as of writing this post), she’s spent $226,484
  • Her ads are paid for by Warren For President, Inc.
  • She currently has approximately 1,900 active ads

We’ll look at Warren’s campaign with the CTA to fly users to Atlanta to meet Elizabeth and watch her in the primary debate. 

This is the CTA copy for the campaign:

“We’re flying one lucky winner and a guest to see me at the Democratic presidential primary debate in Atlanta on November 20th. Flights and hotel are on us, and you can bring a friend along too! Sign up here for your chance to win.”


This campaign has 4 ad creatives, 3 creatives with the same copy and varying visuals (2 images and 1 video) and 1 creative with no copy and only an image. 

3 Creatives with Same Copy and Varying Visuals:

3 Examples of Warren's Facebook ad campaign to come to the Atlanta debate

The other ad creative specifically calls out a state, and then gives the offer of being flown out for the Democratic presidential primary debate in Atlanta. For each of these ads, the image is the same, except for the state being changed.

The varying states in the ad creative of Warren's Facebook ads

Not surprisingly, depending on the state being targeted in the ad image, the ad is being shown in that state.

Warren Facebook ad impressions, money spent, and the age, gender, and location of the target audience

Warren is running this ad to the following states:

  • Florida 
  • Massachusetts
  • California
  • Washington
  • New York
  • Illinois

But, she’s running the ad a few times to every state but Texas:

  • Florida—4 ads
  • Massachusetts—2 ads
  • California—3 ads
  • Washington—3 ads
  • New York —2 ads
  • Illinois—2 ads

The difference in the audience for the online ads running to the same state differs. In one of her Massachusetts ads, Warren’s team chose an audience that favors women, but still targets men, between 18-44 years old and 55-65+ year olds.

Another example of the impressions, money spent, and demographic of Warren's Facebook ad target audience

Her second ad is favoring a wider audience, targeting users from 18-65+ years old with a heavier focus on 18-24-year olds than her other Massachusetts based ad.

Warren's ad data showing a larger target for 18-34 year olds

One big similarity between Trump and Warren’s marketing strategies are the number of ads being shown. Each presidential candidate is creating a lot of the same ad and then choosing different audiences to show it to.

This is a big difference in marketing products and services vs. marketing political candidates. It would be a strange marketing strategy for an ecommerce business to run the exact same ad to 19+ audiences. Yet, in the political world, this makes more sense as the amount of differing people candidates are trying to convince to click-through to their CTA is monumentally larger.

Trump and Warren are both targeting 18+ year old females and 65+ year old men…2 demographics that aren’t generally interested in the same products. This means that each of their ads needs to be seen by 18+ year old females and 65+ year old men. 

In the above examples, we’ve seen the 2 audience targeting strategies at work. In some cases, this means that some ads have a specific target audience and the candidate’s team used detailed targeting, custom, or lookalike audiences to target them. Think of Trump and Warren’s ads that targeted only one state. In other cases, the ads may be targeted to a broad audience, giving Facebook the power to find the potential customers for the ad. This could be the case for Trump and Warren’s ads that have audiences ranging from 18-65+ year olds.

We say could, because we don’t have access to their target audience information. But no matter what their targeting preferences, it’s clear that the choices were made carefully, because there is a lot of money (and just a lot in general) at stake in these ad placements. 


1) Personalize your ads to your audience, customizing ads based off of their location

2) Vary your graphics and copy to better reach more people within your audience

3) To get more, you might need to spend more—not necessarily $21 million dollars more, but whatever amount makes sense for your campaign

As you can see—politicians are Facebook savvy. They have marketing teams pushing 1,000+ ads on their page at a time. In this new marketing era, politicians are giving a huge amount of their campaign donations to Facebook to get their beliefs, agenda, and policies heard.



The lovely content team here at DigitalMarketer works hard to make sure you have the best blog posts to read. But some posts require a group effort, and we decided to stop the rock-paper-scissors tournaments that decided the byline so that we had more time to write. Besides, we all graduated from kindergarten: we can share.

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