Watch as the Trump Campaign tests anti-Harris messages

Facebook has a handy Ad Library search tool that anyone can use to search and filter ads about social issues, elections or politics. Most organizations that spend lots of money on Facebook ads have teams that do significant Facebook ad testing. If you’re going to spend lots of money on ads, you might as well make sure your messages and images play well with the demographics of users you intend to reach. You can figure this out by testing many ad variants with small budgets side by side, measuring impressions, and investing bigger budget in winning ads. Facebook makes ad testing and demographic targeting easy, and the Ad Library search tool makes ad testing transparent.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced yesterday afternoon that Kamala Harris would be his running mate, and almost immediately the Trump Campaign started testing anti-Harris Facebook ads. Using Facebook’s Ad Library tool, filtering for the advertising entity “Donald J. Trump”, and filtering for the keyword search “Kamala”, you can basically watch the Trump Campaign come up with ideas for messages targeting their base, and test these ideas in real time:[0]=153080620724&q=kamala&publisher_platforms[0]=instagram&sort_data[direction]=desc&sort_data[mode]=relevancy_monthly_grouped

Here’s an example of a set of ad variants being tested by “ TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE.” The winning ad variant happened be disproportionately engaged by women, 45 and older:

Another anti-Harris test paid for by Trump, this time with an image of Biden and Harris and a dramatic red highlighter over Biden and Harris’ eyes, and disproportionately engaged by men, 55 and older:

A Trump test emphasizing an image of just Harris, disproportionately engaged by 25–45 year old men as well as users located in Texas.

And an apparent A/B test of image filters that attempt to change Harris’ complexion:

We know political campaigns are deeply data-driven in 2020, and dependent on social media ad platforms to reach their base. And we know that the Trump Campaign mobilizes its base by playing up racist and sexist tropes. It’s fascinating to watch exactly how they do this, and watch their testing process as it happens in real-time.