A former employee explained to the Guardian how it details the techniques used by the Trump campaign to micro-target US voters with carefully tailored messages about the Republican nominee across digital channels.
Intensive survey research, data modelling and performance-optimising algorithms were used to target 10,000 different ads to different audiences in the months leading up to the election. The ads were viewed billions of times, according to the presentation.
…None of the techniques described in the document are illegal. However, the scandal over Cambridge Analytica’s acquisition of data from more than 50 million Facebook users is lifting the lid on an industry that has learned how to closely track the online footprint and daily lives of US voters.
Despite the advances made in data-led political campaigning, these were techniques that, according to the presentation, Trump did not have access to when Cambridge Analytica joined his campaign in early June 2016.
…Voters in areas where people were likely to be Trump supporters were shown a triumphant-looking image of the nominee, and help finding their nearest polling station.
Those whose geographical information suggested they were not fervent Trump supporters, such as swing voters, were shown photos of his high-profile supporters, including his daughter Ivanka Trump, a celebrity from the reality TV show Duck Dynasty, and Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
…One of the most effective ads, according to Kaiser, was a piece of native advertising on the political news website Politico, which was also profiled in the presentation. The interactive graphic, which looked like a piece of journalism and purported to list “10 inconvenient truths about the Clinton Foundation”, appeared for several weeks to people from a list of key swing states when they visited the site. It was produced by the in-house Politico team that creates sponsored content.
…According to the presentation, Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign also used a new advertising technique offered by Twitter, launched at the start of the election year, which enabled clients to kickstart viral tweets.
The “conversational ads” feature was used to encourage Trump’s followers to tweet using a set of pre-determined hashtags.
The campaign also took advantage of an ad opportunity provided by Snapchat, enabling users to swipe up and immediately see a preloaded web page. While not useful for securing donors, Cambridge Analytica deemed the tool useful for engaging potential voter “contacts”, according to the presentation.
One of the final slides explains how the company used paid-for Google ads to implement “persuasion search advertising”, to push pro-Trump and anti-Clinton search results through the company’s main search facility.
…One slide showed how the company ensured that voters searching the words “Trump Iraq War” would encounter paid-for search results that were favourable to his campaign. “Control The First Impression,” the slide says, with an arrow pointing to a search result that states: “Hillary Voted for the Iraq War – Donald Trump opposed it.”