Facebook Disputes Claims That Trump's Team Got Cheap Rate on Social Ads

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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Credit: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg and Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg

Facebook has posted a chart showing that Hillary Clinton's campaign had cheaper ad rates than Donald Trump did in the run-up to the election, a disclosure meant to counter claims that the president's team worked out a better deal with the social network.

On Tuesday, Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's vp of consumer hardware, posted the chart on Twitter showing each campaign's ad rates during the campaign season. The chart shows the Clinton camp's CPMs—the cost for every 1,000 ad views—were between $10 and $25, while the Trump team's rates were between $15 and $40 for every 1,000 views of its Facebook ads.

The Facebook exec was responding to the Trump campaign's outspoken digital operations head, Brad Parscale, who recently boasted about the campaign's social media prowess and how it was more effective than Clinton's digital efforts.

Parscale was just named manager of Trump's 2020 campaign. His digital media strategy has been credited in helping get Trump into the White House.

At least one other source has noted the cheaper ad rates as well. Antonio Garcia Martinez, an early Facebook employee on the ads team, recently wrote a column in Wired about the success of Trump's social media advertising, and claimed the president's team paid far cheaper rates because of a better strategy in targeting and bidding on the ads in the Facebook auction.

"Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone's screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices," Garcia wrote.

Facebook has been criticized for its role during the 2016 election due to Russian troll farms buying ads and spreading disinformation on the platform to influence U.S. voters.

Facebook has also taken heat for aiding the Trump camp with hands-on services to help manage the campaign's social media advertising—a concierge level of consulting that had been offered to but refused by the Clinton team.

The cost per thousand impressions is not the only metric that determines success. The numbers, for instance, don't take into account the amount of free impressions each side received from people sharing the ads after seeing them in their Facebook News Feeds. It's also likely that Trump's team made better use of targeting tools that could drive up rates but offer more effective outcomes, while Clinton's ads, though less expensive, were less relevant.

Facebook said it would try to answer more questions about the two camps' ad spending and release more data.

"We want to share more campaign data with researchers, but we'll need campaigns' permission," Bosworth tweeted. "We are reaching out now."

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