Ever since the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, many observers assume that targeting is an effective campaign strategy. Up until now, timely studies on targeting strategies mostly focus on assessing the effect of contacting specific target groups with targeted ads. However, we know little about which content these targeted ads have and how the tailoring of content to a target group is influencing their success.
First experimental evidence suggests that voters like to be targeted in a low degree, but punish parties for highly targeted campaign messages. But is this also the case in a real campaign context? I tackle this question using a manual content analysis of the Facebook and Instagram Ads by German parties during the general election of 2021. Social Network Sites give the opportunity to use the reach and interactions of ads as a measurement of success. As a first step, I analyse how parties tailor targeted campaign messages to their target groups. Second, I investigate if ads that were tailored to a specific target group (in terms of age, gender and region) are actually more successful. Lastly, I ask if a combination of these targeting criteria might lead to a backlash effect. These findings will provide important implications for modern election campaigning and its regulations.
Targeting, tailoring, modern election campaigns, campaign strategies, political parties