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Primary Races Fill Feeds With Digital Ads

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NPR
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The spring election season is here and candidates are trying to think of new and creative ways of getting their message out during a pandemic.

Now that Facebook has lifted its ban on political ads, the spring campaign season has moved online. Get ready for your news feed to be inundated with political ads for everything from the race for governor to the primary for your local City Council race.

Former Republican Delegate David Ramadan, now at George Mason University's Schar School of Government, says digital ads can micro-target potential voters in a primary election in a way that television never could.  "Online you can target that only or likely voters of specific ideology or specific affinity to a subject matter will see those ads, and that's why that becomes much more important in a primary than in a general election."

Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett says television is here to stay, and that there's a reason why it costs more money.  "When people are watching television, they're focused in on the TV," Tribbett  argues.  "And so while they didn't come for the commercials, they take them in at a much higher level. This has been the case since TV was invented. It's effective, and it's by far the most effective, and nothing has changed that yet."

Tribbett also says the purpose of those digital ads might not be to target voters anyway, pointing to online data showing much of that advertising is aimed at wealthy donors in other states who might end up contributing money to statewide campaigns here in Virginia. 

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

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