[10/7/19] Political Ad Campaigns in the New Media Landscape

The Politician kept popping up in my social news feeds and in conversation. I wondered, will this new Netflix fill the void of my favorite show House of Cards? Years ago, I served in local office in California and then worked as a political reporter in New Mexico and Florida. I can never get enough of politics.

This week’s lecture will focus on how politicians are projecting their image and are weighing in on public discourse in the current news and new media landscape, as well as how the public is receiving and reacting to these messages.

Scott Talan

Additional contributions and edited by Eunju Namkung

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Political Ad Campaigns in the New Media Landscape


With the 2020 presidential election on the horizon, The Politician certainly channels the political ambitions that mark the zeitgeist. In the series, the lead character, Payton, navigates the political landscape of his school with the undeterred vision to eventually become president of the United States. Never mind he is too young to (legally) drink, nor even to vote. Payton is quite savvy about controlling his image. What do you observe as some of the elements that inform his political campaign?


  • A New Breed of Political Ads Enters the Midterms

    A new type of political ad is being produced for online audiences. According to the Wall Street Journal, these ads are “all in the service of allowing candidates to tell a different kind of story — deeply personal stories that touch on the candidates lives. The kinds of things that haven’t been traditionally discussed in ads. Their intention? To show an audience that candidates can empathize with the human difficulties that people in the more challenged parts of society feel.”


Political consultant Fred Davis shares his tried and true strategies for designing an effective political ad for his clients, who range from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Carly Fiorina to John McCain.




  • Writing: Imagine you are a campaign manager for a candidate. You are tasked to produce an ad. What strategies will you use to make sure your ad is effective? What decisions would you make to make sure it reaches audiences? How will you determine which audiences you would like to reach?
  • Debate: How much responsibility do governments or companies (social media, media, technology companies) have in regulating political ads online? What responsibility do people have to be better informed and equipped to deal with political content online?
  • Poll: Do you engage with political issues – having conversations, posting opinions and content, or clicking on political ads and content – on social media?
    • Yes, No, Unsure
  • Short Answer: Should political ads distributed over the internet be subject to the same regulations that apply to TV broadcast ads, e.g. “stand by your ad”? Explain briefly.


Current Events Quiz

  1. What are some advantages of using influencers for political messaging?
  • More affordable
  • More relatable
  • More hyper-targeted
  • All of the above
  1. People who are more comfortable with conflict are ___ attentive to and active in politics.
  • More
  • Less
  • Not
  • Reluctantly
  1. Which social media groups have banned political ads altogether?
  • TikTok and Facebook
  • TikTok and Pinterest
  • Facebook and Pinterest
  • Twitter and Facebook
  1. Researchers have criticized the transparency efforts of Facebook, Twitter and Google which have all launched searchable online libraries of political ads on their platforms. Why?
  • Researchers have said that the libraries are being poorly maintained and failing to provide useful ad targeting information.
  • Researchers have said they charge too much for this information.
  • Researchers have said they are revealing too much information on their transparency efforts to the point that their users’ information are made vulnerable.
  • Researchers have said that the searchable online libraries have not been translated into enough languages.
  1. What currently proposed Congressional act would require platforms to disclose the purchasers of political ads, applying the same rules that exist for TV and radio?
  • Transparency for All Act
  • Honest Ads Act
  • Internet Frontier Act
  • Clear Politics Act

Featured Image Credit: “Eve Adams MP News” by emilyemily8 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 

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