Top Democratic strategists are furious that Google banned ads from mentioning or even discussing COVID-19, as they ramp up their efforts to criticize President Trump’s virus response on the internet.
Democrats say the Google ban allows the Trump administration to promote its response to the crisis while denying ads criticizing it.
“…staffers of several Democratic nonprofits and digital ad firms realized this week that they would not be able to use Google’s dominant ad tools to spread true information about President Trump’s handling of the outbreak on YouTube and other Google platforms. The company only allows PSA-style ads from government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and trusted health bodies like the World Health Organization. Multiple Democratic and progressive strategists were rebuked when they tried to place Google ads criticizing the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus, officials within the firms told Protocol.” – Protocol
“We’re in the middle of the defining event of this election and potentially a generation,” said Mark Jablonowski, the CTO and managing partner of DSPolitical. This top digital ad firm works with Democratic campaigns and progressive groups.
“To not allow political candidates to mention or discuss COVID-19 is something that has the potential to dramatically bolster Trump’s and Republicans’ chances of reelection,” Jablonowski said.
Another Democratic strategist, who wanted to remain anonymous, said his firm has been operating several virus-related ads on Facebook, which still allows political ads about COVID-19.
“As we were getting ready to start broadening [the ad campaign] into Google, we reached out to Google to clarify what their rules were going to be,” said the strategist. A Google representative told him that their virus ads wouldn’t be allowed on the platform.
Josh Koster, a managing partner at DC-based digital advertising firm Chong & Koster, said Google’s refusal to run COVID-19 ads because it wants to avoid misinformation and price gouging of products makes sense. Still, he said there’s “an entirely separate use-case from nonprofit organizations trying to spread accurate information about the situation and holding elected officials accountable for the life-and-death decisions they are currently making.”
Protocol notes that the Trump administration and Republicans have suspended political ads for the timing being. Some Democratic strategists claim President Trump’s CDC and White House ads, which have been authorized by Google, sound a lot like political campaign messages.
“For Google to basically say that the Trump administration is the only entity that is allowed to talk about the most important issue in politics really puts their thumb on the scale of the incumbent president and against anyone who is really looking to challenge him,” said Eli Kaplan, a founding partner of Rising Tide Interactive, a marketing firm for Democratic political organizations.
The fight between Democrats and Google over political ads targeting President Trump’s virus response is a matter that has many on the Left enraged. Strategists are still running political Facebook ads jabbing the president for how the public health crisis has spiraled out of control.
Google told Protocol that its ad policies are always evolving and will review its rules in the next several months.
Until Google changes its rules, Democratic strategists said their message against the president would evolve with a theme of how the public health crisis has triggered an economic collapse affecting millions of American households.
“I’ve had several different clients that have totally had to rethink the way that their political strategy is working right now,” said another Democratic strategist, who also requested anonymity. “They’ve had to toss out the old playbook and come up with a whole bunch of different issues.”
“Google should remove content that misleads the public as it relates to health issues surrounding COVID-19,” said Kaplan. “But shutting down all paid political advertising on the subject, including ad content that is 100% truthful, is completely irresponsible.”
President Trump’s approval rating has been soaring since the virus outbreak began. And maybe Google’s ban on COVID-19 ads has been a political gift to the administration.
So how long until Google reverses its ad policy?