Although it’s certainly true that all of the parties in Germany are using targeting ahead of election day tomorrow, an analysis of messaging from Germany’s nationalist right wing party, Alternative für Deutschland reveals one of the clearest examples we’ve collected of audience segmentation.

Who Targets Me has worked closely with journalists from Buzzfeed DE and T-Online to understand the advert data we’re receiving on the German election. The following example originally appeared in a German article on Buzzfeed.

In total the project collected around 120 unique adverts from multiple AfD pages, of which 16 came directly from the AfD Bayern page. Because of nuances in Facebook’s timeline, including frequent A/B testing, our browser extension isn’t always able to extract the rationale, or „Why am I seeing this?“ text of an advert. But in this instance we did manage to get this data for 10 of those AfD Bayern adverts. Below are the adverts we analysed:

postId url
1378023572315239 https://facebook.com/1378023572315239
1378029552314641 https://facebook.com/1378029552314641
1376364132481183 https://facebook.com/1376364132481183
1375606972556899 https://facebook.com/1375606972556899
1376344179149845 https://facebook.com/1376344179149845
1376305469153716 https://facebook.com/1376305469153716
1379652412152355 https://facebook.com/1379652412152355
1381482285302701 https://facebook.com/1381482285302701
1384648384986091 https://facebook.com/1384648384986091
1384104411707155 https://facebook.com/1384104411707155

The Target Groups

A glance at each advert’s rationale quickly exposed four distinct audiences they were trying to reach – People interested in:

  • Angela Merkel
  • The FDP
  • Liberalism
  • NachDenkSeiten

If you were the target of one of these adverts, you might have seen the following dialog when clicking the „Why am I seeing this?“ button:

English translation: You are viewing this ad ad, because AfD Bayern would like to contact persons who are interested in Angela Merkel. This information is based, for example, For example, on advertised advertisements or pages marked with „Like“. You can see this ad for probably the reason that AfD Bayern wants to reach the following target group: persons aged 18 and older who live in Bavaria or have been there recently. This information is based on your Facebook profile and where you connected to the Internet.

The Content

We then performed a content analysis, isolating the key themes and AfD policies from each of the adverts and produced 7 labels:

  • No rights for families of refugees
  • No passports for refugees
  • Reduced bureaucracy for refugees
  • Bring back the deutsche mark
  • How much each refugee costs the taxpayer
  • Abolish tv/radio licensing fees
  • Exit from international trade agreements TTIP and CETA
175,- euro costs a minor unaccompanied refugee on the day, and thus more than 2.000 euro per month more than the known elite boarding school Salem.

Matching Target Groups to Content

With all of the above information, we can reliably create a table that maps user interests to content they are likely to receive from the AfD:

Interests Content
Angela Merkel No rights for families of refugees
No passports for refugees
FDP Reduced bureaucracy for refugees
Bring back the deutsche mark
Liberalism Bring back the deutsche mark
How much each refugee costs the taxpayer
NachDenkSeiten Abolish tv/radio licensing fees
Exit from international trade agreements TTIP and CETA

Roundup

The project has come a long way since the UK general election. Our software scrapes with increased reliability and a series of new backend tools enable researchers and journalists to work through the database efficiently and independently. No spreadsheets. No data scientists.

On the surface of it, this is just one particular page’s audience segmentation; But it took a long way to get to the point where a journalist can analyse thousands of advert impressions independently in under an hour. Lowering the complexity and time taken understanding the data will inevitably lead to more meaningful content analysis and greater advocacy. This feels like a milestone for the project.

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