7 Facebook Political Ads Mistakes to Avoid

Political advertising can be a complete hit or miss. Facebook political ads can be especially tricky because almost anyone can be approved to run political ads on Facebook – whether they know how to make effective ads or not. Below, you’ll find 13 ads that were a swing and miss. We’ll tell you how to avoid these common mistakes to create ads that look professional and turn out your voters.

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Mistake #1: Too Much Info

Campaigns have a lot messages to convey, but if a candidate believes someone on Facebook will read a paragraph of text plastered on an ad, they are very much mistaken. An internet user will spend an average of 3 seconds looking at a piece of paid content before they move along. Yes, there may be a few Facebook users that read it all, but if you want the MAJORITY of voters to take away a key message, you better make sure they can instantly find it.

This ad has a great use of emojis and simple sentences in the caption that are easy to skim over quickly and understand. But in the actual graphic, there is way, way too much text. This candidate should have condensed their graphic into three main points or should have created three separate ads to demonstrate his experience, his leadership, and the quote.

This ad is a great concept, but very poor execution. The goal was to turn out voters giving them helpful information about voting days and times. This is a common political ad method, as your can target users on Facebook who you believe are likely to vote for your candidate (We even have voter turnout toolkits with customizable graphics that accomplish this goal). The most effective voter turnout ads have ONE key message and one message only. In this case, they should have included the Early Voting Saturday and Sunday schedule and an eye-catching image. They can direct users to a link with additional information. Having too much text on one image deters potential voters and makes them skip over the ad entirely.

Mistake #2: Microsoft Word Syndrome

Microsoft Word Syndrome is the name I give to ads that look like they were made in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint rather than a professional design platform, like Adobe Illustrator or Canva. Unfortunately, these types of designs can instantly weaken a candidate’s reputation because they look cheap, quickly thrown together, and unprofessional. Here’s some examples and how to avoid this unfortunate look.

To this candidate’s credit, they have a clear and eye-catching logo. Unfortunately, you should never make your logo the only design element of an ad. The extremely bright and red colors and star background make this ad look like a patriotic PowerPoint slide, rather than persuasive campaign content. To improve the look of this ad, I would suggest they:

  1. Add a large, smiling cutout image of the candidate for a friendly look. Users are more likely to stop and look at ads that feature images of people.
  2. Reduce the size of the logo and put it in a corner.
  3. Make the message “Early Voting Starts May 18th” front and center on the graphic.

There are a few things that give this ad a cheap, unprofessional look. First, his body is cutoff. They should move his cutout to the bottom of the image. Second, the text is cut off on the right side and not centered evenly down the graphic. Third, the font chosen for this ad looks like Arial, which is a very basic Microsoft Word font. I would suggest they add some highlighting, underlines, strokes, or other text effects to make the text and background more eye-catching.

This is a fun one. I’m not sure if they we’re going for middle school PowerPoint presentation on purpose..? But I would guess not.

A few simple takeaways:

  1. Don’t use clipart.
  2. Black and yellow is generally not a great combination.
  3. Keep it simple. Don’t fill up the space just to fill up the space. Everything on an image should be intentional and should fit well together.

Mistake #3: QR Codes

This is a pretty simple rule, but you’d be surprised the number of Facebook political ads that break it. Don’t use a QR Code on a digital ad. Users will not take a picture of a QR code on their desktop or mobile device to visit your link. They are already on the internet, so just provide the link for them. In most cases, they’re viewing the ad on their mobile device anyways, so they have no way of using the QR code unless they take out a second phone. Provide links, not QR codes, for all digital ads and reserve QR codes for pieces of direct mail and flyers.

Instead of putting the QR code on this image, they should have provided a link for the user in the caption.

Mistake #4: Running Page Likes Ads

When setting up your ad campaign, you have the option to optimize for several different outcomes. One of those outcomes is a page likes optimization, which will allow Facebook users to easily like and follow your page. Here’s why this kind of a campaign is a waste of your campaign dollars:

  1. Users that follow your page are likely already frequent voters and supporters – not your intended audience.
  2. Once a user follows your Facebook page, they may only see your content 20-30% of the time.
  3. Page likes are a “glamor metric” which means they feel good, but don’t actually get your any closer to earning more votes.

Instead of page likes campaigns, you should run campaigns that are optimized for reach to make sure that your ads make as much of an impact as possible.

Mistake #5: Awkward Shapes

Facebook and Instagram ad placements come in several distinct shapes. When campaigns upload any random image to the ad platform without taking into consideration the proper specifications, it results in awkward cropping or white space that looks unprofessional, like in the examples below.

Here are the recommended Facebook and Instagram ad dimensions. Our digital ad toolkits provide you with the correct dimensions right off the bat so you can add your images to the images without worrying about re-sizing. If you’re creating your own ads, make sure your images are adjusted to meet these requirements:

  1. Facebook and Instagram Feed Ads: 1080×1080 pixels, 1:1 Aspect Ratio.
  2. Facebook and Instagram Stories Ads: 1080×1920 pixels, 9:16 Aspect Ratio.

Mistake #6: No Candidate Image or Eye-catching Visual

Political campaign ads should almost always include an image of the candidate because it makes your name more memorable. Humans are extremely visual. Attaching a face to a name makes the ad feel more personable and real. Additionally, in order for an internet user to take the time to read the text of your ad, they must first be drawn in by a visual element.

Don’t use your logo as the centerpiece of your ad. This ad would have been more effective if they used the tagline “No Politics. Just common sense.” and then an image of the candidate.

You’d never guess after a quick glace, but this is actually an ad inviting supporters to a campaign rally. Why not include an image of a campaign rally or of the candidate handing out merch and freebies as mentioned in the caption?

Mistake #7: Text too Small

Did you know that the vast majority of Facebook and Instagram ads are viewed on cellphones? When you’re designing your ad, you may be blowing it up large in front of you so it’s easy to read, but that’s not how it will appear to voters. Even ads on desktop and tablets will be pretty small, so it’s best to choose a few key messages and make sure they’re clear and easy to read.

Imagine seeing this ad on your mobile phone. Are you going to be able to see the early voting dates and times? This campaign should have run 3 separate ads.

  1. A vote by mail ad with one key message: Request your ballot by June 13th.
  2. An Early Voting an with one key message: The address for early voting and a link that takes them to additional information.
  3. An election day ad with one key message: The date of the election and a link to find your polling location.

It’s clear this candidate took the file from one of their direct mail advertisements or flyers and uploaded it to use as a Facebook ad. But Facebook ads should be designed just for Facebook. The text is way to small for voters to read and once again, this ad uses QR codes. A big no-no for digital ads.

For pre-designed and 100% customizable graphics and ads for your campaign, shop our Campaign Toolkits. We have mini toolkits for Digital Ads, Fundraising, Voter Turnout, and more.

Hannah Richards

DIGITAL STRATEGIST

Hannah (Bree) is a full-time political strategist from the battleground state of Ohio. She built this website during the COVID-19 pandemic while living with her two pet rats, because she didn’t have anything better to do. But also, because she believes it could be genuinely useful to a few folks that find it. If you’re one of them, you can connect with her at hannah@campaigntoolkits.com.

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