On August 15th, 2018, Google finally published an archive of all the political ads across its platforms. This included Search and YouTube. Dubbed “The Ad Library,” Google is reacting to lawmaker’s insinuation that stricter laws will be passed if they don’t make a move towards greater transparency.
This is good news for voters.
Bad news for Teddy Maynard.
Back in 2012, John Grisham published “The Brethren”
Aaron Lake, a major character, is a representative to Congress from Arizona.
He’s affable, good-looking, and well-connected in Washington DC. Everybody likes him, he doesn’t make a fuss. But he doesn’t seem to want to move up in the party at all.
That is until he meets Teddy Maynard.
In the world of “The Brethren” Teddy Maynard is the Director of the CIA. Although old and plagued with multiple ailments that have left him wheelchair bound, Maynard is just as cunning and shrewd as ever.
Maynard is also worried about a certain political figure in a foreign land. Given he’s in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency, Maynard is aware of a great many things. The United States general population, however, is kept in the dark.
At the beginning of the book, there’s a presidential campaign that’s already underway. The front-runner is not someone Maynard is fond of. It has very little to do with the man’s personality and more to do with his politics.
This guy’s soft on foreign defense.
Maynard wants someone in the Oval Office who is tough.
Which is why he’s keen on Aaron Lake.
Lake is likable and with the right amount of money behind him, Lake could be the sleeper hit for the upcoming Presidential Election. All they need to do is find contributors and staff. With Maynard’s connections and a long list of favors, it’s possible. Difficult, but possible.
So Maynard sets off to disrupt the election.
I should mention “The Brethren” was published in 2012 before President Trump was elected. Before the accusations of Russian collusion. Maybe Grisham knew something?
Whether he did or not, Teddy Maynard presents an interesting scenario; The Director of the CIA messing with a federal election and no one being the wiser.
It’s 2018 now. Google’s launched their political ad archive. Should Teddy Maynard have tried to pull off his little covert plot, it would have been a lot more difficult.
Thanks to Google’s archive of political advertising and a recent report, here’s why.
The Ad Library tracks the money
Google’s Ad Library is logging the ads appearing on its platforms. This includes Search and YouTube. It’ll list who paid for the ads, a rough estimate of the cost to deploy the ads, and how many impressions each ad received.
For Teddy Maynard to start running ads now, someone is going to be watching him. Well, maybe not him.
Maynard’s plan was to get others to fund Lake’s campaign. He’s got the favors and he’ll be cashing them in. In return, Lake gets a lot of money, really fast. These contributors can then run ads on behalf of Lake.
With the Ad Library and similar programs from other social media sites, all these contributors are listed. This means a swift uptick in spending on Lake will catch someone’s attention.
The concurrent report Google released with The Ad Library will list keywords. Specifically, keywords that advertisers are going after. The keywords linking to demographics and key audiences.
A watchdog agency or a very concerned public citizen could find that certain keywords are being targeted more than others. When this happens, Teddy’s in trouble.
Spending by State and Congressional District
Beyond the keywords, there’s the spending by State and Congressional District.
For the battleground states or swing districts, Teddy will likely spend more money on advertising here. His goal is to garner more and more favorable coverage for Lake in these areas.
As the old saying goes “follow the money.”
This would be another way to catch on to Teddy Maynard and expose his evil scheme.
Only Federal Campaigns
As of this writing, The Ad Library is only focusing on federal elections.
This would be good news if Teddy was trying to rig a state senate election or the election of a city. Though bad news for someplace like San Antonio. Someone could seize control of a smaller area without the ad archive tracking them.
But Maynard’s going for the big one.
Issue Ads Not Included
While there are plenty of ads for and against candidates, there are also issue ads.
These issue ads, though annoying, are meant to raise awareness. Should Maynard seek to sway the public vote on issues, this could still work for him. It would be a harder sell though. Elections today are more about the person being elected and less about the issues.
Case in point, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.
This most recent presidential election was between two people who both had rabid supporters and vengeful critics. And then the people stuck in the middle who liked neither candidate.
Instead of talking about issues, the media focused instead on something else. The main topic in 2016 became “who is the better person?”
Not “what’s their stance on X?”
While their positions were part of the discussion, inevitably, it came down to who was liked more. Or, who was less of a horrible person?
Both had their flaws, and some of those flaws were more widely broadcasted than others. Both had their skills and strengths. Ultimately, it was about which person was a better person.
When evidence surfaced that maybe someone, from outside the US, had been working to disrupt the election, things got worse.
Hence, the push for transparency in political ads.
Does Teddy Succeed?
While Teddy Maynard’s dubious plot to get Aaron Lake elected is a major part of “The Brethren,” they are not the main characters.
The eponymous “Brethren” are three federal judges who’ve come to find themselves in federal prison. Each one has committed some crime and as a result, they’re now serving time.
To pass the hours, and to earn money, they’ve taken to running a scam. This scam gets embroiled in Teddy Maynard’s scam. And only John Grisham could write something like this and make it entertaining.
I won’t ruin the ending, but rest assured, bad things happen. But mostly to bad people.
Go pick up a copy of “The Brethren”.
You won’t be disappointed.
As mid-terms approach, politicians running for office, or running to keep it, are wary of someone messing with the election for the sake of disruption. While they work to manipulate voters and constituents, someone may be manipulating them. Not a fun way to think of the next election.
The good news is that Google, along with other social media platforms, is pushing for more transparency. They’re digging into their advertisers to find where the money comes from and how many people are affected by it. With this knowledge, we’ll have a better idea of who’s getting involved.
This may not erase disruption and manipulation entirely, but it will make it more difficult.
In the meantime, do your own research into your favorite candidate. And pick up a copy of “The Brethren”. Who knows, you may find a real-life Teddy Maynard!
And check out the best Spectrum internet deals in your area while you’re at it. You’ll get to research the issues, the candidates, and save some money in the process.