Reuters has reported that Facebook’s global director of policy programs revealed this past weekend that Facebook will use automated postcards to verify political ads prior to the next congressional midterm elections in November. Katie Harbath described the plan at a National Association of Secretaries of State, in an effort to assuage fears of Russian meddling using the social network’s advertising network.
According to Harbath, any ads that mention candidates running for federal office will require an automated postcard to be sent to a legitimate U.S. address with a special code. The code will be used to verify the buyer is located in the U.S. prior to any ads being deployed on Facebook’s digital ad platform.
“If you run an ad mentioning a candidate, we are going to mail you a postcard and you will have to use that code to prove you are in the United States,” Harbath said at a weekend conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State, where executives from Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google also spoke.
“It won’t solve everything,” Harbath said in a brief interview with Reuters following her remarks.
But sending codes through old-fashioned mail was the most effective method the tech company could come up with to prevent Russians and other bad actors from purchasing ads while posing as someone else, Harbath said.
Facebook joins Google and many others in the tech industry as they embrace automated direct mail to leverage the authenticity and trust associated with print based communications. Recent studies have shown that consumers trust direct mail far more than digital ads, and that printed communications are easier for human brains to process and lead to higher brand recall.
Automated postcards and letters are increasingly being deployed by digitally savvy businesses to bridge the gap between the offline and online worlds. Recent advances in technology have created the ability to “trigger” postcards and letters when online actions occur or when CRM, Marketing Automation or other core digital platforms require non digital messages to be delivered. The announcement that Facebook will use automated postcards to verify political ads is more evidence of this new trend.