Chris Mitchell: Navigating the ‘new normal’
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Microsoft logo at office building, Munich Germany
The ban on political ads doesn't merely alter campaign strategies; it impacts the very fabric of political speech.

As the digital landscape continues to transform the way we engage in political discourse, it’s also becoming a battleground of regulations.

Tech companies like Microsoft’s Xandr ad network are implementing policies that restrict political ads, decisions that are reshaping the landscape of digital advertising and carrying significant implications for political discourse and the democratic process.

Xandr’s announcement to ban political ads from Oct. 1, 2023, is part of a broader trend in the tech industry.

Companies are increasingly cautious about the potential liabilities associated with political content. This caution, while understandable from a corporate perspective, has far-reaching implications. It’s not just about managing risk; it’s about the potential stifling of political dialogue in the digital realm, a space that has become integral to modern political campaigns.

The ban on political ads doesn’t merely alter campaign strategies; it impacts the very fabric of political speech.

By narrowing the platforms available for political ads, tech companies risk muting new voices and ideas. This could lead to a less vibrant political discourse, with fewer perspectives being heard. In a democratic society, where diverse viewpoints and robust debate are essential, such restrictions could lead to a deficit in democratic engagement.

Restrictions on political ads can inadvertently tilt the playing field in favor of incumbents and corporations. Established political figures, with their existing name recognition and larger financial resources, are less dependent on digital ads to connect with voters.

They have the advantage of visibility and a pre-existing audience.

Similarly, corporations, with their vast resources, can more easily adapt to the changing advertising landscape. They have the means to explore alternative advertising avenues and the ability to absorb the impact of such bans. This dynamic risks stifling competition and innovation in the political arena, potentially leading to a less diverse and less representative political landscape.

Despite the challenges posed by ad bans, the importance of digital advertising in political campaigns cannot be overstated. The digital age has irrevocably changed the way we conduct politics and there’s no going back. At Statecraft Digital, we’re committed to helping our clients navigate this evolving landscape. We leverage a diverse array of platforms and strategies, including AI, to ensure our clients’ messages resonate with their intended audience.

We firmly believe in the power of digital strategy to inspire action and drive campaign success, even in the face of restrictions. Our approach involves a deep understanding of the digital advertising ecosystem, allowing us to identify opportunities and create effective strategies regardless of the constraints. The toothpaste is out of the tube, and digital advertising is here to stay.

The decision by Microsoft’s Xandr and other tech firms to ban political ads represents more than a shift in corporate policy; it’s a challenge to the very nature of political speech and competition.

As we navigate this new normal, it’s crucial to advocate for a digital sphere where all voices can be heard and democracy can fully thrive.

While the landscape of digital advertising in politics continues to evolve, one thing remains clear: digital advertising is now an integral part of political campaigns.

With adaptability, creativity and a commitment to democratic discourse, we can continue to connect, engage, and inspire.


Chris Mitchell is the Managing Partner of Statecraft Digital.

Guest Author


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