Welcome to FWIW, ACRONYM’s weekly newsletter breaking down digital ad investment across the political spectrum. Each week, we look at whose digital spending is up, whose is down, and whose is non-existent.
For what it’s worth, some of it might surprise you.
24 hours. $6 million. 220,000 people. How did Bernie Sanders crush the Democratic primary field in small-dollar donations on the first day of his presidential campaign? Well, if you look closely, it’s not that hard to figure out. So we did.
2020 by the numbers
Here’s a list of top political spenders on Facebook and Google platforms the week of Feb 10-16.
Here is the weekly investment by both of Donald Trump’s campaign committees on Facebook and Google platforms since November 2018. So far, his campaign has spent over $4.35 million on Facebook and Google for the 2020 cycle.
Last week Amy Klobuchar spent the most out of the field of declared 2020 Democrats, which isn’t a surprise given it was the week she launched her campaign.
Deep Dive: How he did it
Earlier this week, Bernie Sanders far outpaced the rest of the 2020 Democratic field by raising over $6 million from 220,000 donors in the first 24 hours of his campaign. We took a look at how and why that’s possible for him – and maybe even for a few others yet to join the race.
What’s in a name?
Short answer: a lot.
Bernie Sanders has something that none of the other declared candidates in the 2020 Democratic field have: name recognition. By running for president in 2016 and staying on the national stage ever since, Bernie Sanders has gotten nearly every voter – especially Democrats – to know who he is. And that goes a long way when you’re competing for people’s attention, dollars and votes.
According to a Quinnipiac poll from December, 88% of all voters (Republicans and Democrats) know enough about Bernie Sanders to form an opinion about him. That ticks up to 90% when you look at just Democrats. But it’s taken a long time for Bernie to get there. If you look at historical data – when Bernie launched his presidential bid in April 2015, over 60% of voters had never heard of him and approximately 75% of Americans didn’t know enough about him to form an opinion of him. Take a look at how that’s changed over time from Gallup and Quinnipiac data below:
But why does this matter when it comes to raising millions of dollars from voters? It allows Bernie to spend less resources, time and investment introducing himself to voters and enables his campaign to focus more on raising money from the voters who already know who he is.
Compare him to others in the Democratic field, for example, and you can see how much further ahead he is. The same Quinnipiac poll from December also surveyed voters’ opinions on potential candidates (some now declared) such as Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bloomberg. All three of them face a much steeper climb when it comes to making sure voters know who they are and can form opinions about them – with a full 68% of voters responding that they hadn’t heard of Kirsten Gillibrand.
Bernie’s high name ID enables his campaign to focus more on running these types of ads with direct fundraising asks:
As opposed to candidates like Kirsten Gillibrand or Kamala Harris, who might be spending a disproportionately larger share on these types of ads focused on building lists and introducing themselves to voters:
It’s all in the lists
Another reason why Bernie was able to raise so much from so many people is because he started off his campaign with a massive list of voter data, emails, and contact information. While other candidates have smaller, regional lists, Bernie started off at a much higher baseline – and he’s been keeping his list of supporters fresh and engaged since the last time he ran for president.
For example, from May through November 2018, Bernie spent over $134,000 on Facebook ads to continue to grow his list and fundraise nationally. While he was up for reelection this past November his race was not competitive, so he was able to focus on a national audience – both in terms of messaging and targeting.
Here are a couple of examples:
What does it mean?
Of course Bernie’s list and his high name ID give him an advantage early on in the primary – but it doesn’t mean everything. Bernie also has much higher unfavorables than other candidates in the race, so early leads in fundraising and polls could level out as other candidates in the race continue to invest in list-building and introducing themselves to voters. The big question will be whether there is enough of a runway before votes are cast for some of these lesser-known candidates to catch up.
Keep an eye out on whether potential candidates who also have high name ID (i.e.Vice President Joe Biden) or those who have large lists (i.e. Beto O’Rourke) enter the primary field – and how their early numbers compare to Bernie’s. And when all the candidates are in one place on a debate stage, that can quickly level the playing field.
Bonus: Venezuela, socialism and advertising, oh my
This week, we spotted Trump’s campaign running hundreds of these ads targeting Florida voters. It’s consistent with his campaign’s strategy to leverage digital advertising to drive strategic narratives with red meat content, which can also influence the traditional media narrative.
Here’s an English translation of the copy in the ads:
Socialism has produced suffering, corruption and decay. The thirst for power in socialism causes OPPRESSION. At this moment, there are more than 2 million people who have fled the anguish inflicted by the socialist regime and its sponsors of the Cuban dictatorship in Venezuela.
WE MUST CONFRONT SOCIALISM AND DEFEND THE VENEZUELAN PEOPLE >>>
Add your name NOW to join our struggle to restore the democracy of the Venezuelan people.
WE ARE WITH YOU, VENEZUELA!
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and make sure to follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the week and email us with ideas of what you’d like us to dive into next.
– The team at ACRONYM
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