Welcome to FWIW, ACRONYM’s weekly newsletter breaking down digital strategy and investments across the political spectrum. Each week, we look at how campaigns are – or aren’t – leveraging smart digital strategies to drive narratives and win elections.
The online race for the White House isn’t being fought on Facebook and Google alone. In 2020, there will be more online channels and platforms that campaigns can use to reach voters than ever before, and those who diversify their digital outreach strategies may have an edge. This week, Snapchat rolled out its own political advertising transparency database, and we took a look at which 2020 candidates and groups have been investing in the platform.
Let’s dig in. But first…
2020 by the numbers
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has now spent over $18.3 million dollars on Facebook and Google since the 2018 midterm elections, and most of his ads last week contained straightforward fundraising asks alongside his typical anti-Socialism and inflammatory “build the wall” schtick. 🙄
On the Democratic side, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign spent heavily on Facebook ads last week – recently kicking off a campaign promoting his “Medicare for All Who Want It” plan.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren, Tom Steyer, and Julian Castro have started running these ads energizing their supporters around impeaching Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after more credible allegations of assault were published last weekend. As far as we can tell, these are the only candidates currently running ads around Kavanaugh:
Just this morning, Bill de Blasio dropped out of the race after never really taking off. FWIW, his short-lived campaign only spent around $130,000 on digital advertising.
…and here are the top political ad spenders on Facebook + Google last week:
You may have noticed that we (ACRONYM) have officially broken into the top ten weekly spenders on Facebook. For almost a year now, we’ve used this newsletter to sound the alarm on Donald Trump’s massive digital spending, and now we’re starting to do something about it. More details on our advertising plans will be coming soon, but here’s some of what we’ve been running:
Deep Dive: A snap election?
The online battle in 2020 won’t be won on Facebook and Google alone. Campaigns are already organizing on and investing in new or niche platforms, and apps like Snapchat offer a powerful way to reach younger audiences. In just a two week period before the voter registration deadlines in 2018, Snapchat reportedly helped register over 400,000 new voters, and campaigns and organizations spent nearly $600,000 on the platform last year.
At ACRONYM, we absolutely stan transparency and think the more exposure we have to spending across all platforms and channels, the better. But we have to say, Snapchat launched their transparency report last Monday without notifying any advertisers that their spending data would be published. While the data itself is mostly noncontroversial, their report goes as far as to reveal the physical address of each advertiser, so a little heads up could have gone a long way. We also have some thoughts on how to make the tool even better for advertisers and consumers alike so call us maybe? 🤷♂️
Anyway, this week we took a deep dive into which outside groups and 2020 candidates have invested on the platform year-to-date, and moving forward, we’ll be tracking Snapchat data for future inclusion in our regular charts and graphs.
The 2020 campaigns:
Although they’re not nearly spending on Snapchat at nearly the same rate as Facebook and Google, we’re able to gain a little more insight into the campaigns’ attempts at reaching younger voters.
Despite being perceived as having an older base of supporters, the Trump campaign’s dominance in digital spending carries over to their investment in Snapchat. This year, they’ve outspent all Democrats running for president combined on the platform.
The Trump campaign’s Snapchat ads have almost exclusively been for supporter acquisition and fundraising around EOQ fundraising deadlines in March and July – with the exception being two ad variations in July highlighting his administration’s work on criminal justice reform:
Elizabeth Warren’s team has spent the most on Snapchat out of the Democratic campaigns, and also has run ads during a few key moments throughout the year – notably in Q2. Most of her campaign creative seems like recycled content from Instagram or Facebook, but maybe she has a “plan” to step it up in the coming months. 🤷♂️
Snapchat’s new ad library can provide more transparent targeting information than Facebook or Google. Because of that, we can tell that Pete Buttigieg’s campaign is running these pretty platform-specific ads touting his climate change plan – targeting Snapchat users in Iowa and New Hampshire who are aged 18+, and who are classified as “collegiates, green living enthusiasts, or political news watchers”. 🤔
We should also note that it appears Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris are the only other Democratic contenders to have spent *anything* on Snapchat this year – and all their ad buys were small and short-lived. Maybe it was just their digital team’s attempts to give the platform a test drive? Will we see them and others invest more heavily in Snap ads before the first caucuses and primaries in February? Stay tuned.
We should note that there was one other presidential candidate that benefited from heavy Snapchat advertising this year. Act Now on Climate, the SuperPAC that was directly supporting Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign, spent $111,886 on the platform driving traffic directly to the candidate’s website with these ads:
…and aside from ‘Act Now on Climate’, here are the top spending political organizations on Snapchat so far this year:
FWIW, it makes sense that many of the top spending outside groups are involved in progressive advocacy – as young people are one of their primary bases of support – and are most easily found on Snapchat.
One more thing… 🤳
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