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.
If you (like us) have signed up for every 2020 campaign email list, your inbox was probably flooded with dozens of emails over the past week asking you to help candidates reach their end-of-quarter fundraising goals. In this week’s FWIW, we looked at which campaign sent the most emails in the final week of the quarter, how that compared to their online spending, and how many of the email programs felt increasingly similar, even as campaigns were trying desperately to differentiate themselves.
2020 by the numbers
Donald Trump’s campaign’s weekly spend has consistently decreased in March, but he’s still spending over $200K online per week, totaling his investment since the midterms to $6.25 million.
When you look at Trump’s spending compared to the Democratic field last week, Trump was only outspent by Amy Klobuchar – and keep in mind this was the last week of the quarter (excluding 3/31).
On the Democratic side, Klobuchar significantly increased her digital spending in the last two weeks of the quarter- making her the fourth highest spender online across the Democratic 2020 field. It will be interesting to see how her end-of-quarter fundraising numbers stack up – but note that she has about $4 million in her Senate account – most of which she can use to power her presidential bid.
Here are the top Facebook and Google spenders from March 24 – 30:
We were intrigued when we noticed that the top spender on Google last week (which was, again, the last week of the quarter) was not a presidential candidate, but was “Republican State Leadership – Judicial Leadership Committee.” After digging a little deeper, we found that the RSLC spent over $157K from March 25 – 31 running 30 second and 15 second versions of the below ad on YouTube to influence the Wisconsin Supreme Court election last week.
The ad immediately aligns conservative judge Brian Hagedorn with Donald Trump, and claims that “out of state interest groups” were spending millions to support Hagedorn’s opponent, Lisa Neubauer. Note that the RSLC, who funded and produced this ad, is not based in Wisconsin…🤔
We don’t know if any organizations on the left were running YouTube ads supporting Neubauer, as the Google Transparency Report only tracks federal races. It’s likely these ads were flagged in the report because they mention Donald Trump – so if any left-leaning groups were investing in Google ads, they didn’t mention Trump at all. But in a race where Hagedorn leads by less than 6,000 votes (the race is too close to call) – and where millions of dollars on both sides of the aisle were directed into television and mail ads – digital investments like this could be the ones that made a difference.
Deep Dive: But the emails…
No, not THOSE emails.
We’re talking about the dozens – or hundreds – of emails that flooded our inboxes before the end of quarter fundraising deadline on March 31st. We all know that campaigns make a big push in the final days and hours before EOQ – through both their digital advertising and email programs. So we signed up for every single campaign’s email list – and noticed a few interesting trends in their strategies to bring in more donations.
By the numbers:
We compared how many emails each campaign sent in the final week before the filing deadline to the total amount of money each campaign spent online from March 24 – 30. Here’s what we found:
Warren’s campaign sent the most emails in the last week of the quarter, while we noticed that Mayor Pete’s campaign sent a surprisingly low number of emails, especially considering the amount of press coverage of Buttigieg, which could have been leveraged within an email program. However, the press coverage alone could have been enough to drive donations in the final weeks and help Mayor Pete’s campaign reach $7 million in donations in Q1 that they recently announced. We should also note that these numbers were based off of the emails delivered to our inbox. For campaigns with testing-driven email programs, it is likely different segments of their lists (different targets and audiences) received different versions of individual emails or different frequencies of emails.
Our favorite trends
We also noticed some common trends within campaigns’ email programs to try to elicit more donations from individuals in the final week. Here were some of our favorites:
The pretend conversation:
Multiple campaigns tried to play around with the sender field of the emails to make subscribers think that the email was part of a longer conversation. No, I’m not emailing back and forth with Kirsten Gillibrand or Julián Castro, they just made it look like I was by making the sender “Me, Julian (2)” or “Kirsten, me (2).”
The family ask:
Throughout the last week of the campaign, pleas from candidates’ spouses and mothers came across our inboxes frequently – like this one from Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug, that even ended with a selfie of the two of them:
Will we reach our goal!?!?
Across the board, campaigns sent multiple emails around goals for the month, quarter, or even the final days before the end of Q1. Just check out a few from our very cluttered inboxes:
And our favorite – making it “personal:”
Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign again experimented with different subject lines to try to entice potential donors to open their emails, but nearly every 2020 Democratic campaign sent an ask directly from the candidate themselves.
Bonus: Facebook ad transparency tool being used to…fundraise 🤔?
The Facebook ad transparency tool isn’t just being used by people like us – it’s now being used by campaigns to raise money. Or at least one campaign…
This week we spotted Jay Inslee highlighting the fact that Exonn Mobil has spent millions on Facebook ads as a strategy to get supporters to fund his campaign, which has centered around climate change and environmental protection.
Here are the ads that Exonn Mobil is running (and has been for months). We wonder if this strategy will in fact work to bring in more donations to his campaign – and in turn if he’ll use it to buy more Facebook ads of his own 🤑. Let us know what you think.