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.
This week, Donald Trump’s campaign reached the $4.5 million mark in terms of digital spending on Facebook and Google since the midterms. We took a look at why they’re continuing to spend so much so often online, and also dug into how digital investments may (or may not) have made a difference in the Chicago mayoral race and the New York public advocate election earlier this week.
Let’s get into it…
2020 by the numbers
Here is a list of top political spenders on Facebook this week. Google’s transparency report won’t be updated until next week, so we’ll compile two weeks’ worth of Google investments in our next issue.
Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign topped the list this week, spending over $270,000 on Facebook the week of their launch (read more about that in last week’s issue). Another notable addition to the top political spenders this week was the NBA, who invested over $100,000 in digital ads promoting racial equality during Black History Month. Check out a couple of the ads they ran here:
Just missing the top ten, but another notable spender last week was Democrat Dan McCready, who spent just under $50,000 on selfie-style Facebook ads after a new election was announced in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
The Democratic Field
Last week, Bernie outspent the entire Democratic field combined on Facebook ads for his campaign launch – surpassing a number of candidates’ total Facebook and Google investment in just one week (see graph below).
On the Trump side
Last week, Donald Trump’s campaign crossed the $4.5 million threshold in terms of dollars spent on Facebook and Google since the midterm elections. Distributed between the Make America Great Again Committee and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., Trump’s reelection campaign continues to spend big each week.
We assume that at a certain point, Trump’s campaign reached (or will reach) a plateau in terms of increasing the size of his list. However, it’s likely that a significant portion of this investment is to keep Trump’s base engaged and motivated around certain issues, and to drive messages that Trump’s team wants in the atmosphere.
For example, dozens of Trump’s ads on Facebook in recent days were driving the “fake news media” narratives Trump often pushes, linking to a lengthy survey with base-baiting questions including “Do you believe that the mainstream media does not do their due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration?” and “Do you believe that political correctness has created biased news coverage of both illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism?” His campaign also continues to push border wall messaging in their paid digital communications, and last week ran hundreds of Spanish language ads highlighting the unrest in Venezuela, reinforcing the idea that the Trump campaign’s digital ad strategy doesn’t just include building lists, but sustaining them over time.
Deep Dive: All politics is local
This week, we took a short break from the national landscape and dug into whether digital investment did (or didn’t) have an impact on two local elections in major U.S. cities on Tuesday: the Chicago mayoral race and the election for New York City public advocate.
The Chicago mayoral race
For the fourth time in 100 years, Chicago held an open mayoral election – where anyone from either party could file to be on the ballot. Fourteen candidates made the cut. Here is how they stack up in terms of dollars spent on Facebook through February 23rd (the election was held on the 25th so we weren’t able to see total investment through the last two days before voters cast ballots).
While Susana Mendoza outspent the rest of the field by nearly $70,000, Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle (who spent under $30,000 combined on Facebook) were the top two candidates who will face each other in a runoff.
We did find that both Lightfoot and Preckwinkle ran noticeably negative ads in addition to positive content promoting themselves and their vision. Check out a couple of examples below:
And as the two candidates, either one of which will make history as Chicago’s first African American woman mayor, prepare for a runoff April 2nd, both are already up with Facebook ads making their case to Chicago voters:
The race for New York City public advocate
In another crowded field, the special election for New York City public advocate on Tuesday had 17 candidates on the ballot. Here is how their investments on Facebook platforms compared:
Capturing 33% of the vote tuesday, Jumaane Williams was declared the winner, after spending just under $14,000 on Facebook towards his campaign. Williams did likely benefit from having a higher name ID with voters, which he established when ran for lieutenant governor of New York in November of last year.
Did the outside groups make the difference?
In both the New York City public advocate race and the Chicago mayoral election we noticed outside groups also spending money online to influence the results.
In the Chicago mayoral race, a group called “The Real Bill Daley” spent over $3,700 in Facebook ads attacking mayoral candidate Bill Daley and tying him to the recently-defeated Republican candidate for Illinois governor, Bruce Rauner. While the monetary investment isn’t enormous, Daley came in third in the mayoral race, failing to make the runoff by just 1.3 percentage points.
And in the New York public advocate race, New York Working Families Party ran over 100 ads supporting Jumaane D. Williams, possibly helping him to secure his victory Tuesday. Check out a couple of examples below:
P.S. We launched our new FWIW Virginia newsletter this week, where we break down digital investment in the Commonwealth of Virginia in advance of the 2019 state legislative elections. Click here to subscribe.