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.
For what it’s worth, some of it might surprise you.
The 2020 race for the White House heated up since the Thanksgiving holiday, as *three* presidential candidates have ended their campaigns since our last issue. Mike Bloomberg officially launched his campaign last week, amid rumors that he’s prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to win the nomination. Can the Democratic nomination be bought? If so, what’s the playbook? We take a deep dive into a billionaire’s path to victory – in three easy steps.
New Pod Alert 🎙
There’s a new episode of the FWIW Podcast out this week! ACRONYM’s Founder + CEO Tara McGowan sat down with Republican 🏻♀️ digital strategist and editor of the Learn, Test, Optimize newsletter, Eric Wilson, to learn how the other side is thinking about the digital space. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever podcasts live.
2020, by the numbers
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has now spent $29.4 million on Facebook + Google advertising since the 2018 midterm elections. For these charts + more, check out our FWIW digital tracking dashboard here.
We’re bidding farewell this week to Steve Bullock, Joe Sestak, and Kamala Harris, who have each dropped out of the race. 🥂The Harris campaign invested heavily on digital, and had some brilliant strategic moments, but was ultimately unable to break through.
Also this week, Andrew Yang force fed his supporters whipped cream on video, and (unrelated) managed to have his best fundraising day of the campaign last weekend. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren’s team cleverly repurposed a Christmas classic, and won a major endorsement from viral Star Wars meme Baby Yoda.
Mike Bloomberg officially launched his campaign on November 24th, and immediately invested heavily in online advertising. His campaign spent over $5 million (already surpassing Joe Biden’s entire digital investment) on Facebook + Google last week – the majority of which went to Google. He’s also already spent tens of millions of dollars on TV advertising. Alongside that spend, new polls showed upward movement for the billionaire former mayor.
Here’s the top ten spending Democratic candidates’ cumulative investment on Facebook + Google over time. Note Mike Bloomberg’s entry into the race:
…and here are the top spenders on Facebook + Google from November 24th – 30th:
Deep Dive: How to buy the Democratic nomination in three easy steps
Looking to win the Democratic presidential primary? Sure, you can eat fried butter on a stick in Iowa, or trudge through the New Hampshire winter, but if you’re a billionaire, you may just be able to follow three easy steps. In honor of the *two* liberal billionaires now itching to take on Trump next November, we thought we’d lay out those steps for you below.
Step 1️⃣: Build a progressive organization
Unlike manyotherbillionaires, Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg *generally* aren’t universally reviled on the left (although they do have their haters), and that’s in large part due to their financial support of progressive causes. Both men have invested heavily in building massive, extremely important nonprofit organizations like NextGen (Steyer) and Everytown (Bloomberg) to advocate for solutions to key issues like climate change and gun violence.
This infrastructure not only gives the billionaires some progressive street cred, it also comes with major digital perks. Both Bloomberg and Steyer were able to rent or carry over the email lists from their nonprofit organizations to their presidential campaigns, a critical asset for small dollar fundraising and volunteer engagement. Steyer also was able to draw from the many talented Need to Impeach and NextGen staff for key campaign hires.
Step 2️⃣: Spend sh*tloads of money
If you’ve got it, you might as well spend it, and that’s exactly what they’re doing. It’s rumored that Bloomberg is prepared to spend hundreds of millions of his own money to win the Democratic nomination, and Steyer has proven he’s ready to play ball, quickly becoming the biggest Democratic spender on Facebook + Google over the past few months.
Bloomberg has already dropped over 4.5 million on Google advertising, and nearly $2 million on Facebook. We anticipate those numbers to increase exponentially ahead of Super Tuesday. FWIW, here’s a chart of Bloomberg’s daily Facebook spend since announcing his intention to enter the race:
Step 3️⃣: Take the fight to Trump
Beating Donald Trump in November is obviously the number one issue for pretty much all Democratic voters, so for billionaires looking to buy the Democratic nomination, focusing campaign messaging on the President is a must. Potential Democratic primary voters may not look kindly upon more candidate shameless self promotion, but we all can get behind good anti-Trump content.
Both Steyer and Bloomberg have made being anti-Trump a prominent feature of their digital ad strategy to appeal to a wide audience of primary voters. Before announcing his candidacy, Mike Bloomberg launched a $100 million anti-Trump ad campaign, and on the debate stage and campaign trail, Steyer has been running a relentless campaign against Trump as well. This week, the Steyer campaign doubled down on this, with their CTO tweeting out that they purchased keepamericagreat.com to troll the President. Well done. 👏🏻
To illustrate this further, a quick analysis shows that a whopping ~72% of Steyer’s Facebook ads have mentioned “Trump”, and that percentage is currently at 12% for Bloomberg. In contrast, Pete Buttigieg has run over 50,000 Facebook ads, and only ~900, or less than 2%, have mentioned Trump by name.
Does all of this matter? How much can advertising spend translate to movement in the polls? It remains to be seen, but based on Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg’s current poll numbers, it could be worth at least a few points. We’ll soon see if all this money was well spent when the first voters head to the polls in less than 60 days.
BONUS: Well done, Team Biden 👏🏻🕶
Donald Trump once again traveled abroad and embarrassed America this week, as world leaders were caught on camera mocking his grotesque behavior. As footage spread on Twitter, the Biden campaign quickly capitalized to turn around one of our favorite ads of the primary so far:
One more thing…
That’s all for this week – but before you go, we have one more ask of you! If you enjoy reading FWIW each week, you’ll love the new FWIW Podcast! Give it a listen, spread the word + leave a review on Apple Podcasts!