Welcome to FWIW, ACRONYM’s weekly newsletter breaking down digital strategy in the 2020 elections. Each week, we look at how campaigns are – or aren’t – leveraging smart digital strategies to drive narratives and reach voters. For what it’s worth, some of it might surprise you.
This week we learned that the Biden campaign apparently has an absurdly gargantuan amount of over $430 million cash on hand to spend from now until Election Day. 🤯. How will they choose to deploy all that cash with just 18 days to go – and is it even possible to spend that much in just over two weeks?! 🤷🏻♀️
In this week’s FWIW, we take a look at both presidential campaigns’ final arguments through the lens of their digital ads, how outside groups are getting involved in these final weeks, the state of battleground state spending online, and more.
NEW POD ALERT
The FWIW podcast is back, and this week our founder + CEO Tara McGowan spoke with Sarah Longwell, founder of Republican Voters Against Trump and publisher of The Bulwark, to break down the orgs and strategies fueling anti-Trump Republicans, discuss the impact of social media on our elections, and more. Listen + subscribe here.
We’ll break all that down and more in this week’s FWIW.
2020, BY THE NUMBERS
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $211 million on Facebook + Google advertising since the midterm elections. Joe Biden has spent $143.7 million advertising on those same platforms. Here’s how much each campaign spent just last week:
While the Biden campaign’s FB + Google spending decreased slightly last week from the previous week, Trump’s continued to grow, especially on Google + YouTube. There, his ad spending grew by nearly 70%, which can likely be attributed to their multiple-day buy of YouTube’s home page. 🙄
According to new data from Google, the Trump campaign has outspent Biden on the platform in each of the battleground states over the past 7 days.
The Trump campaign is presumably trying to dig itself out of the hole Donald dug by constantly railing against the security of VBM, which has caused many of his voters to think twice about voting by mail. Now, his campaign is running lots of early voting GOTV ads on YouTube targeting rural areas in battleground states like AZ, OH, and MI (the gray spots are areas the campaign is excluding from their targeting).
However, while the Trump campaign is obsessively trying to flood the zone on YouTube, the Biden campaign continues to try reaching voters wherever they’re spending time online. In their most recent interesting play, the Biden campaign spent at least $100k on Reddit for a front-page takeover just a couple of days after the first presidential debate. (h/t to Zach Montellaro at POLITICO for this one!)
FWIW, here are the rest of the top spenders on Facebook last week:
…and here’s what last week looked like in terms of Google advertising:
Each week, we’re breaking down Facebook spending in key presidential battleground states. Here’s how much the campaigns and major outside groups spent on ads focused on the presidential race from October 4th to October 10th:
One notable new advertiser on Facebook in battleground states is the obscure group “Common Sense Voters of America, LLC.” CNN reported last month that the Ohio-based organization had been spreading misinformation to voters via direct mail, and now it appears they’re spending heavily on Facebook too.
18 DAYS TO GO…
With the Biden campaign bigger and better-stocked than ever and the Trump campaign desperately scrambling to eke out a margin-thin win next month, the two are pushing full speed ahead in their digital efforts. The campaigns and outside groups have already spent over $1 billion in TV ads so far, and the two campaigns alone have spent just over $350 million on Facebook and Google ads – and judging by how many new ads come out every day and every hour, the final totals could end up being far, far bigger.
For one thing, the Biden campaign is pretty clearly making a significant play for senior and Latinx voters in Florida. In the past week or so, his campaign spent nearly $1 million on Google ads there, targeting Florida voters on YouTube with ads about climate change, taxing the rich, and one Spanish-language ad catered to young Latinx audiences that targets specific very communities in the state.
Biden’s recent Facebook ads provide an even clearer picture of this outreach. For example, the Biden campaign spent at least $90k on an ad about Social Security targeting older women, and another set of ads target young, presumably Latino men in the state.
Across the board, the Biden campaign seems to be going all-in on persuasion ads targeting the tipping-point states, like in Pennsylvania, where they’re spending at least $1 million a week on ads targeting voters in the Keystone State. Here, on top of their ads addressing infrastructure, energy, health care, and the pandemic, they’re also targeting young people of color in the state with at least two new campaigns. One features a group of young Black men making the case to each other that “I feel like if you don’t vote, you are comfortable being silenced,” and another targeting young Spanish speakers about respecting Puerto Ricans.
On the other side, we all recently learned that the Adelsons are still one of Trump’s last best hopes with their Preserve America PAC, to which the power couple donated $75 million in September. The super PAC made significant investments in battleground states last month, and while they’ve receded from Facebook ads in recent weeks, they were one of the biggest political spenders on Google + YT last week.
Recently on the platform, Preserve America PAC has been running YT ads targeting swing states like FL, GA, IA, NC, PA with spots criticizing the Obama administration’s handling of US hostages in ISIS custody – reflecting Pence’s play in the VP debate – and misleading spots about Biden’s economic plans. They also put at least $250k behind these ads on Facebook, so we also know that they targeted these ads toward middle-aged and senior Americans with a slight preference for women in those age groups.
BEFORE YOU GO…
That’s it for FWIW this week! Before you go, we have one more ask of you. As the general election heats up, it’s more important than ever for our friends and colleagues to stay in the know on what’s happening with the campaign. If you’re one of the over 14,000 people who enjoy reading FWIW each week, give us a follow on Twitter, and help get out the word by forwarding this email to two friends who care about democracy + the money that influences it.