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.
To say the race for the White House is heating up would be a major understatement. Online and off, the campaign narratives are shifting on a daily basis – and voters in Nevada line up to caucus tomorrow. Meanwhile, many voters across Super Tuesday states are already casting their ballots, and the Bloomberg factor is still one of the biggest unknowns out there. In this week’s FWIW, we’ll take a look at how this rapidly changing campaign is playing out online – especially in the Silver State.
2020, by the numbers
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $44.1 million on Facebook and Google advertising since the 2018 midterms. As the Democrats are increasingly focused on clobbering each other online and off, his campaign continues to advertise to reach their supporters, collect data, and raise piles of cash.
On top of that, Sara Fischer at AXIOS looked at how the Trump campaign has begun shifting resources away from acquisition and fundraising-focused Facebook ads to other platforms that will help them reach target voters beyond their base with video, audio, and other campaign messaging. We see this more as a sign they are ramping up persuasion program and spending online, rather than just diversifying ad platforms.
Here’s the Trump campaign’s week over week Facebook + Google spending:
According to Advertising Analytics, Mike Bloomberg officially became the highest spending presidential candidate in history this week. Time will tell if all that money will be able to save him though, as his debut debate performance was pretty universally panned. 🤷♂️
Following the debate, his digital team caused a stir by sharing a heavily edited video to spin a debate moment in his favor. Critics asserted that the video, which now has over 3.5 million views on Twitter, was deceptive and misled viewers who didn’t watch the actual debate, and candidates on our side should not resort to Trump’s misinformation tactics to compete. Maybe with a strong performance at next week’s South Carolina debate, his team won’t have to spend so much time editing. 🤐
Despite being left for dead by some pollsters and media outlets, Elizabeth Warren had a strong week anchored by a powerful debate performance. Her campaign ran with it and claims to have raised over $5 million in the 24 hours following the debate.
FWIW, here’s how much the candidates for President have spent on Facebook + Google in the past week:
…and here are the top spenders on each platform from Feb. 9 – 15.
Mike Bloomberg’s campaign has continued to flood young voters nationwide with Snapchat ads on an unprecedented level. Here’s total Snap spends this cycle so far:
Deep Dive: Is it Nevada or Nevahhhda?
Hint: It’s Nevada.
Campaigns have finally shifted gears away from the (very white and demographically unrepresentative) early states of Iowa and New Hampshire and towards the sunbelt states where they’ll have to talk to and enlist support from larger segments of the Democratic coalition. In Nevada, Latinx and union voters make up a powerful political force, and the leading campaigns in the state are heavily focused on winning those groups over.
Here’s how much the candidates have spent in the state on Facebook in a recent seven day period:
Bernie’s campaign has been blanketing Nevada voters on Facebook for weeks with ads directly asking voters in English and Spanish to caucus for him tomorrow.
Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has invested significantly in the Silver State, and is currently third in the polls there. Her team has been pushing her relationship with Nevada’s elder statesman, Harry Reid, in videos and boosted news on Facebook + Insta, though Reid went on the record this week urging folks to not count former Vice President Biden out of the race just yet…
The other billionaire in the race, Tom Steyer, has also been heavily investing in Nevada for weeks. For the past 30 days, he’s outspent every other advertiser on Facebook by about 3 to 1 with slick videos and boosted news touting his local support:
The SuperPAC Primary
Much more than Iowa and New Hampshire, SuperPACs and nonprofit outside groups are playing an enormous role in the Nevada caucus. Nearly every candidate (even Amy Klobuchar) has some sort of online or TV ad support from an outside organization.
Nevada progressive politics has always been impacted by a broad coalition of (pretty incredible) grassroots organizations like the Culinary Union, PLAN, Make the Road, and others. But this cycle, we’ve seen an influx of big-money groups pouring ad dollars into the state, primarily via TV advertising. 🙄
CPD Action has been running some Facebook advertising that supports Bernie, mainly targeted at younger voters. The ads take users to the Nevada Democratic Party’s caucus page, which would educate those young voters on where and how they can caucus. Smart!
But given his frontrunner status, outside groups have their sights on Sanders. A new Democrat-backed group, called the Big Tent Project, is running ads against Bernie and his platform. Quite a few of their Facebook ads are in Spanish and accuse him of dumping nuclear waste into Latinx communities in what looks like an attempt to eat away at Sanders’ strong support among Latinx voters in Nevada.
A pro-Amy Klobuchar PAC has also made its way onto the scene. Called the Kitchen Table Conversations PAC, the group has only spent just over $13,000 on Facebook ads, and hasn’t run anything on Google. The few ads that they have run mirror the Minnesota senator’s post-New Hampshire opening line, and are all targeted exclusively to women in Nevada.
One sign that really tells us that the gloves are off: Elizabeth Warren is letting a PAC advertise on her behalf. Persist PAC has promised to spend $1 million on TV and digital ads supporting the senator, but it doesn’t look like it’s run any ads on Facebook or Google – yet. We do know that one ad focuses on Warren’s biography and her appointment by Obama to lead the CFPB.
🎙 New #FWIWPod!
A new episode of the FWIW Podcast is available for download! ACRONYM Founder + CEO Tara McGowan sat down with students at Washington & Lee University to chat about how young voters in a Super Tuesday state are experiencing this election online. Give it a listen here.
One more thing… sign up for The Senate FYI!
That’s all for FWIW this week! But before you go, we have one more ask of you! We’re tracking the digital battle for control of the U.S. Senate via our new newsletter, The Senate FYI. Check out the first issues here, and click below to subscribe!