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.
Well, its April, and contrary to the President’s prediction…the pandemic has not miraculously gone away with the heat. Who could have guessed? 🤦🏻♀️ In this week’s FWIW, we look at how presidential campaigns are continuing to adapt to this new normal, from Trump’s virtual town halls and new ad campaigns on both sides of the aisle to what Biden’s team is doing to respond.
New FWIW Pod Alert
How do media outlets accurately report the news of this crisis while attempting to fact-check the president in real-time? How do we combat the lies he is telling that are putting American lives at risk? Crooked Media’s Dan Pfeiffer, a former White House Communications Director and Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, joined the FWIW Podcast to answer these questions.
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $49.1 million on Facebook + Google advertising since the 2018 midterms, while Joe Biden’s campaign has spent $14.6 million on those same platforms.
Here’s Trump’s cumulative online spend over time:
The Biden campaign narrowly outspent Trump on Facebook last week, but the President’s team spent significantly more on Google and YouTube advertising:
…and although technically still in the race, Bernie Sanders is no longer spending money advertising on either of the two platforms.
Here are the top ten political spenders on Facebook + Google last week:
For the past month, Google had banned political campaigns and organizations like PACRONYM from running ads mentioning coronavirus. That’s soon going to change, as the internet giant announced this week they’re soon reversing that policy. It’s a reflection that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – and could be the defining issue of this election.
The Weekly Round-up:
Campaigns are continuing to adapt to the new reality of campaigning in a pandemic, and the general election is only 214 days away. Here’s a round-up of what we’ve seen this week in terms of how it’s playing out online:
Who needs ads?
Donald Trump’s campaign still hasn’t run digital advertising mentioning the crisis – mostly because they don’t have to. Mainstream cable news outlets like CNN and FOX are giving the president an hour a day of free airtime to spout any talking points he wishes – getting far more views and buzz than any short-term ad campaign could produce.
His campaign is actively using it to their advantage – even texting supporters this week to pressure outlets to keep him on air, live and unchecked:
Speaking of spreading misinformation, their campaign also put out a fake video of Joe Biden saying that the pandemic was a hoax (which, to be clear, he never said) and Twitter is refusing to take it down. Feels like a good time to remind folks that amplifying misinformation, even to call it out as a lie, spreads it further and runs the risk of giving the lie more power. So please always think before you RT.
Trump’s virtual town halls
Trump’s campaign has been quick to adapt to engage their die-hard supporters online. After holding a ‘Women for Trump’ virtual town hall last week, they’ve doubled down on the strategy – hosting a ‘Latinos for Trump’ event on Tuesday night, a ‘Catholics for Trump’ launch event last night, and tonight they’re holding a virtual town hall with Kaleigh McEnany. Last night’s Catholic-focused event has already racked up over 1.2 million views on Facebook. Makes sense, as Trump will need all the prayers he can get to survive this politically. 🤐
We should note Biden has experimented with this strategy some too, broadcasting live from his basement repeatedly over the past two weeks – although his videos have generally gotten less views and engagement than the Trump campaign’s thus far.
A new $10 million campaign to attack Joe
After much hand-wringing on the Right and some public complaining from Trump-world, pro-Trump super PAC finally announced plans to defend the President and target Joe Biden in a $10 million ad buy in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. To date, the PAC has spent significantly less than anti-Trump outside groups like PACRONYM, American Bridge, and Priorities USA. We’ll likely have more to share on America First’s ad campaign next week.
Biden in the basement
So what else is Joe Biden doing while he’s hunkered down in his basement? Launching a podcast! His team debuted “Here’s the Deal” on Monday with a conversation with former Ebola Czar Ron Klain. Although… in order to speak beyond his regular audience and meet voters he needs to build support with where their eyeballs are, he should also take a lesson from Dr. Fauci and do a full-court press on other pods and content streams as much as possible.
There’s a primary next week?!
Unbelievably, there’s still an election happening next week in Wisconsin, and 84 Dem convention delegates are up for grabs. 🤷♂️ Although Joe Biden’s campaign is widely expected to win and Bernie Sanders is off the airwaves, team Biden is still advertising some to Wisconsin voters, at least on Facebook. They’ve been running one of their coronavirus response ads in the state for over a week:
BONUS: New videos from PACRONYM
Our own affiliated political action committee, PACRONYM, has continued to release new content slamming the President for his coronavirus response as part of a multi-million dollar anti-Trump ad program. Here are just a few of the videos released this week:
One more thing… 🤳
That’s all for FWIW this week! We hope you stay healthy and sane, and continue practice social distancing! But before you go, we have one more ask of you! Follow us on Twitter! We’ll be sharing real-time updates and research there as this crisis continues to play out online.