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 and next, the political world turns on what happens at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. The 2020 DNC was almost entirely digital this year, so in this week’s FWIW, we take a look at what went well, what went less well, and how the two presidential campaigns centered their latest digital tactics around the convention. And next week, we’ll do the same for the absolute clusterf*ck the 2020 RNC is bound to be.
2020, BY THE NUMBERS
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $131.8 million on Facebook + Google advertising since the midterm elections. Joe Biden has spent $61.1 million advertising on those same platforms. Here’s how much each campaign spent just last week:
For the first time since June, the Biden campaign spent more on FB + Google ads in one week than the Trump campaign. We’ll get into some of the ads that the Biden campaign was running during the DNC in a little bit, but last week, most of their $9.3 million ad spend took the form of fundraising, list building, and persuasion ads that they’ve already been running for several weeks. However, some of these “persuasion” ads are now targeting MN and CO, so it’s relieving to see that the Biden campaign isn’t taking any states for granted.
FWIW, here are the rest of the top spenders on Facebook last week:
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, beginning with Arizona, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Here’s how much the campaigns and major outside groups spent on ads focused on the presidential race from August 9 – August 15.
All in all, the Biden campaign spent nearly 25 percent of their Facebook ad buy from last week targeting AZ, MI, NC, PA, and WI. For example, it looks like the Biden campaign ran Kamala Harris’ VP announcement video mostly to young-ish voters in a mix of these states.
IT’S NOT JUST SHARK WEEK
A lot of us were cautiously optimistic about the prospect of a mostly virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention. The Democratic Party and the Biden campaign have both certainly made significant improvements in their digital strategies + tactics in recent years and months. However, as evidenced by the Trump campaign buying up key real estate on YouTube and other major platforms the week of the convention – which we’ll touch on shortly – we thought there was still some room for improvement too.
The DNC and Biden campaign’s virtual convention was an extremely strong production in the face of terrible circumstances, and consider us impressed. But before we get into what we think the Biden campaign and the 2020 DNC did right this week, let’s look at some of the garbage the Trump campaign spent millions to dump on voters while Democrats offered a bold, positive vision for America.
It looks like most of this push seems to be the same message that has thus far failed to improve the president’s standing among the electorate: Biden is senile; Biden’s gaffes prove he’s the racist one, actually; the ~radical left~ has taken over the Biden campaign; and on and on. Their Facebook ads aren’t much better.
All that said, it remains to be seen if these messages are effective at actually moving voters instead of just inflaming their own base, generating POLITICO headlines, and giving themselves a false sense of satisfaction for their trolling. We don’t know about y’all but we’re fully expecting the 2020 RNC to be a complete mess, even by Trumpian standards.
Now, we might be biased, but we think the DNC did an excellent job of conveying what the Biden campaign and the Democratic Party – which are now officially one and the same – represent and the bold vision they have for America’s future. Dozens of hours and thousands of words of punditry have already dissected the convention, so we’re going to look at what the Biden campaign and 2020 DNC did online outside of the convention program itself.
For starters, the DNC spent over $100k and over $80k on Google and Facebook ads, respectively. They also spent a little over $18k on Snapchat ads targeting young voters in a dozen key states. It looks like most of this spending was dedicated to promoting the event itself and collecting emails, and they bought ads all over the internet. Below, you’ll see a few of their banner ads on huge sites like WebMD and Funny or Die.
As for the Biden campaign itself, we won’t get to see what Google ads they ran this week until when Google’s data is available next week, so let’s take a look at the Facebook ads they ran. While they’ve continued to run their now-standard fundraising and persuasion ads, they’ve also turned key moments from the convention, such as the remarks from the Obamas and Dr. Jill Biden, into quick persuasion video ads targeting key states.
FWIW, the content featuring the former First and Second Ladies leaned toward targeting women, while the ads featuring Barack Obama seem to be more of an even spread targeting men and women alike. All of these seem to primarily target middle-aged and older Americans.
Much like the DNC, though, the Biden campaign thankfully didn’t restrict their digital ad spending this week to Facebook and Google, as they also ran ads on Snapchat in the lead-up to and during the week of the convention. According to Snapchat’s ad library, they spent just a little over $2k on the platform, but made over 1 million impressions targeting voters aged 20 and up with list building ads promoting the newly-announced Biden-Harris ticket.
BONUS: DRESS REHEARSAL
If you tuned into Crooked Media’s Convention Pre-Show last night, you were able to watch the premiere of Dress Rehearsal – a new documentary short by David Modigliani that we were so proud to co-produce, along with our friends at Arena and Higher Ground Labs. Watch the full film here and give it some love on the socials if you find it as inspiring as we did.
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.