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.
Campaigns and outside groups have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on digital advertising this cycle, but all digital spending isn’t equal, and all ads don’t serve the same purpose. How do we know which ads are effective? This week we’ll break that down and take a look at how the Biden and Trump campaigns are reaching voters online.
But first… Thanks to all who filled out our survey last week! We received so much feedback, and while many of you enjoyed the “dark mode” look of the newsletter re-design, a majority preferred the white version for readability’s sake. So, we’re saying goodbye to FWIW dark mode for now + keeping things bright !
2020, BY THE NUMBERS
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $54.1 million on Facebook and Google since the 2018 midterm elections. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has spent $18.9 million on the same platforms since launching last year.
Here’s how much they spent on Facebook + Google advertising last week:
The Trump campaign increased spending on both platforms, but spent the majority last week on Facebook ads fundraising or promoting virtual town halls…and this week, they launched a new video ad re-writing the history of his coronavirus response.
The biggest political ad spender on Facebook last week was a relatively obscure Facebook page called ‘Stop Republicans.’ Run by the Progressive Turnout Project, the page has spent an *insane* amount of money (over $5 million in Q1) running pretty spammy pro-Democratic fundraising or list-building ads. You’ve gotta spend money to make money, I guess?
On both platforms, pro-Trump super PAC America First Action finally began spending heavily to reach swing-state voters with video ads hitting Biden on China. 🙄🙄🙄 While America First Action is the leading super PAC defending the President, they have thus far only spent a tiny fraction of what groups on the left like PACRONYM, Priorities USA, American Bridge, and Unite the Country have invested on Facebook to date.
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 presidential campaigns and major outside groups spent from April 19th – 25th:
Note while most outside groups on the Left and Right like Priorities USA and America First Action have been heavily spending in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, ACRONYM + our affiliated super PAC PACRONYM’s programs have also targeted persuadable audiences in Arizona and North Carolina. With changing demographics and competitive US Senate races this year, those sunbelt states are very much in play.
In the rust belt, Priorities USA Action dropped over six figures on Facebook in Pennsylvania last week, and heavy sums in Wisconsin and Michigan. Because some of these states (like PA) are larger and more populous than others, groups and campaigns have to spend greater sums of money to reach their target audiences of voters:
THE WEEKLY ROUND-UP:
Moving the needle
Earlier this week, the New York Times profiled one of the most important parts of ACRONYM’s work: how our team measures whether or not our programs are having an impact. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on persuasion advertising campaigns each cycle, but whether ads are actually “moving the needle” has been notoriously difficult to measure. And while many different measurement tools and methodologies exist to try to solve for this challenge, they are often too costly, time-intensive or limiting in other ways to give campaigns a nimble and accurate understanding of the impact their program is actually having.
Our team’s new testing framework, called Barometer, attempts to solve that problem. In a nutshell, it relies on Facebook ads to survey voters before and after seeing frequent waves of advertising in a live environment. Measured against a control group, we’ve seen our program become super-effective over the past two months at lowering Trump’s support among voters across our five core battleground states. The Times’ newsletter actually broke down in detail a few experiments our team has run.
No longer just broadcasting Biden in his basement, the Biden campaign has stepped up their digital organizing game this week in a big way with a slew of new surrogate events and trainings to get supporters more involved. On Sunday, the campaign hosted a “Digital Summit” with over 800 attendees learning how to organize for the candidate online.
They also stepped up their 🧨 surrogate game, dispatching Kamala Harris for an event with African American supporters, holding a women’s town hall with Hillary Clinton, and even a virtual LGBT social hour with Jill Biden and Danica Roem in an effort to compete with the Trump campaign’s daily circus of surrogate live streams.
Republicans in disarray
All is not well in Trumpworld: The President threatened to sue his campaign manager this week, and the NRSC sent a memo to campaigns instructing them “don’t defend Trump.” Amid the turmoil, the Trump campaign has launched a wave of new ads attempting to re-write the history of the coronavirus response altogether. CNN also bizarrely decided to write about a “five-figure ad buy” from their campaign, which which will definitely get more views at CNN.com than in the news feeds of voters in the battleground states Trump cares so much about.
Trump’s new ads this week do a few things:
Spin Trump’s coronavirus failures into success Continue to hit Biden on China Selectively edit clips of governors praising Trump
Regardless, the largest majority of his ad dollars and efforts continue to communicate to his die-hard base. The Associated Press this week took a look at how that could complicate his path to victory.
BEFORE YOU GO…
That’s it for FWIW this week! Before you go, we have one more ask of you. Our team is sharing new content & holding live streams every week on our Instagram account. Give us a follow, and help get out the word by forwarding this email to two friends!