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.
With a news cycle that is still indisputably #2020, this past week has seen the White House victim-blame Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for a right-wing terrorist plot to kidnap and murder her, the Trump campaign running Facebook ads echoing the president’s dangerous lies about his infection (with a planned, televised “medical examination” on Fox News later today 🤯, and no, Facebook has still not taken meaningful action to rid itself of dangerous misinformation spreading on the platform.
There was one bright spot, however: Kamala Harris went toe to toe with Mike Pence on Wednesday night, and held him accountable for this administration’s coronavirus failures.
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 $207.7 million on Facebook + Google advertising since the midterm elections. Joe Biden has spent $137.2 million advertising on those same platforms. Here’s how much each campaign spent just last week:
The Trump campaign increased their FB + Google spending last week from the previous week, but the Biden campaign grew theirs even more, giving them a slight spending edge. In fact, their FB ad spend last week was their largest weekly spend to date, and half of the $$ – $3.68 million of $7.28 million – was invested in ads targeting the eight battleground states we’re tracking below.
Among these are six-second Spanish-language ads about raising the minimum wage, investing in small business, and more, that primarily target young folks in battleground states like FL, NC, and PA. We really do love to see it.
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:
And here’s how much the campaigns and political outside groups have spent on Snapchat ads so far this year:
While rumors that the Trump campaign is running out of money in the final month fly around, last week they made a sizable + cost-effective investment in two differentSnapchat ads to the tune of $48k – which, for this platform, is huge. These ads target basically every battleground state including GA + OH, but interestingly they also target Maine’s 2nd and Nebraska’s 3rd – not 2nd – House Districts.
One ad addresses Biden’s record on criminal justice and the other features a Black man saying “I’m sticking with Trump,” but unfortunately, the Snap Political Ads Library doesn’t provide us with more detailed targeting info for these than what we are able to share here.
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 September 27 to October 3:
THE WEEKLY ROUND-UP
On Wednesday night, Kamala Harris, Mike Pence, and a fly took to the stage for the first and only Vice Presidential debate. Before, during, and after the debate, both sides were eager to highlight their candidates and performance.
Ahead of the debate, several progressive groups (including our PAC) launched new ads in support of Harris aimed at increasing enthusiasm among Democratic voters, and afterward, the Biden campaign was quick to capitalize on Sen. Harris’ stellar performance.
On the other side, the Trump campaign also seemed to think Pence performed well too, immediately advertising on Facebook to feature some of the Vice President’s direct attacks on Biden.
The digital GOTV battle is getting HOT
It appears that just about everyone has gotten the memo that time is running out to energize and mobilize voters, and GOTV season is well underway. As such, tons of outside groups are funneling more and more of their digital media budgets into registration, vote by mail, and make-a-plan GOTV ads. In one prominent example, the RNC is reportedly spending a whopping $60 million on this effort, a venture that has been underway since their infamous convention in August.
The most recent of these ads, like the ones below, target young voters in swing states urging them to either vote early or return their ballots ASAP. Of course, their operation isn’t limited to Facebook, as the RNC is also running tons of ads on YT with similar targeting.
While the GOP’s digital GOTV efforts have a lot of money behind it, they’re tragically behind the game here, as ACRONYM has been running ads just like this for months already. And we may be biased, but our ads are better. We’ve been targeting young voters of color in key states since July with messaging that doesn’t just tell them “RETURN YOUR BALLOT,” but empowers them to use their political power with their ballots.
Even our beloved Barack himself has gotten into the digital GOTV mix. Starting this week, the Biden campaign and the DNC have started running GOTV ads through Barack Obama’s Facebook page and targeting both young + old voters in battleground states.(FWIW, this is an excellent strategy as our internal testing shows President Obama continues to be the most effective mobilization messenger on the Left. )
As millions of Americans begin voting or making their plans to vote, one very famous mailman has a message for them. ‘Veep’ Showrunner David Mandel and actor Wayne Knight joined forces with PACRONYM to cut this hilarious new video to encourage Americans to vote. Give it a watch, laugh + share:
THE #FWIWPOD IS BACK 🎙
Today we’re excited to announce that the FWIW Podcast is officially back! In this final stretch to election day, ACRONYM founder + CEO Tara McGowan will be breaking down the state of the race with leading (women) political strategists working behind the scenes to defeat Trump this cycle.
Today’s new episode features Adrianne Shropshire, Founder and Executive Director of BlackPAC, where they talk Kamala Harris, the debate, and the importance of reaching Black voters online day-in and day-out. Listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
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.