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.
Well, in the words of George W. Bush, “that was some weird sh*t.” The Republican National Convention – and what felt like one of the longest weeks in the Trump era so far – finally concluded, and the race for the White House is now in the final sprint.
Last week, we wrote about how the Biden campaign reinforced their messaging online during the DNC and how the Trump campaign attempted to counter-program. In this week’s FWIW, we’ll take a look at the reverse, and weigh in on which side pulled off our country’s first virtual political conventions better.
2020, BY THE NUMBERS
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $144.4 million on Facebook + Google advertising since the midterm elections. Meanwhile, Joe Biden has spent $71 million advertising on those same platforms. Here’s how much each campaign spent just last week:
Over the past two weeks, both campaigns have been dropping a pretty penny aiming to energize their supporters and hype them for the final sprint of the campaign, and reach new audiences with their convention programming or counter-programming. While the Biden campaign significantly outspent the Trump campaign in terms of Facebook ads last week, they were blown out of the water when it comes to Google ads.
This is due in part to the fact that the Trump campaign spent a ton of cash on their multi-day YouTube homepage takeover during the DNC. They spent $6.5 million through the Donald J. Trump for President Google disclaimer last week compared to $1.3 million the previous week.
FWIW, here are the rest of the top spenders on Facebook last week:
…and 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 16 – August 22.
Last week, the Biden campaign began testing different pages on Facebook. Around 25% of their ads targeting Wisconsin came out of half a dozen new pages they appear to be testing: Biden for Wisconsin, Joe Biden for WI, Biden Harris for Wisconsin, etc. They spent between $7k – $13k the ads on each page, which consisted of static fundraising ads like the ones below.
“THAT WAS SOME WEIRD SH*T”
Our thoughts and prayers are going out to rapid response staffers and journalists who had to sit through four sometimes boring, sometimes cringeworthy nights of the Republican National Convention, because that was some terrible sh*t. From an embarrassing roll call to speeches that pretty much described Democrats as bringers of the apocalypse, this week’s event stood in sharp contrast to the Democrats’ big show last week.
Fortunately, the vast majority of Americans weren’t subjected to it, and the RNC only drew about 10 million viewers compared to the DNC’s 16 million through night three. That said, both presidential campaigns tried to expand their reach beyond the networks and reach voters online with their programming or counter-programming throughout the week.
Team Trump on Facebook
Throughout the week, the Trump campaign spent significantly on Facebook quickly clipping bits from RNC Convention speeches and serving them in ad form to key voters in battleground states. They’ve already put at least five figures behind three supporting speeches from prominent Black supporters of the president – Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Georgia State Rep. Vernon Jones, and football player Herschel Walker – specifically targeting voters in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
That isn’t quite all, though. Team Trump is also running fundraising and list-building ads on Facebook mocking Joe Biden’s speech performance, and serving red-meat speech videos to their supporters nationwide.
Unlike the Biden campaign and the DNC Convention – which ran FB, Snap, YT, Google, and programmatic ads all last week – the Trump campaign’s paid media approach this week seems relatively constrained to Facebook. They weren’t even up on TV anywhere but DC.
But wait, there’s more! All this week, the Biden campaign spent over $40k on Snapchat ads targeting young voters in six swing states featuring clips from Kamala Harris’, Barack Obama’s, and Michelle Obama’s speeches from the DNC.
…and on Facebook, they’ve already turned Mike Pence’s and Don Jr.’s remarks at the RNC into ads that effectively fact-check what they said for the lies that they are. They also ran the above Snapchat ads on Facebook too.
BONUS: CHEAT SHEET FOR THE VOTING BOOTH
This week, our political action committee PACRONYM joined forces with Comedy Central’s Ilana Glazer to launch a new, targeted web series called Cheat Sheet for the Voting Booth. Every Tuesday and Thursday, Ilana will be interviewing her influential friends with ties to the battleground states to build support for the Biden/Harris ticket, break down the stakes of the election, and even boost down-ballot Democrats to voters under 40 who may not be feeling the love for Joe just yet. Then, PACRONYM will push the content directly into the newsfeeds of target turnout audiences in key states. Read all about it in the New York Times, and watch the latest episode with Zoe Kravitz here (be warned, it’s ):
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.