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 record-high unemployment rate and the pandemic still raging, the Trump campaign and their allies are playing defense online and on the airwaves. In this week’s issue, we’ll dig into how their campaign is attempting to pivot, share Facebook spending in battleground states, and note how the Biden campaign is beginning to catch up.
2020, BY THE NUMBERS
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $55.9 million on Facebook and Google advertising since the 2018 midterm elections. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has spent $19.6 million on the same platforms since launching last year.
FWIW, here’s how much each spent on Facebook + Google advertising last week:
After trailing the Biden campaign in weekly digital spending recently, team Trump heavily increased their Facebook ad spend last week. If you’re keeping track, it was the Trump campaign’s highest spending week on Google + Facebook since the Senate impeachment vote in February.
This week, @TeamTrump shared a video of the President as Yoda decapitating the mainstream media, and keeping with the theme, Campaign Manager Brad Parscale tweeted that they have yet to activate their campaign “Death Star.” The internet responded as ‘Death Star’ trended on Twitter, and the Biden campaign and others noted that the Death Star eventually was, uh… destroyed. ☄️
At least some of the Trump campaign’s spending on Facebook last week was behind a new ad, titled ‘American Comeback’, which credits the President with “the greatest comeback story in history.” Maybe its a premature victory lap on that one, Brad, as the unemployment rate today hit 14.7%, the highest it’s been since the Great Depression.
The Biden campaign’s latest video tacks a little bit closer to reality – highlighting the millions of unemployment claims, mentions the tens of thousands of deaths from the pandemic, and calls Trump a “reality TV president.”
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 26th – May 2nd:
Although a bit late to the game, this week we noticed America First Action running state-specific ads in Michigan hitting Biden on China. The ads are a part of a larger, coordinated pivot to China-related messaging by Trump and his allies, so expect much more of this in the near future.
Liberal super PAC American Bridge also targeted Michigan and the other rust belt states with ads on China – flipping the script and attacking Trump for shipping critical supplies abroad when Americans needed them at home.
In all five states, PACRONYM launched a new ad this week highlighting the story of Carole Kveen, a 2016 Trump voter in Michigan who’s voting against the president this time around:
JOE BIDEN IS LOSING THE INTERNET, THE PLAYLIST:
Every week, reporters continue reach out to us for comment on the same story about how Joe Biden’s campaign is “losing the internet.”
While those stories are correct in recognizing the Trump campaign’s longtime commitment to deploying digital marketing best practices, and even Team Joe would recognize their slower start in evolving their more-traditional primary playbook, these types of reports often miss the point. They will typically rely on a national advertising spend as evidence that the election is essentially over and Trump will be re-elected.
But at the end of the day, this election will be a referendum on Donald Trump, and the Biden campaign has begun taken steps to remedy their spending deficit and beef up their digital organizing operation. At the same time, outside groups like PACRONYM, American Bridge, Priorities USA, and others have filled the vacuum of persuasion advertising in battleground states online and off.
What’s much MORE important, and what Team Joe can actually do to step up their game online, is settle for nothing less than “digital omnipresence”, as former Buttigieg advisor Lis Smith argued in the New York Times this week. Smith’s hallmark “go everywhere” earned media strategy, combined with massive influencer engagement, local news, convention counter-programming, and political surrogates working in overdrive can help the campaign win the battle for our screens – where the campaign will be fought like never before.
TL; DR we encourage readers to pay more attention to actual practitioners who understand how to campaign in today’s environment, than to the reporters looking to stir the pot in their competition for clicks.
FLIP THE SENATE
Looking down-ballot, Republicans are suddenly worried about not only losing the White House, but control of the Senate too. Just several weeks ago, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) *literally* told Senators up for re-election: “don’t defend the President.”
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!