Welcome to FWIW, ACRONYM’s weekly newsletter breaking down digital strategy and investments across the political spectrum. Each week, we look at how campaigns are – or aren’t – leveraging smart digital strategies to drive narratives and win elections.
From guns to gay marriage, Medicare, and even differing fundraising practices, this week we saw the gloves come off in a big way for the 2020 candidates running for president. As the primaries draw closer and the stakes get higher, candidates are beginning to nudge, jab, poke, and full-on body slam each other to get an edge and angle for support. How are campaigns pushing criticisms of each other’s positions and record online? We take a look in this week’s FWIW.
Before we dig in this week – we have some exciting news! ACRONYM’s founder & CEO Tara McGowan has launched a new podcast 🎙 (also named FWIW) for those of you who just can’t get enough of digital content about digital content each week! The first episode dropped yesterday, featuring a special interview with ACRONYM Board Member David Plouffe, and new episodes will be released every two weeks! Listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and please do us a favor and subscribe, share and give us your .
2020 by the numbers
Getting back to it – Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has now spent over $24.8 million on Facebook + Google advertising since the 2018 midterm elections:
The Trump campaign’s surge in digital spending following the impeachment inquiry news seems to have subsided, with both Facebook and Google spend decreasing dramatically this week:
On the Democratic side, Tom Steyer’s campaign continued to unload some serious cash on digital platforms, spending over half a million dollars again last week on Facebook and Google ads. On the day of his debate debut, he spent over $100,000 on Facebook ads alone. We hope it was worth it! Meanwhile, candidates like Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang dramatically scaled back their spending last week.
…and here are the top political ad spenders on Facebook + Google from October 6th to 12th:
Deep Dive: The gloves are off 🥊
This was the week when the Democratic candidates for president stopped being polite, and started getting real. Online, on the campaign trail, and on the debate stage, we saw candidates start to go after each other more aggressively than in the past. Here’s what went down:
He knocked Elizabeth Warren’s small dollar donor strategy (which TBH, hasn’t hurt her fundraising or position in the race too bad), and she responded on Mediumcalling on all candidates to disclose their big money donors.
Pete also continued to engage in beef with Beto over gun policy. That, well, sort of escalated quickly, with Beto pouncing back hard, and other candidates dunking on Buttigieg’s position on Twitter:
During this week’s debate, the Beto-Pete feud continued, and the Buttigieg campaign immediately began spinning their heated exchange on the issue in Facebook ads:
Also this week, Pete Buttigieg continued to build on his momentum from a strong debate performance by unveiling one of the first video ads of the campaign directly calling out his opponents by name. During this week’s debate, he dug in hard against Elizabeth Warren on her support for Medicare for all – and is running a handful of digital ads specifically to voters in Iowa making that contrast known:
During the debate, Amy Klobuchar also jumped into the healthcare fray, breaking through with some debate moments like never before. After several attempted dunks on Warren over Medicare for All, her campaign quickly began running fundraising ads on Facebook touting her “Plans, not pipe dreams” line:
And FYI, here’s the lede from one post-debate POLITICO article:
Okay POLITICO, let’s dial it back just a bit.
BONUS: Under the radar
We discovered that the Pete Buttigieg campaign has become the first to start testing ads from different Facebook pages. A new Facebook page, called “The Roundup”, has started running 200+ ads boosting positive news stories about Buttigieg. Experimenting with using different Facebook pages as messengers for an ad campaign or even to curate and deliver news clips to voters is seen by some (including us!) as a best practice for getting your message out, and it looks like Mayor Pete may be the first 2020 candidate to catch on. 🏼Have you seen others doing this? Let us know.
One more thing… 🤳
That’s all for this week. But before you go, we have one more ask of you! If you enjoy reading FWIW each week, you’ll love the new #FWIWPod. Help us grow our following + spread the word! Forward this email to a few friends, and click below to listen to Episode 1 of the new FWIW podcast! 🎙