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.
After months of speculation and behind-the-scenes jockeying, Joe Biden has finally selected his running mate: Senator Kamala Harris. In this week’s FWIW, we take a look at the digital side of the veepstakes, from the tactics the Biden campaign used in the weeks before the announcement, to some of the immediate online aftermath of the choice.
2020, BY THE NUMBERS
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $123.2 million on Facebook + Google advertising since the midterm elections. Joe Biden has spent $51.8 million advertising on those same platforms. Here’s how much each campaign spent just last week:
Last week, the Biden campaign ramped up its spending significantly on Facebook ads compared to the previous week – but the Trump campaign did too, spending a ridiculous amount of $$ on the platform. In any case, we’re keeping an eye on the Kamala Harris Facebook ad library to see if/when the Biden campaign starts advertising through her page, which is a tactic the Trump campaign has been deploying via Mike Pence for a while now.
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 2 to August 8:
It looks like much of the Biden campaign’s growth in Facebook spending last week went to targeting swing states like AZ, NC, PA, and WI, where they more than doubled their spending from the previous week. In the days before Joe Biden tapped Kamala Harris to be his running mate, the Biden campaign targeted Pennsylvania with tons of short video ads + memes, some of which we’ve seen before, some of which are new, like these:
VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS.
In Kamala Harris, Joe Biden has made a historic choice – and the pick generated major enthusiasm for the ticket online in the immediate hours that followed. Conventional wisdom dictates that at the end of the day, vice presidential nominees have little impact on actual vote choice, but given the insane year we find ourselves in, could this election be different?
The play by play:
On Tuesday afternoon, the Biden campaign followed in the footsteps of the Obama campaign and first announced their decision via SMS (text FIRST to 30330!), and minutes later made the announcement public on Twitter.
Their website and branding were updated almost immediately, and our friend Hunter Schwarz, author of Yello, broke down their new look. The next day, #TeamJoe released an announcement video that highlighted the moment that Biden gave Harris the news. It’s a must-watch if you want some joy in your life:
It was an online announcement through and through, and the Biden campaign did a great job at taking advantage of the excitement. In just 48 hours following the announcement, they raised over $48 million with more than 150k new donors, and a new Axios poll shows that having Harris on the ticket may be making key constituents more likely to consider voting for Biden.
We’ll get to see post-selection ads on Google next week, but for now let’s take a look at some of the first Facebook ads from the campaigns. The Biden campaign has been using their latest FB ads to continue their fundraising (and presumably list building) momentum by reaching audiences nationwide:
Meanwhile, haters gonna hate:
The Trump campaign and the right-wing disinformation machine quickly sprang into action as soon as Harris’ selection was announced. We expected this to happen, but that expectation didn’t make the attacks less jarring.
As Democrats cheered on the pick, the Trump campaign released a video shortly after the news came on Tuesday afternoon (notably, the Biden campaign did not until the next day) where they branded Harris as a “Phony” and pretty much threw the kitchen sink at her and Joe. They also blasted out emails, launched Facebook ads, and bumped mobile notifications via their app to supporters to pile on.
But it was the President’s children in particular – who have proven time and time again they should have no place near our democracy – that responded in some of the worst ways:
However, the attacks have been so varied, desperate, and disorganized (including a potential revival of birtherism?) that it doesn’t seem like many of them have stuck just yet. It appears like the rest of the GOP and campaign may have finally just settled on branding Harris as “radical left.” Good luck, guys.
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.