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.
For what it’s worth, some of it might surprise you.
As we look ahead to the political dumpster fire that will soon arrive in 2020, we thought now would be a good time to reflect on our favorite moments in the digital race for the White House this year. We take a deep dive below. But first…
2020, by the numbers
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent $30.4 million on Facebook + Google advertising alone since the 2018 midterm elections. His online spending increased significantly over the past week, and his campaign launched a new wave of anti-impeachment Facebook ads. In next week’s issue, we’ll have a full rundown of the digital battle over impeachment.
On the Democratic side, the race for the White House continues to heat up. This week, AXIOS reported on Mayor Pete’s Snapchat strategy for reaching younger voters, and the LA Times looked at how Bernie is benefitting from an almost symbiotic progressive alt-media ecosystem.
Here’s how much the candidates spent in the last week. Note: Facebook screwed up their transparency data this week, so those numbers are from Dec 3 – 9. We’ll hopefully have more consistent data from the platforms next Friday.
Mike Bloomberg spent another $4 million on Facebook + Google advertising last week, bringing his total spend on those platforms to over $9.3 million, surpassing the spending of every other Democratic candidate with the exception of Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg to date. He’s reportedly spent more than $100 million on TV, and has already hired over 200 staff in his campaign HQ. You can learn more about Bloomberg’s unprecedented and fascinating strategy to win the primary on our friend David Plouffe’s recent podcast here.
The large majority of Bloomberg’s ads thus far *have not* been swing-state, anti-Trump focused, as was initially reported. In fact, the bulk of his spend has been on predictable biographical video ads introducing himself and his record to voters.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has used Bloomberg’s entry as a fundraising boon, ramping up his ad spend last week, with fundraising ads like this one on Facebook:
FWIW, here’s the total Facebook + Google spend over time of the top spending Democratic candidates:
…and here are the top political spenders on Facebook + Google last week:
Deep Dive: The Top Digital Campaign Moments of 2019 🥂
From Twitter pile-ons, to ridiculous merch promotions, meme-able moments and organized online squads, 2019 was a banner year in digital politics. We laughed, we cried, and we were served a lot of terrible ads. But, there were some gems in there too, so we pulled together some of the most important online moments from the race in our humble opinion, and in no particular order. (Disagree? Have other moments? Tweet your thoughts at us with the #FWIW hashtag!)
Warren’s Donor Call Time
One of the most genius moments in digital politics this year was Elizabeth Warren’s decision to eschew major donor fundraising “call-time” and replace it with hilarious, emotional, heartwarming, and sometimes cheesy small-dollar call-time sessions.
Liberal Warren fans across America spent 2019 in absolute terror of missing a phone call from Elizabeth Warren. This will 100% be a powerful fundraising trick for campaigns in the future.
One of the most important days of any presidential campaign is *launch day* and for better or for worse, there were a lot of campaign launches this year. Some soared, and some fell flat, but some were particularly notable. Kamala Harris’ campaign kickoff won her team much praise, with a huge rally in Oakland, a large online fundraising hall, and strong campaign branding. Joe Biden’s launch was another big win, with his digital team running Spanish-language Facebook ads to areas near Philadelphia to recruit attendees for his kickoff rally.
Marianne Williamson became a viral internet sensation after making her debate stage debut in June, and showed us how key political moments can become viral internet memes. Kirsten Gillibrand had her share of meme-able moments, whether it was slinging drinks at a gay bar in Des Moines, or an event attendee just trying to get some ranch.
The #YangGang 🧢
More than maybe any other campaign in recent memory, Andrew Yang’s campaign has been powered by the internet. His message of the challenges we’ll face from automation has resonated with tech-interested young people who are “extremely online,” and his supporters became the organized #YangGang in 2019. Equipped with “MATH” hats (“Make America Think Harder”) and organized in Facebook groups, the #YangGang built extremely engaged communities to quickly create, share, and amplify content that pushes the Yang campaign’s message, and has raised his campaign millions in small dollar donations online.
Whether we like it or not, our planet-destroying Troll-in-Chief alongside Digital Director-turned-Campaign Manager Brad Parscale, used the paper vs. plastic straw debate as a key moment for their digital campaign. Parscale tweeted out his distaste for paper straws, and quickly the campaign began selling Trump-branded plastic straws in their campaign store.
The straws quickly sold out several times, and the campaign raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, hurting the environment at the same time!
The Selfie Line 📸
Look, we know they’re technically not selfies, but Elizabeth Warren offering to take photos with nearly every attendee at her events has helped her campaign create organic supporter content on social media at scale. The New York Times even made an interactive explainer on the Warren campaign’s selfie line.
Staff Twitter Squads
Back in the day, the first rule of working as an organizer on a campaign was “don’t tweet.” 🏻♀️That’s clearly changed, as campaigns are realizing that their extensive network of staff and volunteers can be amazing brand advocates both online and off.
The Warren campaign took advantage of this early on, having all of their staff on Twitter coordinate “liberty green” Twitter profile pictures. Booker’s team has since followed suit, and the #YangGang has taken over Twitter with an army of blue hats. And speaking of squads, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the unprecedented focus on“relational organizing”– online and off- the Buttigieg campaign has been spearheading in Iowa under the leadership of ACRONYM’s former Organizing Director Greta Carnes.☄️
Debate Rapid Response
Being able to take advantage of key breakout moments like debate stage confrontations separates the strong digital teams from the rest. We saw multiple campaigns’ digital teams spring into action during the various DNC debates held since June, including Kamala Harris’ squad pushing “That Little Girl Was Me” t-shirts after a clash on school bussing with Joe Biden, and Julián Castro’s team selling “Adiós Trump” swag after delivering that line to applause.
Other campaigns were able to quickly run Twitter and Facebook ads boosting video clips of their debate moments almost immediately after they happened.
Speaking of Merch
From “Billionaires Tears” coffee mugs to rainbow Pride swag, the Democratic campaigns began upping their merch game to raise some money and turn supporters into walking billboards.
PS, our affiliated political action committee has even gotten into the progressive merch game, as it’s one more tool to bring in small dollar donations online. Need last minute holiday gift ideas? We’ve got you covered.
What do you think were the top digital moments of the campaign in 2019? Tweet them at @anotheracronym + #FWIW!
One more thing… 🤳
That’s all for this week – but before you go, we have one more ask of you! Follow us on Instagram for memes, videos, and more FWIW content!