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.
This week, the Trump campaign launched a new wave of unhinged Facebook ads to troll the Biden campaign and to see what sticks, and conservatives continued to deflect blame from the President by pivoting their messaging to China. We break that down + more below.
2020, BY THE NUMBERS
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $57.2 million on Facebook and Google advertising since the 2018 midterm elections. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has spent $20.3 million on the same platforms since launching last year.
FWIW, here’s how much each spent on Facebook + Google advertising last week:
On Tuesday, the Trump campaign released a huge new wave of Facebook ads targeting voters in swing states and attacking Joe Biden on everything from immigration to Social Security and China.
One particular message track attacks Biden for his age…despite the ads being overwhelmingly targeted to voters over 65.
Much more unhinged than their usual campaign creative, these ads evoke the Bloomberg campaign’s style of meme energy – especially this ad featuring a didgeridoo and toucan. We know the Biden campaign has been receiving a lot of unsolicited advice these days, but they should take note: the Trump campaign is trying to test the limits of what outrageous material they’ll be able to get away with (at Biden’s expense) before Election Day.
Elsewhere on Facebook, Democratic outside groups, combined with the Biden campaign, swamped Team Trump in spending last week. Here are the top spenders on Facebook from May 3rd to 9th.
… and here were the top 10 spenders on Google during that same time period:
FWIW, Trump and his allies, including America First Action, spent much more on Google and YouTube ads last week than Democrats and their outside groups.
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 May 3rd to May 9th.
In key midwestern states, PACRONYM and Priorities USA Action outspent the Trump campaign last week on Facebook. Further increasing that gap, both of the Democratic super PACs’ ads were exclusively persuasion messaging to swing voters.
By contrast, the majority of the Trump campaign’s ads, even in those states, continued to be red-meat fundraising ads to his base.
In recent weeks, the campaign has begun to put money behind that messaging. From March 1- May 14th, we found that the Trump campaign spent an estimated $600,787 on 4,827 China-related Facebook ads, the majority of which was spent in the past two weeks.
Our research also shows how this shift has been coordinated by outside groups and down-ballot, with the NRSC instructing U.S. Senate candidates to not defend Trump and to instead blame China. Since March 1, 16 Republican Senators including Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Kelly Loeffler, and Steve Daines spent a combined $84,541 on Facebook ads mentioning “China” or “Chinese.”Read the full research memo here.
Bloomberg looked at how the Trump campaign has started to ramp up its engagement on Snapchat in an attempt to shore up its weak support among young voters. The President’s team has tripled its following on the app in the past 8 months, and has started to spend more on advertising to expand its reach. We’ve been monitoring how the campaigns have been advertising on the platform for months, but other than Mike Bloomberg’s campaign, few have invested serious dollars into ads reaching young voters there.
Meanwhile, AXIOS featured interesting data this week about how important the platform could be in reaching and registering young voters this fall. As our own Sr. Director of Campaigns Tatenda Musapatike notes, ACRONYM has been investing in paid media on Snap for voter registration & GOTV since 2018.
MORE NEWSLETTER CONTENT
Looking for more newsletter content in your inbox? One of our team’s favorites is Yello: politics for your eyes, by journalist Hunter Schwarz. Yello is the only publication dedicated to covering the visual culture of politics, from advertising and social media to art and design. Subscribe for their free weekly newsletter here.
COMING SOON: THE EXIT INTERVIEWS
Like many of you, we closely watched the 2020 presidential primary unfold, and we were inspired by so many of the new digital innovations and tactics employed by the campaigns (some of which were inspired by this very newsletter 🧨).
So our team decided to catch up with nearly a dozen leading digital staffers from different campaigns to hear what they learned, share what tactics will live on, and spill a little tea in the process. The final product? The Exit Interviews, a new FWIW video series launching on Monday. You won’t want to miss it: sign up here to watch the teaser + be the first to know when we launch.
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 enjoy reading FWIW each week, give us a follow on Twitter, and help get out the word by forwarding this email to two friends!