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.
The TikTok teens keep trolling the Trump campaign, voter registration numbers are way down, and Trump dropped $5 million on Facebook + Google ads last week. 🤯 In this week’s FWIW, we’ll dig into all of that + more.
2020, BY THE NUMBERS
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $86.4 million on Facebook + Google advertising since the midterm elections. Joe Biden has spent $40.2 million advertising on those same platforms. Here’s how much each campaign spent just last week:
After another terrible month for their campaign and administration, it looks like the Trump campaign is turning their digital ad spending from a water hose into a waterfall – last week, they spent nearly $5 million on Facebook + Google ads alone. We’ll dig a bit more into what kind of ads they’re running recently below, but we have reason to believe that this huge acceleration in spending might be part of a larger strategy to, as Bannon would say, “flood the zone with sh*t.” Along those lines, the Trump campaign is still running TV ads in MN, NV, NM, and OH, among other pretty concerning markets for a Republican incumbent president.
FWIW, here are the rest of the top spenders on Google last week:
Last week, the Biden campaign started spending money via their DNC joint fundraising committee, the Biden Victory Fund, on Facebook + Google. Ads running from the Biden Victory Fund disclaimers are pretty standard fare for fundraising and acquisition (chip in whatever you can, you power this grassroots campaign, etc.).
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 June 28th to July 4th:
The previously dormant Committee to Defend the President has gone back up on Facebook with ads well, defending the President…spending at a heavy clip in Arizona last week. On the Left, American Bridge has ramped up its swing state spending on Facebook, and is running some meme ads on Facebook targeting men in Wisconsin:
THE WEEKLY ROUND-UP
TikTok teens are at it again
A few weeks back, we highlighted how TikTok users were trolling the Trump campaign into overhyping their rally in Tulsa, inflicting massive shopping cart abandonment on the campaign store, and filling out fake Trump campaign surveys. Now, they’ve tanked the Trump app’s rating on the App Store with over 100,000 1-star reviews.
Mental Fortitude 🧐
Whatever the Trump campaign’s strategy is to win re-election in a COVID-ravaged America, it isn’t working. For now, there seem to be two dominant themes in the Trump campaign’s online ad messaging. First, they’re arguing that Biden is old and mentally weak, which might be why they’re losing older voters. In fact, we ran the numbers, and the Trump campaign has spent over $900,000 in recent weeks on 2,500 Facebook ads mentioning “mental fortitude.”
Second, they’re trying to build their email list –or get a read on who of their supporters are still with them – while whipping up anxiety about how anarchists are trying to destroy America by abolishing the police and defacing iconic statues like Mount Rushmore and *checks notes* Christ the Redeemer?
The voter registration crisis ♂️
In the department of not-so-good news this week, there’s been a simmering crisis emerging over the past few months: voter registration numbers have plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most voter registration efforts, at least by groups on the Left, take place on college campuses, at community events, or via other forms of on-the-ground organizing, and the pandemic has ground that work to a halt.
In May of 2016, nearly 1.5 million new voters nationwide registered to vote. By May of this year, that number was only around 200,000. Democratic data firm TargetSmart has been regularly releasing reports on this, and their CEO put it in simple terms on Twitter this week:
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported on the online efforts being taken by ACRONYM and others to quickly fill this gap using advertising, technology, and online organizing. Our team has been running test-driven online voter registration ad campaigns online since 2017 to try to create more knowledge and best practices for the progressive community on how to expand the electorate online in a way that is cost-competitive with field and mail efforts but even we will admit these efforts have never mattered more than they today. Do your part and check your registration or make sure your friends are registered here.
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’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.