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.
Online and off, attacks are flying between the Trump and Biden campaigns, and with 158 days until Election Day, no end to the pandemic crisis in sight and protests demanding justice for the murders of innocent black lives by police erupting across the country, things will only escalate from here. The Trump campaign spent the first half of the week trying to erode Biden’s support within the African-American community, and Biden continued to hammer Trump for his failures as the coronavirus death toll reached 100,000. On top of that, the President’s children keep posting horrendous, offensive memes on Instagram, and we’ll take a deep dive below.
2020, BY THE NUMBERS
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $62.3 million on Facebook and Google advertising alone since the 2018 midterm elections. The Biden campaign has spent $21.9 million on those same platforms since launching last spring. Here’s how much each campaign spent on Facebook and Google last week. (Note: Facebook data is from May 18 – 24, Google data is from May 17 – 23.)
The Trump campaign continued to dominate spending on Google last week as they quickly started running video ads highlighting Biden’s comments on The Breakfast Club podcast. They also ran this polished campaign ad to swing-state audiences attacking Biden on issues the Trump campaign deems important to African American voters:
Beyond mostly spending on acquisition ads, the Biden campaign also went on the attack in at least one Google ad last week, accusing Trump of being caught like a “deer in the headlights” when it came to his coronavirus response.
Here’s the list of top political spenders on Google last week:
And FWIW, here were the top political ad spenders on Facebook last week:
The Trump campaign, in an effort to get more clicks on their survey ads on Facebook, put their talented graphic design team to work for some new ad creative:
While these meme ads are pretty lame and hastily thrown together, the bold colors and goofiness seem intentional and likely got more than a few Facebook users’ thumbs to stop in their tracks, if not click through to the survey. 🥴
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 May 18th to May 24th:
One of the largest anti-Trump spenders on Facebook ads in several of these states was the Center for American Progress Action Fund, whose ads our Barometer team helped test earlier this year and which were found to be particularly effective at the time. Here are some of their swing-state persuasion ads that have run on the platform recently:
Although significantly ahead in a head-to-head spending match against Biden, the Trump campaign was greatly outspent last week by the combined efforts of Democratic outside groups and the Biden campaign in every state we’re tracking.
WHAT DOES DON JR. DO ALL DAY?
Viral memes on Instagram can reach millions of people without campaigns having to spend a dime, and are a perfect medium for the racist, misogynistic trash that Trump’s children love to share.
The Trump kids have a surprisingly large following on the platform. Setting aside the President’s own 20 million Instagram followers, Trump’s offspring, sans Baron, have built a combined following of over 11.7 million people.
Ivanka Trump: 6.4 million Donald Trump Jr.: 2.8 million Eric Trump: 1.4 million Tiffany Trump: 1.1 million
Although he’s supposed to be running his father’s scam business empire, Don Jr. has been spending the most time on Instagram these days. In fact, Donald Trump Jr., a grown 42-year-old man whose Instagram bio declares himself a “General in the Meme Wars,” and who has more Instagram followers than Joe Biden (!), posts offensive anti-Biden content on the platform daily. For any other politician in America, the outright terrible things the President’s son posts would be a career-ending scandal. In Trump’s America, though, it makes him one of the most popular figures in the Republican Party.
Note: Many of Don Jr.’s memes were deemed too blatantly false and offensive to put in this newsletter. Anyway, the son that Trump probably loves less, Eric , has a huge following himself and has attempted to imitate his big brother.
These memes often originate in fringe right-wing groups and the far corners of the internet, but Trump’s spawn amplifying them serves as a bridge to the mainstream by putting the content in front of millions. If you want a much deeper dive on how misinformation and terrible content like the above spreads via memes, The Meme War Weekly newsletter by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center is an amazing resource we 🖤.
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, please give us a follow and the occasional RT on Twitter, and help get out the word by forwarding this email to two friends!