This combination of Sept. 29, 2020, file photos shows President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
November 3, 2020
It was to nobody AND everybody’s surprise in 2016 the way in which Donald Trump used new age media platforms to disseminate his polarizing message directly to the masses. It was, of course, the same Donald Trump who, in the 1980s, used a very different medium to make his name a mainstay in New York City real estate — and well beyond.
Trump’s liberal usage of these emerging ad platforms has given our Media Buyer-in-Chief” a historic advantage against his Democrat counterparts over the last five years.
It is perhaps reminiscent of the way former President Barack Obama used that same digital savvy to create a movement that led to his unprecedented rise to the White House in 2008. Former Vice President Joe Biden has been hoping to use that same approach in an attempt to match Trump in the one area where the president dominates most — even as he suggested families gather round to listen to some records.
The Trump campaign spent a whopping $262 million on Facebook and Google advertising, including on YouTube, topping the former vice president’s total of $183 million by 30 percent, according to progressive advocacy nonprofit Another Acronym.
However, there is another narrative to be told by these numbers, and that is the candidates' advertising spends over the last 60 days. Those figures are about dead even — with Biden’s campaign spending $93 million, slightly above Trump’s $90 million.
In a year where scrutiny around Facebook is at an all-time high, ad spending showed no sign of slowing down. With Twitter outlawing political ads and Google Ads severely limiting targeting for such promotions, Facebook stands as the sole digital advertising player available to these campaigns and its importance in the Get Out the Vote effort can not be understated. Its misuse can also not be ignored or neglected.
Ads from politicians and their campaigns reportedly accounted for about 3 percent of Facebook’s estimated third-quarter U.S. revenue, pointing to a relationship building between Facebook and the political entities in need of its digital marketing capabilities.
For Biden, the massive dollars spent on the Facebook ads are blanketing mostly swing states and has been paid for by two main funding sources, the “Biden for President” and “Biden Victory Fund,” which spent $16.1 and $15.4 million respectively over the last 30 days, based on Facebook Ad Library data.
For President Trump, his spending has come through “Donald J. Trump For President Inc” and “Trump Make America Great Again Committee” which spent $11 million and $10.7 million respectively, according to the same Facebook Ad Library data.
Geographically, the majority of advertising dollars spent for both candidates would not surprise even the most novice of presidential election historians. The four largest states by Facebook ad spend over the last 60 days are the hotly-contested battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan. All are states Trump won in 2016 and, conversely, all states Obama carried to re-election in 2012.
'Florida, Florida, Florida'
“Florida, Florida, Florida…” It was one of the most memorable phrases from the disputed 2000 election and its importance in the road to 270 persists. Targeted messaging to the diverse array of Floridians has dominated ad spend in the waning days. It's clear how important the state is to both candidates, with Biden telling supporters at a drive-in rally last week, “If Florida goes blue, it’s over.”
Biden has certainly put his money where his mouth is, having spent nearly $10 million alone on Facebook advertising in the Sunshine State over the last two months — about 20 percent of total spend during said time. Contrast that with $7.1 million for the Trump campaign during the same time period — also about 20 percent of his total Facebook ad spend over the last two months.
If the digital ad trends are any indication, Americans will know where to look as the polls close on Election Day, and potentially the days and weeks ahead.