Dec 20, 2021 - Technology

Big Tech spends millions on ads to sway D.C. leaders

Spending on sponsorships in major D.C. newsletters
Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

New data shows that the tech sector spends the most money by far on public affairs advertising in newsletters targeting D.C. decision makers.

Why it matters: Big Tech's big investment shows how much money the industry is willing to spend on influencing lawmakers, despite the fact that major regulation of the industry appears far off.

Details: The new data, from a report from D.C. public affairs firm Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI), finds that Amazon, Facebook, Google and Uber accounted for roughly 55% of all spending on sponsorships among D.C.'s biggest newsletters, including those from Axios, Politico and The Washington Post.

  • The data pulls spending from the 50 biggest companies targeting D.C. opinion leaders. Those ad buys were supported by major cross-platforms campaigns, which included print ads, traditional digital ads across websites and mobile apps, podcasts, TV and events, BPI found.

The big picture: In total, BPI found that the 50 biggest companies aiming to influence Washington spent roughly $32 million to appear in the District's top newsletters for policymakers and staffers between June 1 and Nov. 30.

  • The data measures how brands compete for mindshare amongst D.C. decision-makers and opinion leaders. BPI built a competitive intelligence platform called Decibel to measure this type of advertising specifically, given how much it has grown over the past few years.

Be smart: What makes the tech sector's investment so notable is that tech companies have spent so much money on ads boosting their reputations, as opposed to advocating for particular bills.

  • Many ads, particularly those from Facebook, only reference support for regulation targeting the tech industry broadly — including around content moderation and user privacy.
  • The data shows that internet privacy and regulation was by far the biggest topic of advertising across all D.C. tip sheets, followed by jobs, climate and healthcare.

Be smart: Because tech companies are focused on reputational campaigns, they tend to have a more consistent advertising presence in D.C. compared to other industries that tend to increase spending only around particular bills or debates, the data found.

What to watch: Aside from tech, the data found that advertising around climate and job creation continues to increase in Washington.

  • "[W]e’ve see a focus on worker flexibility and organizations’ talent brands, and fierce competition for mindshare over climate between energy companies, advocacy groups, finance and automakers," Mike Schneider, a Partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive said to Axios.

Note: Axios accepts newsletter advertising from firms noted in this data set.

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