While Democrats' campaign launches have sucked up national attention, President Trump's re-election campaign has quietly spent nearly twice as much as the entire Democratic field combined on Facebook and Google ads, according to data from Facebook and Google's political ad transparency reports, aggregated by Bully Pulpit Interactive.
Why it matters: Political advertising strategists say that this level of ad spend on digital platforms this early in the campaign season is unprecedented.
- The data (captured between December 2018 and now) provides a window into the Trump campaign's 2020 strategy, which until now has been virtually invisible aside from a few rallies.
- "The worldview from the Trump campaign is different than anything we've ever seen," says Michael Beach, CEO of marketing analytics firm Cross Screen Media and a veteran of Republican presidential ad campaigns.
- The Trump campaign is led by digital vet Brad Parscale, whose home field is analytics and audience targeting.
Be smart: While Democrats need to woo early donors with proof of momentum, Trump needs to drive support from his base.
- "The Trump campaign has built a low-dollar fundraising machine that makes hoarding cash less of a priority," Beach says. "Adding votes, whether through persuasion or engagement, trumps cash-on-hand reports.”
By the numbers: Trump is outspending the top-spending Democratic candidates (Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris) 9-to-1 when it comes to total advertising spend on Google and Facebook so far.
- "This is an unprecedented level of investment this early, and especially from an incumbent President," says Mike Schneider, partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive. "Trump has spent at least $13 million in digital media since May 2018, and over $4.5 million in 2019 alone."
The Facebook ad spend by all candidates is far-outpacing Google ad spend, according to the data. Overall, all candidates are spending roughly 3 times as much on Facebook ads than on Google ads. The Trump campaign is spending even more.
The big picture: Trump's Facebook influence won't be limited to ad spend.
- National political stories thrive on Facebook, according to data from news analytics company Parse.ly. Since February, almost 28% of all traffic referrals (direct and indirect) to articles about politics, law and government came from Facebook. By comparison, just 9% came from Google.
- Partisan news sources also thrive on Facebook. Fox News is the most popular news outlet on Facebook so far in 2019, according to a new report from NewsWhip, which measures social engagement. Far-right publishers like The Daily Wire, Daily Mail and Breitbart almost made the cut, as well as some far-left outlets.
The bottom line: “Trump’s digital sophistication was one of the most over-reported stories of the 2016 election cycle," Schneider says. "Trump’s digital head start in the 2020 cycle is one of the most under-reported stories,"