By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch
MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images, iStockphoto
President Donald Trump’s campaign has an overall advantage in spending on Facebook and Google ads, but Joe Biden’s campaign has roughly matched Trump in Facebook and Google ads over the last 60 days.
The Republican incumbent’s greater spending on these key platforms since the midterm elections in November 2018 is shown in the chart below from Acronym , a progressive digital strategy shop.
Trump’s campaign has spent a total of $228 million on advertising on Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -0.47% and Google /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG -0.42% /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -0.51% properties such as YouTube, topping the former vice president’s total of $151 million.
“Where Trump was able to build up an early advantage was really raising a lot of money and communicating to voters before Biden even clinched the nomination,” said Kyle Tharp, head of communications for Acronym, in an interview. Much of that early work had to do with list-building and fundraising, he said.
Spending in past two years
Over the past 60 days, the outlays aren’t that different, with Trump’s side shelling out $69.3 million, just a bit above Biden’s $67.4 million.
“Both campaigns are spending heavily on platforms like Facebook and Google to reach their voters with their closing arguments,” said Tharp, who added that the recent spending is more important. “I don’t think one campaign or another has a really significant advantage when it comes to online spending at this point.”
The 60-day totals are shown in the additional Acronym chart below.
Spending in past 60 days
The spending on Facebook and Google is just a part of the overall outlay on the Nov. 3 presidential election, with Trump’s side reporting $1.87 billion in expenditures as of Sept. 30 and Biden’s side, $1.32 billion.
Facebook and Google’s properties each have their own benefits for campaigns as they aim to energize supporters and win over undecided voters. Google has restrictions on targeting, so campaigns treat YouTube as a broadcast medium like TV and aim to “reach a lot of voters at once,” Tharp said. He added that both Trump and Biden’s teams spent a lot to take over YouTube’s homepage on certain days during the White House race.
Meanwhile, Facebook’s main product and its Instagram platform “can both get more granular,” so campaigns can connect with small-dollar donors, mobilize voters or target ads at particular demographics, Tharp said. He also criticized Facebook’s recent decision to restrict new political ads in the week before the election.
“It’s our position that it’s pretty nonsensical,” he said. Acronym has emphasized that the new policy won’t apply to conservative news sites like Breitbart, but it will block campaigns and groups from responding to breaking news stories or misinformation.
This is an updated version of a report first published on Oct. 22, 2020.