U.S. markets closed

Happy Birthday, Mr. President: Trump Hits Record On Google Ads

Eric Newcomer and Mark Bergen

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s combative response to nationwide protests against police brutality has dominated the news in recent days, but a wave of ads on Google’s YouTube has sought to draw attention to another event: the President’s 74th birthday. In the last full week of May, Trump’s campaign spent $1.48 million on Google advertising, the highest weekly total of the 2020 campaign, according to the search giant’s data. Many of the ads take the form of a digital birthday card the president’s supporters can sign by sharing information like their email addresses.

The spending surge shows how the presidential campaign season has continued on digital media even as in-person events, like the large rallies President Trump favors, have been placed on hold. In the interim, Trump’s campaign is increasing its spending, largely to accumulate potential supporters’ email addresses.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is a favorite destination. Trump’s campaign spent about the same amount on Facebook Inc., where it spent $1.48 million over the same period.

During the week of May 23, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee spent $1.3 million on Google advertising, while Donald J. Trump for President Inc., another Trump campaign entity, spent $164,500, according to Google’s database.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign spent $322,600 in the week of May 23. The campaign has pulled back its spending on Google since the primary concluded; Biden’s spending on Google hit a record of $1.72 million for the week of Super Tuesday. Biden spent about $570,000 on Facebook during the week starting May 23.

The two main Trump campaign groups have spent $26.3 million on Google ads since July 2018. Over that same period, Biden’s campaign has spent $6.38 million on Google ads.

Earlier this year, the Trump campaign outbid rivals to reserve the coveted ad space at the top of YouTube’s homepage in advance for election day and the days before, Bloomberg News reported earlier.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the candidates’ campaign spending.

YouTube has taken a financial hit in recent months due to the economic downturn, but the company has noted the strong performance of “direct response” marketing -- video ads that prompt viewers to make a purchase or take an action, like Trump’s birthday card messages.

“Democrats have just had a little more trouble raising money on Google versus Republicans, not due to a lack of good strategy but due to seeing better returns on other platforms,” said Julia Ager, founder and president of the Democratic digital advertising firm Sapphire Strategies.

Digital political advertising has become increasingly prominent -- and controversial -- since the 2016 election. Both Google and Facebook, the market leaders, have begun to disclose more about spending levels and the types of ads candidates run.

After an uproar over misleading campaign ads last year, Google banned political commercials with doctored images or “false claims.” It removed some ads from Trump and Democratic candidates in March. But Google has mostly avoided the uproar that Facebook and Twitter Inc. have faced over the past week as the two social media companies have made diverging decisions about how to handle incendiary posts from President Trump.

Michael Bloomberg, the owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company for Bloomberg News, who ended his presidential bid in March, remains the top political buyer on Google since May 2018 with $62.3 million spent.

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.