A rundown of Facebook’s very bad week

Also inside: New infrastructure digital ad spending, and Val Demings ain’t playing around

So much has happened in and around Washington this week, it’s been honestly hard to keep up. 😅 The infrastructure drama in Congress has drowned nearly everything else out, the Virginia Gubernatorial election has been rated a toss-up, and Facebook continues to get dragged in the press and on Capitol Hill. We’ll break all that down and more in this week’s FWIW. 

But first...

By the numbers

Here were the top 10 political ad spenders on Facebook & Instagram last week:

Aside from Facebook itself, the top spender on the platform last week was a relative newcomer: education advocacy group Stand for Children. The nonprofit that’s sometimes at odds with teachers unions has gone all-in on supporting parts of the Democrats’ reconciliation package working its way through Congress. Here’s what they’re running: 

...and here were the top 10 political ad spenders on Google & YouTube last week: 

While most major advertisers were focused on the infrastructure plans in Congress, two liberal nonprofits - Majority Forward and Advancing Arizona - launched heavy waves of advertising on YouTube to shore up Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona. The ads tout his support for the American Rescue Plan, bipartisan infrastructure deal, child tax credits, and stimulus checks. 

Kelly is the only Senator Majority Forward is currently running YouTube ads to support, although in June they boosted Sens. Warnock and Hassan too. 

As the Virginia gubernatorial race tightens, Terry McAuliffe continues to be a leading spender on Google advertising - blanketing the commonwealth with YouTube videos promoting his policies and attacking his opponent. We have more on that in yesterday’s issue of FWIW Virginia:     

FWIW Virginia
#VAGov narrows, outside groups enter the chat
Welcome to FWIW Virginia, where we analyze digital spending trends on both sides of the aisle in the 2021 Virginia statewide and legislative elections. Was this email forwarded to you? Click here to subscribe. There’s just over one month until Election Day in Virginia, and the races for #VAGov and the House of Delegates are tighter than ever. To better …
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...and here are the top 10 political ad spenders on Snapchat, year to date. 

Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action dropped an enormous amount on Snapchat ads last week - $137,573 to be exact - running videos asserting that “Hot Call Summer is now Freedom to Vote Fall.” 😂

The ads are urging young people in NV, WV, DE, ME, AZ, NH to call their Senators and support voting rights legislation. 

Facebook’s very bad week

We’re sending our sympathies to Facebook’s embattled policy and communications teams, who continue to take it on the chin with new revelations almost daily of how the company is tearing apart American society. Just in the past week, here’s what we’ve learned:

Last Friday night, we shared that Donald Trump’s PAC, Save America, is running ads calling the 2020 election “potentially the most corrupt in history” and implying that he is “the true president.” 

This is despite Facebook’s claims that they won’t allow that type of content. 

On Monday, Facebook paused its plans to build Instagram for Kids, after reports showing that the app negatively impacted teens’ body image. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal continued its “Facebook Files” investigative series, showing more uncomfortable documents on how the company is aiming to grow its user base among small children. At the same time, the New York Times reported that Facebook Groups promoting COVID misinformation continue to flourish. 

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal released decks of internal company research showing research concerns on that front. Yesterday, a company representative testified before Congress, and faced a grilling from Senators on both sides of the aisle. And this Sunday, the whistleblower behind many of the Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” will be interviewed on 60 Minutes, undoubtedly spurring another round of terrible press for the company. 

What a week.

We’ve reported time and time again on why folks interested in political campaigns should be aware of what’s happening with Facebook. Tiny policy changes the company makes can have an enormous impact on our elections - and from our perspective, the only thing the company actually responds to is public or advertiser pressure from loads of bad press. Let’s hope that this week has shocked the company into a new posture of responsibility.

Infrastructure ad spending continues to rise

After yesterday’s anti-climactic back-and-forth, there’s no end in sight for Build Back Better negotiations on Capitol Hill, and advocacy groups’ digital ad spending continues to increase week over week, too. 

By our estimates, pro-BBB forces spent $1.68 million on Facebook and Google ads last week, compared to $1.34 million by groups seeking to kill the bill(s). Top spenders last week included: Stand for Children, Exxon, PhRMA, American Chemistry Council, and the Green New Deal Network. 

To dig deeper, you can check out our weekly BBB spending tracker here >>

Val comes out on top

…And lastly, we’ve been tracking digital ad spending every single week this year, and one politician has come out on top, at least in terms of dollars spent: Rep. Val Demings. The Florida Congresswoman is aiming to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio next year in what will undoubtedly be one of the nation’s most expensive Senate races ever. In order to do so, she’s building a grassroots army of supporters. 

Demings has spent more than any other candidate on Facebook advertising in 2021, and almost all of her ads have been to build her campaign war chest. 

Since mid-May, her campaign has spent over $3 million on Facebook ads and $400,000 on Google ads to raise money. Read more here >> 

That’s it for this week! If you enjoy reading this newsletter every week, give us a share and a shout out on Twitter @FWIWnews !