Democratic campaigns have Snapchat all to themselves
Despite the company’s current financial woes, Democratic campaigns and progressive causes still find value in ads to reach younger voters
Despite Snapchat’s current financial woes, Democratic candidates and progressive causes still can’t get enough of the cheap impressions and untapped potential of speaking directly to the tens of millions of younger voters on the social media platform. Meanwhile, Republicans are completely M.I.A.
How are major midterm campaigns using the platform this cycle? How does spending on the social media app match up to past election years? We’ll break that down + more below. But first…
By the numbers
FWIW, here were the top-spending political advertisers on Facebook + Instagram last week:
One of the top spenders on Facebook and Instagram ads last week was the American Petroleum Institute (aka “Big Oil), which has begun running get-out-the-vote advertising in key swing states. Read more about their campaign in this week’s issue of our climate-focused newsletter, Climate Monitor>>.
Some political observers have predicted that Colorado’s U.S. Senate race may be more competitive than previously thought. In that state, Republican Joe O’Dea is running ads claiming he’s an independent, centrist candidate who just loves abortion rights and gay marriage:
However, as our friend Judd Legum at Popular Information reported yesterday, O’Dea and other GOP candidates are using these types of ads to “brazenly misrepresent” their positions for a general election audience.
Meanwhile, here were the top political advertisers on Google platforms last week, including YouTube:
Conservative outside group One Nation continues to spend a colossal amount of money on YouTube ads - and few Democratic advertisers come close. The organization has spent over $5.5 million on the platform since the beginning of the year, and undoubtedly will spend much more. A full 53% of that has been spent attacking Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia, and 34% has gone to shoring up Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin.
Speaking of Wisconsin, the Badger State’s U.S. Senate race seems to be receiving a huge share of dark money spending this year - with Wisconsin Truth PAC (Pro-Johnson), and Duty and Honor (Pro-Barnes) also advertising heavily.
Further down South, we’ve been surprised at how much the Republican Party of Florida is spending out of its own accounts to support Gov. Ron DeSantis. It’s a seemingly odd arrangement - as no other state parties are spending this heavily to back a single candidate. Here’s a little of what they’re running:
… and here are the top political ad spenders on Snapchat so far this year:
From around the internet
Corporate media had kind of a tough week. In the wake of the widely panned media coverage of President Biden’s speech last Thursday, progressives and other journalists have slammed the likes of CNN and POLITICO. Here are a few critiques from Dan Pfeiffer, Judd Legum, the Washington Post, and Media Matters.
The team at pro-Democracy media company Courier Newsroom ran an experiment with Data for Progress on how local media coverage of the abortion issue changed Michiganders’ views on the subject. See the results>>
Back by popular demand: We’ve updated our list of favorite newsletters at the intersection of politics, tech, media, and *the internet.* Check out the list and subscribe here >>
Several weeks ago, we outlined Republican candidates’ striking digital spending deficit on platforms like Facebook and Google. That deficit is likely both a cause and effect of the party’s grassroots fundraising woes, outlined in two pieces this week from POLITICO and the New York Times. Both are worth your time.
In this week’s issue of the Campaigner newsletter, we spoke with a staffer on a competitive state legislative race in Pennsylvania, where Democrats are hoping to take back the majority for the first time in over a decade. Read + subscribe>>
Trump’s 2024 Presidential campaign-in-waiting, Save America PAC (which regularly spends large amounts on digital fundraising) is under investigation by the Department of Justice, according to ABC News.
Which midterm campaigns received the most engagement on Facebook last week? We’ve got you covered here>>
Democratic campaigns have Snapchat all to themselves
Snap has been in the news quite a bit lately, and not all of it has been positive. The company last week laid off 20% of its workforce and lost two top execs. In a leaked memo, the company’s CEO wrote that they “got punched in the face hard” by 2022’s economic realities, but have a plan to turn things around.
However, in the political advertising space, Democratic advertisers still can’t get enough of the cheap impressions and untapped potential of speaking directly to the tens of millions of younger voters on the social media platform. Our analysis shows that over the past 5 years, U.S. political ad spending on Snapchat has slowly and steadily increased:
The 2020 campaign was obviously big for the company’s political sales team, with U.S. advertisers on both the Right and Left dropping over $21 million to reach users. Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign spent over $1.2 million alone on the platform that year, and the Trump campaign spent over $300,000 in hopes of persuading a few younger MAGA acolytes to get involved in the election. (Those ad dollars may seem like pennies compared to television and other digital ad platforms, but Snapchat is a much cheaper channel to deliver impressions than others.)
There was a natural spending dropoff in the 2021 off-year elections, but last year did see an increase over 2019’s off-year races. This year, campaigns and political groups are on track to spend over $5 million on the app, which we estimate would be a major increase over the 2018 midterms.
What has been most striking to us tracking spending on the platform each week is how Republican candidates and causes have been glaringly absent from the platform. While over two dozen Democrats running for U.S. House, Senate, or Governor have run Snapchat ads this cycle, we’ve only seen two Republican candidates for those offices do the same.
“Republicans are actively missing out on millions of potential voters - many Independent and undecided - by not actively spending consistently on the platform,” Wavelength Strategy’s Paid Media Director Sally Gillis told FWIW. “It's a missed opportunity to reach out to voters who are newly entering the political process.”
Among the high-profile Democrats running ads on Snapchat this cycle are Raphael Warnock, Mark Kelly, and Catherine Cortez Masto - all running in competitive statewide elections where every vote will count. These campaigns aren’t just running get-out-the-vote mobilization ads or grassroots fundraising creative - much of their focus has been on serving full-screen persuasion video ads to younger voters.
“[We want to] ensure younger audiences are exposed to our persuasion messages - and the targeting capabilities and ad formats available on the platform provide us with a cutting edge way of delivering tailored ad content to the exact voters we want to reach,” says Gillis.
Republicans’ lack of investment in Snapchat advertising this cycle is yet another sign and symptom of bigger issues with the party’s online paid media strategy. Maybe strategists on the Right have seen little to no R.O.I. on that platform, perhaps they’ve written off younger voters entirely, or they might not have enough money to spend there.
Either way, Democrats essentially have a powerful advertising channel all to themselves, and candidates running in competitive races from Arizona to New Hampshire are taking advantage of it.