FWIW: Spending money to make money

A look at party committee digital spending in 2021 so far

Every month and election cycle, the alphabet soup of party campaign committees, from the DNC to the NRSC, are locked in a battle of grassroots fundraising hauls, trying to outpace each others’ totals and achieve their “best fundraising month ever.” Well, in order to raise money, these groups have gotta spend it - and they’re increasingly doing so online. In this week’s FWIW, we take a look at how much all the party committees are spending on Facebook and Google ads in the Biden era. 

Oh, and Trump is still banned from Facebook. We’ll take the win. 😎

Let’s dig in...  

By the numbers:

Here are the top political ad spenders on Facebook last week:

One of the top Facebook ad spenders week over week is the American Petroleum Institute, which advertises through two Facebook brands: “Energy Citizens” and “Energy for Progress.” The pro-climate-destruction group has spent nearly $800,000 on Facebook ads alone this year, pushing the benefits of oil and natural gas, and recently scaremongering Americans into thinking someone is going to take their cars away:

Here’s what spending looked like on Google advertising last week:

The progressive Sixteen Thirty Fund launched a new Google ad campaign last week via their “Tax March” group, which placed them in the top ten spenders nationwide. Their ads continue to promote the American Rescue Plan, thanking and criticizing swing-state Senators who either supported or opposed the bill. They’re up in at least six states: AZ, WI, GA, NV, PA, and OH. 

...and there was little movement on Snapchat advertising last week. Here is political spending on the platform YTD:

You gotta spend money to make money

We’re early enough into the election cycle that candidates in key states are still launching their campaigns or have only just recently gotten their campaigns off the ground. In the meantime, Democratic and Republican committees have spent nearly $3 million on digital ads so far, using a variety of tactics to collect as much money and supporters’ data as possible ahead of next year’s midterms.

Overall, Democratic committees and their affiliated nonprofits and super PACs have spent over $2.1 million on Facebook and Google ads since the Georgia Senate runoff elections, while their Republican counterparts have only spent just over $650,000 on the platforms in that time.

This spending seems to have paid off for Democrats, with the DNC and DCCC having one of their most successful fundraising off-year first quarters ever. Here’s how the committees’ spending breaks down so far this year:

In addition to wealthy donors, these committees rely on grassroots fundraising to build their war chest each cycle. That’s why it's no surprise that nearly all of their digital ad spending is going to fundraising ads that attempt to rile up the parties’ grassroots supporters into chipping in $5 or 10 dollars. 

In 2021, the Democratic Governors Association has so far spent more than any other party committee on digital advertising, almost exclusively for small-dollar fundraising. They frequently use the President, Vice President, First Lady, and Stacey Abrams in supporter appeals like the ones below. The group has also spent $45,300 on YouTube ads so far, and all of them use unofficial “presidential approval polls” to collect emails. You can check out an example here.

The Republican Governors Association, on the other hand, has spent just under $50k on Facebook and Google ads so far. They’re targeting women over 65 with fearmongering ads about “Biden destroying Trump’s border security,” and they also spent a slightly over $5k on fundraising ads featuring OK governor Kevin Stitt that overwhelmingly target Oklahomans. 

Among Republican committees and affiliates, the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent the most online, at over $270k on Facebook and Google ads. Like the RGA, they’re also using The Wall and immigration to collect emails and fundraise, often using over-the-top rhetoric. They’re also running lots of ads that claim that “TRUMP IS BACK,” even though his comeback has so far only really manifested in a blog. Many of these ads are primarily targeted at women over 65. Oh yeah, and they’re also scamming their donors.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has so far spent the least on digital ads compared to other Democratic committees, but they’re deploying similar tactics as the NRCC. They’re using GOP bogeymen - such as Rick Scott, Louis DeJoy, Tucker Carlson, and others - and Democratic leaders - like Nancy Pelosi and the Obamas - to fundraise and collect emails. 

In looking at all of these ads from this thick alphabet soup of party committees, we also looked at how much these groups have spent on Google ads so far this cycle compared to how much they invested by the roughly the same point last cycle. 

After doing the math, we found that pretty much across the board, Democratic committees are spending at least twice as much more on Google ads so far this year compared to 2019, while Republican committees are spending much less (with the exception of the RNC, which has spent almost twice as much on Google ads compared to last cycle). Dems increased their Google advertising budget by 187 percent while the GOP cut theirs by 52 percent. Yikes! 

Here’s how the comparisons break down:

Out of all of these groups, the DSCC grew their Google ad budget the most, expanding their investment by 846 percent from the same period in 2019. 🤯 Their recent YouTube ads have a clear focus: attacking GOP senators for voting against the American Rescue Plan, and lifting up the Senate Democrats who voted for it. Their recent flight of ads, which they’ve so far spent $15,000 on, targets Arizona (Mark Kelly), Florida (Marco Rubio), Georgia (Raphael Warnock), Nevada (Catherine Cortez-Masto), New Hampshire (Maggie Hassan), Pennsylvania (PA GOPers), and Wisconsin (Ron Johnson).

Attacking Ron Johnson in Wisconsin:

Thanking Raphael Warnock in Georgia:

Bonus: Facebook Ad Spending in the NYC Mayoral Election

The race to be New York’s next Mayor is heating up, with many of the candidates and their outside groups launching new ad campaigns. Here’s a look at how much the campaigns have spent on Facebook advertising YTD:

That’s it for FWIW this week! If you enjoy reading this newsletter each week, please click below to share it on Twitter!

Share FWIW