Joe Biden made an aggressive early investment in digital advertising after announcing his 2020 presidential campaign, spending nearly $800,000 on Facebook and Google ads in less than a week in the race while dwarfing the rest of the field, according to data from both tech companies.
Biden’s Facebook spending last week, at $406,860, was more than the combined total of the five 2020 Democrats who spent the most after Biden: Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($100,677), Sen. Bernie Sanders ($96,397), businessman Andrew Yang ($87,737), Gov. Jay Inslee ($56,142), and Mayor Pete Buttigieg ($55,992). Biden also spent ten times more on Facebook ads last week than the Trump 2020 re-election campaign ($39,481).
Biden was also by far the top political advertiser on Google last week. His 2020 presidential campaign has spent $388,900 on the platform overall, per the company’s data, and at least $363,100 in the U.S. last week. The next closest 2020 Democrat in spending on the platform last week was Buttigieg, who spent $49,900, while Harris and Warren each spent just over $34,000 in the period.
The former VP spent a total of $406,860 on 1,336 targeted spots on Facebook, mostly announcing his entry to the race and aimed at either list-building or fundraising. In some of the ads, Biden is on camera asking for campaign contributions; others feature simple graphics, urging contributions by certain deadlines, or asking viewers to sign up for updates from the campaign. On Google, Biden’s campaign has spent a total of $388,900 on 42 spots, mostly placing ActBlue donation links on search results pages.
Digital advertising is an increasingly critical expenditure category for modern campaigns, accounting for some of the biggest line items in candidates’ first quarter FEC reports. Sanders, for instance, spent nearly $1.6 million on digital ads, or nearly a third of his operating expenses, in the first three months of the year. And digital ads accounted for more than half of former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke’s $2.4 million in operating costs.
Biden raised $6.3 million in the first 24 hours following his 2020 campaign announcement, the top mark for the 2020 Democratic field so far, putting him in a position to spend. And spending heavily on Facebook ads – quick, targeted and inexpensive – will allow Biden to make up for his relatively late entry to the race, and his lack of pre-existing campaign infrastructure, and begin building up a crucial small dollar donor base.
In one Facebook ad, Biden’s campaign nods to the crowded 2020 primary field: “There are a lot of Democrats running for President. It’s going to take a truly national campaign to reach every voter and defeat Donald Trump. But that doesn’t come cheap – and I need your support. I’m reaching out to ask, can you chip in $5 to my campaign?”
In another, Biden’s campaign sought to capitalize on interest in candidates’ first-24-hour fundraising totals: “UPDATE: We’re about to close the books on an AMAZING first day of Joe Biden’s campaign. It’s not too late to be a part of it. Chip in before midnight to be a Day One donor.”
One of the simpler Google ads read: “A leader for all Americans. Your donation is crucial to the start of our campaign. Thank you.”
Biden’s initial wave of Facebook and Google ads, at about $796,000, placed him sixth overall in terms of combined spending on both platforms by Democratic presidential candidates since the start of 2019.
Warren has spent the most on digital advertising, nearly $1.3 million across both platforms between her exploratory and principal presidential campaign committees, followed by Sanders with just under $1.2 million, Sen. Kamala Harris with just under $1.1 million, Sen. Amy Klobuchar at about $912,000, and O’Rourke at $829,000. Yang has also been spending aggressively on the platforms, particularly Facebook – the tech businessman has spent about $721,000 on Facebook and $44,700 on Google, ranking seventh behind Biden in the field.
The Trump campaign, meanwhile, has also invested heavily on both platforms since May 2018, as far back as data is available. Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $4 million on Facebook and just under $1.1 million on Google since then.
Facebook began publishing ad data in a public database in May 2018, along with Google, in part a response to public outrage over election interference on the platforms by Russia and other actors during the 2016 election.