Joe Clements: Mike Bloomberg is running the most sophisticated campaign in the country
It appears there's a new Democratic front-runner in Florida.

This is the Trump playbook flipped for a center-left audience.

Mike Bloomberg has spent $300 million on his campaign since November. My best estimate is that his campaign alone accounts for nearly 1 in 5 political ad impressions on Facebook.  Additionally, his campaign is on a high dollar hiring spree to recruit the best talent (he’s already hired over 2,100 paid staff) from places like Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley.

I knew these facts and still I mocked Bloomberg’s late entrance into the Democratic presidential primary. Why?

The Democratic Party has spent a decade vilifying billionaires and Wall Street. Democrats support campaign finance reform to stop billionaires from buying elections. Democrats represent a diverse coalition of voters who increasingly reject the “straight white male” candidate.

Bloomberg must be the victim of a big ego and an ambitious pitch from a political consultant who saw a mega self-funder. The $10,000 sushi bill and the $250,000 on office furniture are evidence, right?

In 2018, Facebook and Google both began archiving all political ads and making them publicly available. As it turns out, few people actually look at these ads, but they are a treasure trove of good ideas for consultants like myself. Normally, I’ll find a few cool concepts buried among thousands of fundraising and swag pitches from Trump and the Democratic field.

Last week, I had some time and took a dive into Bloomberg’s ad archives. The feeling I had after 10 minutes is the same feeling the guy in every alien invasion movie gets when he realizes the blip on the radar is not an ordinary piece of space junk but an ET armada barreling straight toward earth.

Mike Bloomberg is running the most sophisticated campaign in the country, rivaling even the Trump campaign who are themselves Jedi masters of digital media. Bloomberg is masterfully “pacing and leading” his audience by meeting them in their fear and disdain to build rapport and then offering leadership.

The Age of Anxiety — The bulk of Bloomberg’s messaging is designed to elicit fear and anxiety from those on the center-left. Climate change, guns and Trump/Trump Supporters are the fear trifecta for the campaign, each video masterfully portraying a rising tension and unease in the viewer.  Of these messages, climate change is the paramount and is used in the same way Trump uses immigration as a means of identity-based fear.

Trump Trolling — Unlike every other Democrat ever, Bloomberg is good at trolling Trump. One Facebook campaign targets ads to towns where factories are closing to remind those workers Trump failed them, but “Mike Can Get It Done.” Other videos show a Trump speech dubbed over with the word “lie” and feature a dancing gingerbread man.  Every piece reminding the viewer that Bloomberg can beat Trump.

Looking Presidential — While every other Democrat runs ads set in everyday places, making “authentic” appeals to send money, Bloomberg is depicted only as an authority figure. Bloomberg in his expansive campaign headquarters, Bloomberg speaking from a nice podium stuffed with mics, Bloomberg on Air Force One, Bloomberg entering an arena to applause, Bloomberg inspecting a disaster area with staff and security. Bloomberg always in a suit and tie. Bloomberg always looking presidential.

Tribal Warfare — Nearly every piece of creative sets up conflict between the smart, compassionate people and the dumb, hateful people. One video shows a tired polar bear and asks the viewer to “Tell this polar bear climate change is a hoax.” Another shows a hillside fire about to overtake a neighborhood and reads, “Not sure these families want to hear that climate change is a hoax.” The more intense pieces show scenes from street protests, Charlottesville and Trump rallies and proclaim, “This is not who we are.

I didn’t even add targeting to this list because targeting is only for people with budgets. The campaign tactic is to test as much creative as possible to a broad audience and then retarget anyone who interacts with those ads. Given the campaign’s spending, it’s likely Democratic voters are seeing 5 to 8 messages per week from Bloomberg on Facebook alone with general election voters already seeing 1 to 3 messages per week.

If these tactics seem familiar, it’s because this is the Trump playbook flipped for a center-left audience. Powerfully persuasive messaging coupled with the disdain for the opposition, multiplied by $300 million in current spending and potentially $2 billion before November.

Spending reports show Bloomberg’s strategy is to avoid early states and go hard for Super Tuesday delegates. For most candidates, losing the early primaries would spell disaster, but for a self-funder like Bloomberg, this is a viable strategy. Frankly, American politics has never seen a candidate bring this amount of financial leverage so it’s hard to know what strategies are actually off the table for Bloomberg.

Think Bloomberg needs grassroots? Bloomberg has been running Every Town USA for almost a decade and collecting emails and contact info from left-leaning types across the country. The Every Town list is a de facto proxy for the most politically active Democrats in the nation.

What about media criticism? By the end of the month, Bloomberg is going to be the largest advertiser on every network station in Super Tuesday states and cable news station nationally. Every station manager knows that if Bloomberg wins the primary, he could single-handedly double their expected ad sells. It’s possible Bloomberg could be the largest overall advertiser in America this fall.

On top of all this, Bloomberg is benefitting from the party realignment set in motion by Trump. While the straight white male billionaire from Wall Street may be anathema to hard left Democrats, he has no issue with educated, high-income Democrats. Think of all the disaffected establishment Republicans like Mac Stipanovich or Rick Wilson … would they have any trouble voting for Bloomberg?

What about African American voters? Due to party realignment, Bloomberg can lose African American voters and make up for the loss with former centrist Republicans and independents.

Bloomberg does not even need to win the nomination to be effective. The Democratic establishment doesn’t want to see a socialist take over their party, and if Bloomberg ran as an independent, he would siphon votes away from Bernie Sanders. Trump would win, but the establishment ethos represented by Bloomberg would remain safe.

The warning here is clear. If your name is Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, you must beware of Bloomberg because Bloomberg represents the full resistance of the American establishment.

Joe Clements

One comment

  • gary

    February 12, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    He is DOA! I don’t care how much he spends!

    Voting is like buying a product. A salesman’s job is to give a customer (voter) enough logical reasons to act on the EMOTION to buy! The key… EMOTION! This clown can not excite anybody to a damn thing for him! His only real chance is offer each voter a sum of money to vote for him. In my case, that would require at least 100K!

Comments are closed.


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