• UAE Editorial

How Biden and Trump are using ads to target voters

Both campaigns are using highly specific filters to home in on voters through social media.

Both the Biden and Trump campaigns have relied heavily on political advertising to spread their message to voters ahead of the presidential vote on November 3.

From television to social media, the campaigns are pouring millions of dollars into advertisements to win over voters.


Entering October, Democratic nominee Joe Biden had secured $177 million in campaign funds compared to President Donald Trump’s $63.1 million, the New York Times reported.

The Trump campaign has slashed millions from its national ad budget as it looks to rebalance its funds, while Mr Biden has added tens of millions to his advertising budget.

As the election nears, recent advertisements released by the Trump campaign have used misinformation and scare tactics to sway voters.


A Google ad from the Trump campaign that ran for two-days erroneously claimed Mr Biden would raise taxes on 82 per cent of all Americans. Mr Biden has said tax increases would only be levied against those who earn $400,000 or more annually.


The Trump campaign also promoted an unusual attack ad on YouTube this week that compares Mr Biden to a zombie. The video titled “how to prevent a zombie uprising” features images of Mr Biden with a narrator saying "Look for someone who has a corpse-like appearance, exhibits aggressive behaviour, craves human flesh, and utters incoherent moans and groans." It has been viewed more than 3.5 million times.


On Facebook, Mr Trump spent nearly $90 million on advertisements since July 1, which is $18.8 million more than Mr Biden has spent, research from the New York University Ad Observatory found.


The group is running a volunteer trial to track political spending on Facebook, using a sample size of 6,500 volunteers.


They found that 27 per cent of Mr Trump’s Facebook adverts since July 1 were used to attack the media.


The study also found that both campaigns applied highly specific filters to their advertisements in order to micro-target users. The filters used can provide insight into the types of voters the campaigns hope to win over. Both campaigns heavily targeted swing-state voters.


The Trump campaign was seen to target the African American vote by filtering ads to reach voters interested in: “Hip hop music, African-American music, African-American culture and/or Vibe [magazine]”.


The Trump campaign also targeted sports fans in swing states, trying to reach fans of the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Red Wings.


For the Biden campaign, ads were used to target the LGBTQ community by homing in on Facebook users interested in: “LGBT community, Out [magazine], Pride and/or RuPaul's Drag Race”.


Mr Biden also micro-targeted NPR listeners, Oprah fans, and Facebook users interested in Lin-Manuel Miranda, The Avengers film, and Star Trek.


With less than one week before the election, the Biden campaign has received a significant cash injection from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who announced on Wednesday that he will bankroll a substantial advertising campaign for Mr Biden, in a last-ditch effort to sway voters.


Mr Bloomberg, who unsuccessfully ran for the presidential nomination, will spend $15 million on advertising for Mr Biden in Texas and Ohio.


The money from Mr Bloomberg will be channelled through his super PAC, Independence USA, to issue state-wide ads in both English and Spanish.


The move provides added support for a Biden campaign strategy that is targeting traditionally Republican states in the closing days of the election.


The former vice president has been increasing campaign efforts in states historically considered Republican as he hopes to appeal to voters, often suburban, that have recently changed their position on Donald Trump as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. He is also targeting young voters and people of colour in a bid to turn red states blue.


While Texas is home to a large Republican population, polling shows Ohio remains evenly split among the candidates.


Until now, Mr Bloomberg has focused his efforts to boost the democratic ticket in Florida, having pledged $100 million to support Mr Biden in the southern swing state.


Meanwhile, Bloomberg news outlet reported that Mr Trump had withdrawn all but a sliver of his advertising efforts in Florida to focus on four battleground states: Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania.


The Trump campaign denied the report, saying they were spending more seven figures on television advertising in Florida.


But Mr Trump’s campaign budget has suffered a blow as fundraisers have slowed and the coronavirus pandemic has shattered the economic gains the president had hoped to ride into a second term.

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