All but ensuring that the American public will not forget who’s running for president on election day, a certain president has bought out YouTube’s masthead space for the days leading up to and on November 3rd, Bloomberg reports. It didn’t have to be like this; according to Bloomberg, Google had considered barring all political ads on election day in favor of a reminder to go out and vote. But YouTube will not be accused of ANTI-PRESIDENT BIAS.
YouTube declined to confirm the purchase or that the company had considered barring election day campaigns but offered Gizmodo the following statement:
It’s common for political advertisers across the political spectrum to buy YouTube masthead ad space during election cycles. In the past, campaigns, PACs, and other political groups have run various types of ads leading up to election day. All advertisers follow the same process and are welcome to purchase the masthead space as long as their ads comply with our policies.
True, Obama ran masthead campaigns on election days in 2012. And Trump has done this before in what appeared to be a very expensive troll on the day of Democratic debates. (Months later, excluded from the debate, Michael Bloomberg followed suit.) But Obama also pioneered political campaigning on Facebook. We’ve learned a thing or two about boundless online campaigning since then. Google has learned a thing or two, it just decided to ignore its own instinct that this isn’t the greatest image it could convey. At a time when social media platforms have been under consistent attack for their laissez-faire attitude toward accountability in political advertising, YouTube has decided that its homepage will look like a MAGA rally on election day.
It’s unclear how much the reported brute-force ad-attack would cost, but a one-day buy could run as high as a million dollars, according to Dan Hoffmann, Senior Director of Bully Pulpit Interactive, a communications and digital analytics agency which has worked with Democratic campaigns. Trump’s Google ad spending is so far second only to Bloomberg’s, even though he’s running unopposed and gets free coverage all day every day. (According to Google’s transparency report, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee and Donald J. Trump for President Inc. have together spent over $18 million to Bloomberg’s $41.6 million.)
Hoffmann told Gizmodo that he sees this as part of Trump’s overall strategy, which boils down to “attention.” (Over, say, issues.)
“I would describe it as a show of force, this far out from election day,” Hoffmann said. “It’s about boxing out their opponents or other groups who might want similar placements.”
“You can see his rally strategy is kind of similar,” he added, pointing to Trump’s tendency to pay visits to Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada ahead of Democratic caucuses. Hoffman pointed out that Trump also ran a massive ad sweep over the border wall during the government shutdown.
Harvard researcher and FTC research fellow Jinyan Zang wrote in an email to Gizmodo that the ad buy could yield the same buzz as a Superbowl spot, which can “generate shared conversations from everyone nationally” because we all have to see it. “We see this every year with Superbowl ads with the significant amount of press and social media dissecting and rating each of the ads.”
To what end, though, for a guy who has no Baby Peanut memes for us, on a day when minds are long made up? The nationwide ad is sure to remind his supporters to go out to the polls. As well as Democratic voters, whose number one priority is voting him out of office. Does Trump win the baby split? No one knows. But the check that Google receives should cash all the same.