- October 15, 2020
- Posted by: Bastion team
- Category: Markets
Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.
With just over two weeks to go, total spend in the 2020 US presidential race could reach $11 billion, nearly double 2016’s $6.5 billion.
Mike Bloomberg alone spent $1 billion on his short-lived campaign, and MDC Partners-owned Assembly handled more than $500 million in ad buys over less than four months.
After President Trump ran up his budget early in 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden and his supporters are looking to spend up to $360 million, or more than double Trump’s estimated budget before election day.
This spending blitz has led to a huge windfall for companies that specialize in political messaging and ad-buying. They include the stalwart political agency GMMB as well as Black-owned agency Truxton Creative and other key firms buying ads on behalf of both clients that remain somewhat mysterious.
These are the top five Biden agencies followed by the top five of Trump, ranked by official or estimated spend. Monetary totals come from the most recent Federal Election Commission filings and the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSource spending database.
Spokespeople for the Trump and Biden campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.
Total spend: $145.5 million
What they do: Joe Biden’s top agency is the sister company of another firm.
Media Buying & Analytics accounts for by far the biggest expense attributed to former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign on the marketing front, overseeing nearly $150 million in spending on TV, print, radio, and outdoor ads to date.
But CEO Bobby Kahn of Canal Media Partners, a well-connected ad-buying agency, confirmed to Business Insider that Media Buying & Analytics is owned by Canal’s partners, meaning they are essentially one and the same.
Agencies create such siloed organizations to avoid any apparent conflicts between official campaigns and Super PACs or other groups.
Canal handled some ad-buying work for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and placed millions in additional ad buys for other progressive candidates this cycle, such as Colorado senate candidate John Hickenlooper and former presidential hopeful John Delaney.
Infogroup/Data Axle Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton in December 2016.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Total spend: $39.5 million
What they do: A data marketing company connects the Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton campaigns.
Infogroup, which was rebranded as Data Axle in September, is a marketing company selling databases with information on millions of voters. It works with major brands like Marriott and Verizon as well as politicians, who use its lists for fundraising, voter registration, and ad campaigns.
Hillary Clinton’s former campaign made its final payment to Infogroup on the same day in April 2019 that Biden’s campaign began working with the company, according to FEC filings, implying that the latter organization used the former’s data for targeting purposes.
Since then, the Biden campaign has spent nearly $40 million with the company for services including digital ad buys on platforms like Twitter as well as fundraising work. The campaign’s last major buy with Infogroup/Data Axle came in July, and the company did not respond to a request for comment.
GMMB Obama during his 2008 campaign.
Total spend: $31.5 million
What they do: The Obama veterans at Omnicom’s GMMB create most Biden ads.
Progressive PR and marketing firm GMMB has been the primary driver of Joe Biden’s messaging efforts since June. The firm handled communications strategy for Senator Kamala Harris before she ended her presidential campaign in December and later joined the ticket.
GMMB worked on the campaigns of top Democratic Party candidates such as John Kerry and Barack Obama after becoming ad holding company giant Omnicom’s first political acquisition in 2000.
While filings list GMMB’s work as “digital advertising,” a person close to the matter said that the agency creates most of Biden’s TV ads as well as handling digital ad planning and buying work. This means the same people behind many of Obama’s ads are working together on Biden’s behalf.
GMMB did not respond to a request for comment.
Truxton Creative and Converging Media Biden at Delaware’s Biden Bethel AME Church on June 1.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
Total spend: $8.69 million
What they do: Two agencies Biden hired to lead his outreach with Black voters.
In early August, the Biden campaign told the National Newspaper Publishers Association that it would spend at least $280 million on ads through election day, with a special focus on targeting Black voters through Black-owned media outlets such as cable channel TV One and Atlanta-area radio stations.
The campaign had already hired a Black-owned agency called Truxton Creative in June to make a series of ads called “Shop Talk” that aired nationally and in North Carolina, targeting voters in that swing state. The agency brought on media-buying firm Converging Media to handle ad sales to Black-owned publishers, according to reports.
From June to September, the campaign spent more than $750,000 with Truxton Creative and bought over $7.93 million in ads through Converging Media, according to FEC filings.
Truxton founder Terrance Green, who spent more than a decade at GMMB and helped create ad campaigns for Obama, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. No public contact information could be found for Converging Media.
Bully Pulpit Interactive An election judge in Minneapolis.
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Total spend: $115,800
What they do: A new agency helping educate people about voting during a pandemic for Biden’s campaign.
Biden brought on Bully Pulpit Interactive in August to create and buy ads addressing potential confusion over early voting and voting by mail during the pandemic.
A spokeswoman confirmed reports that the agency has been working with the campaign since August, when it was hired to run voter mobilization campaigns in certain key swing states.
Bully Pulpit previously made digital ads for other presidential candidates including Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren as well as groups such as the Bloomberg-backed gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety.
It’s also connected to Biden. Partner and public affairs lead Scott Mulhauser was his deputy chief of staff in the Obama administration.
So far, Bully Pulpit’s budget has been a fraction of Biden’s other agencies, but that may change as election day nears.
American Made Media Consultants A Trump rally in Winston-Salem, NC, on September 8.
Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Total spend: $201 million
What they do: President Trump’s in-house ad operation
President Trump’s ad-buying operation is opaque due to the establishment in 2018 of a single massive organization to handle all related expenses.
According to FEC filings, American Made Media Consultants has charged the Trump campaign with $201 million for work ranging from research, video production, and software, though its primary service is digital ad buys.
The Trump campaign said it created AMMC to avoid third-party ad-buying agencies and save money on related commissions. Nonpartisan watchdog group Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC in July, claiming AMMC’s structure violated laws requiring campaigns to disclose all payments over $200 and obscured the names of parties who ultimately received this money.
Spokespeople have stated that AMMC fulfills all disclosure requirements. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
SCM Associates Utah Senator Mitt Romney.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Total spend: $2.68 million
What they do: A direct mail firm that worked for Mitt Romney is shoring up support for Trump in the campaign’s closing months.
Despite a focus on digital ads, candidates often fall back on tried and true mail campaigns.
Since May, Trump’s team has paid more than $2.68 million to SCM Associates of New Hampshire for sending targeted fundraising mailers on its behalf. SCM is one of the few such vendors appearing in recent FEC filings.
The firm, founded in 1991, has worked for dozens of Republican politicians including Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, and Josh Hawley. It also worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and successful 2016 Utah Senate run.
SCM Associates did not respond to a request for comment.
Parscale Strategy Parscale at a Trump rally on November 4, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Bryan Woolston/Getty Images
Total spend: $2.26 million
What they do: Brad Parscale’s firm worked on the campaign’s behalf as recently as August.
Parscale Strategy, launched by Trump’s now-former campaign manager Brad Parscale, has been working for his re-election since August of 2017, according to FEC filings.
That work includes online ad buys, video production, photography, and general consulting duties; the campaign paid Parscale Strategy as recently as August 11.
The firm’s day-to-day role on the campaign is less clear after Parscale was demoted in July. Business Insider reported that the campaign had launched an internal investigation into spending and contracts overseen by Parscale.
Earlier this week, Business Insider reported that the campaign nearly ran out of money at the end of September due, in large part, to overly optimistic fundraising estimates from Parscale.
Parscale reportedly stepped down entirely from the Trump campaign in late September. Parscale Strategy did not respond to a request for comment.
Jamestown Associates Trump with Alice Johnson, the woman who starred in his Super Bowl LIV ad.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images
Total spend: $1.63 million
What they do: The agency behind Trump’s best-known ads.
The Trump campaign may be best known for omnipresent Facebook and banner ads and, more famously, the president’s own secondhand use of Twitter memes. But one ad agency is responsible for much of its more traditional advertising.
Jamestown Associates is a DC-based video production and strategy firm that has been making ads for top Republicans and conservative groups since 1995; CEO Larry Weitzner served as Trump’s top ad-maker in 2016.
The agency’s recent work included a series of ads that ran during the World Series and the Super Bowl in 2019 and 2020. One starred Alice Johnson, a Black woman who thanked Trump for commuting her jail sentence for drug offenses.
The Trump campaign continues to pay Jamestown Associates for video production services, though the agency has not promoted its own Trump work for several months. Agency executives did not respond to a request for comment.
Harris Sikes Media An outdoor Trump campaign sign from 2016.
Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images
Total spend: unclear
What they do: Trump’s main media agency continues to buy ads on his behalf, but doesn’t appear in public filings.
Harris Sikes Media, which was incorporated one month before Trump declared his candidacy in 2015, appears to be the president’s primary ad-buying agency and one of the major recipients of the millions managed by American Made Media Consultants.
Previous reports stated that the agency, which received money for ad buys from Trump’s re-election campaign in early 2017, is a spinoff of National Media Research, Planning and Placement, a Virginia-based agency that handles research and ad buying for Republican candidates and conservative organizations. The two share executives, according to contracts published by The Trace that show Harris Sikes buying ads on Trump’s behalf in July 2020.
Harris Sikes Media has been described as “the Trump campaign’s ad agency” as recently as May, when WarnerMedia sent a cease-and-desist letter claiming the president used out-of-context CNN footage “to mislead the public.”
National Media Research, Planning and Placement did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Harris Sikes Media has no website or public contact information.
Bastion Balance Seoul, Korea.