During the 2016 US Presidential election, the Donald Trump campaign was serving up to 150,000 Facebook ads every day. The idea was that if Twitter was how Trump spoke to the people, Facebook was how he was going to win them over.
Brad Parscale, who remains Donald Trump’s digital director, led this effort. And he says having an outspoken figure such as Trump to sell to US audiences made his job as a marketer a lot easier.
Speaking today (8 November) at Web Summit in Lisbon, he explained: “When Trump asked me to work with him, I knew I had a great piece of product that would resonate with millions of Americans. Any marketer will tell you it’s easier to sell an iPod than a Zune – you want to be able to work with someone that resonates with the people.”
Using Facebook and programmatic
Parscale said it was Facebook that helped Trump win the election as it allowed the campaign to quickly raise money and constantly interact with an engaged audience. “When Trump became the candidate we had no money and needed a grassroots campaign. Facebook allowed us to raise money in alarming numbers at a very fast rate – without that we wouldn’t have been able to compete with Hilary [Clinton].”
He also admitted the Trump campaign was supported by Facebook employees, but downplayed whether this was out of the ordinary: “Facebook employees were just helping us support their platform. If you’re prepared to spend $100m then that’s a lot of money and a lot of people show up at your office.
“Facebook would rather we spent that $100m with them rather than on Snapchat or Twitter. That’s all it was. I knew social media would win us the campaign so I utilised Facebook as a resource so they could teach all my staff as much as humanly possible.”
I love Trump tweeting! He talks directly to the people, who are sick and tired of politicians who refuse to engage.
Brad Parscale, Trump campaign
On a typical day, the Trump campaign would send out around 50,000 Facebook ads. However, Parscale said that would peak at up to 150,000 ads on particular days. For that, he said, programmatic advertising was of huge benefit.
“We had multiple programmatic buyers running on Facebook and they helped us see what was resonating with the people and the machine learning helped us get rid of a lot of under-performing ads,” he added. “The aim was to get everyone who saw the ad to donate at least a dollar even though many of the ads cost less than a dollar to run.”
One specific type of ad worked better than many of the others – political advertising that talked up how Trump would fix America’s roads and infrastructure. However, a year into his presidency and Trump has yet to come good on these promises.
Russia and looking ahead to 2020
When also pressed on Russian interference in the US Election and whether Parscale’s team – which at times retweeted messages from Russian political bots pretending to be Texan governors – colluded with the Russians, he hit back: “I don’t see how unknowingly retweeting one tweet proves I was manipulated? I wasn’t aware it was a Russian bot to begin with! I am fully supportive of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference.”
With Trump’s approval ratings currently at historic lows, Parscale was finally asked what the controversial Republican president would have to do to stand a chance of getting re-elected in 2020.
He confidently answered: “Number one: Trump should hire me again. Number two: keep tweeting, I love him tweeting! He talks directly to the people, who are sick and tired of politicians who refuse to engage.”