The Industry

Michael Bloomberg Ads Are Dominating the Internet

Bloomberg has already spent millions of dollars on digital ads.
Bloomberg has already spent millions of dollars on digital ads. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to be hoping that his riches can help make up for his late entrance into the 2020 Democratic primaries. He made a splash with an initial television ad buy of more than $30 million, the largest expenditure that a presidential campaign has ever made in a single week, according to the New York Times. Ads touting his positions on health care and climate change, as well as his entrepreneurial and political successes, have been bombarding TV markets across the country. The former mayor plans to spend up to $1 billion of his own money over the course of the campaign.

While the scale of the spending is considerably smaller, Bloomberg’s campaign has also aggressively pushed online ads. (The campaign’s digital director is, notably, Gary Briggs—Facebook’s former chief marketing officer.) He spent more than $1 million on ads for Facebook and Instagram in the first week of the campaign, rivaling what many of his Democratic competitors have spent individually over the course of the entire race. These ads seem to be almost exclusively aimed at the states with primaries on Super Tuesday in March, a strategy he’s pursued with his television ads as well since he won’t be eligible to compete in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. He’s also spent nearly $500,000 on ads on Google and YouTube. And on Nov. 15, Bloomberg spent $100 million on digital ads attacking Donald Trump but not promoting his own candidacy. (He officially launched his campaign on Nov. 24.)

Bloomberg’s attempts to flood the zone have made his ads pop up in some odd corners of the internet, particularly on YouTube:

Ads linking to his campaign website have also been dominating Google searches. Users have been reporting that they often show up as the first result for incredibly broad hop-topic search terms like “impeachment,” “gun control,” and “climate crisis.” I’ve been able to independently verify that his ads do occasionally show up as the top result for Google searches of climate- and gun- related terms, such as “gun safety” and “global warming.” A search for “Bloomberg news” also surfaces a campaign ad.

Presidential candidates often place ads in the search results for their names; virtually every 2020 campaign has locked down this ad space with links to donate and visit their official websites. But Bloomberg seems to be going far beyond just his name. As Earther found, the Bloomberg campaign is targeting more than 1,000 terms related to climate change such as “is climate change a hoax” and “poverty and climate change,” which helps to explain why its ads have been able to dominate Google search. He’s even targeted the term “Elizabeth Warren climate plan,” in an apparent attempt to appeal to her supporters. It’s likely that the campaign is also casting a wide net for gun control– and impeachment-related searches. His candidacy is then not only a demonstration of how big money could potentially shake up a presidential race, but also of how digital ad spending can warp Google results.