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What’s the best way to reach Millennials and Gen Z? Michael Bloomberg would say memes. Along with Meme 2020, presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has launched a campaign full of sponsored ads on Instagram to draw in a new generation of voters.
The Impact of Ad Memes
No matter what social media platforms you use, you can’t escape memes. “Everyone follows meme pages,” says Stephen Johnson, the CEO of the influencer platform Flipmass. “It doesn’t matter what industry you pick — whether construction or finance — people communicate through memes on the internet.” Johnson, an expert who has worked on meme-advertising campaigns with various brands, knows the importance of memes and their popularity amongst young audiences. “When people communicate over the internet, there’s a new emerging style that audiences pay attention to,” says Johnson. “On the internet, there’s a different way to communicate and memes are part of that. Brands can be more effective in communicating over the web by using memes. It’s also important to make sure that brands feel good about the content.”
Popular for their unique humor and take on pop culture references, social media users repost and create new memes daily to boost their followings. Taking note of the impact of memes online, brands have been increasingly utilizing various meme formats in their ads and sponsored content. Memes have the power and ability to go viral and therefore increase brand exposure, which makes them extremely beneficial as a social media strategy.
Memes allow brands to connect with their audiences, especially young audiences, through a relatively cheap option that can bring high returns on investments. Going viral is also a huge incentive, as it greatly increases brand exposure while also driving traffic to a brand’s website and social media pages.
Some notable brands that have taken on meme marketing and have been successful at it are:
When Bird Box came out on Netflix, the movie was promoted on social media using a viral meme format. Due to the virality of the meme, the film was viewed by more than 45 million Netflix subscribers worldwide in its first week of release. At the time, Bird Box had the biggest first-week success of any movie made for the streaming service.
Michael Bloomberg Campaign Ads
Due to the popularity of memes, they have startled to trickle into politics. For the Michael Bloomberg campaign, he has begun to use meme ads at the core of his 2020 presidential campaign’s social media strategy to reach young voters. Doing Things Media, who own many popular meme pages, were contracted by Bloomberg to promote his message.
If you’re an Instagram user, then you know about meme pages. Pages like @kalesalad are known for reposting funny content from Twitter and TikTok on the Instagram platform to gain a large following. Meme pages with high follower counts, like @neatdad, @trashcanpaul, and @shitheadsteve are all in partnership with Doing Things Media and were thus contracted to post sponsored content for the Micheal Bloomberg campaign.
The campaign is also working with Meme 2020, a company formed by some influential meme accounts. Mick Purzycki, the lead strategist of the Meme 2020 project, is also the chief executive of Jerry Media, a media and marketing company that partners with notable meme accounts on Instagram. The Michael Bloomberg campaign, which began the week of February 10, has already promoted posts through accounts such as @GrapeJuiceBoys, @fuckjerry, and @tank.sinatra, which have a combined following of 19.9 million followers. Collectively, the ad campaign will reach an audience of over 60 million people. Here is a full list of all the pages participating in the campaign:
Each account that is part of the Michael Bloomberg campaign posts their memes in the format of fake direct messages from Bloomberg. George Resch, director of influencer marketing at Brandfire and founder of @tank.sinatra, has served as the Meme 2020’s liaison between the project and the meme community. Evan Reeves, creative director for Jerry Media, served as the head of creative to devise the “unconventional campaign” to build a “self-aware ironic character” around Bloomberg to make him appear more relatable.
To adhere to FTC guidelines, all of the ads feature disclosures despite their satirical origin. However, the response from online users is mixed amongst the success of the ads. “It’s the most successful ad that I’ve ever posted,” Resch told The New York Times. “I think a lot [of the success] came from people being confused whether or not it was real.” Influencers, like travel influencer Chris Burkard, have praised the campaign as being a great form of advertisement, while other meme account followers have approached the campaign with hesitation due to Bloomberg’s billionaire status.
In fact, many meme accounts have faced backlash for posting the ads and becoming “sellouts” for money. When reading through comments, many followers expressed their distaste for the ads and claimed to have unfollowed any and all meme pages that took part in the project. “This is a clear example of what wealth can get you – votes. Bloomberg’s a billionaire and is able to pull in endorsements like this,” commented one user. “This is not a good look for you,” commented model and Bernie Sanders supporter Emily Ratajkowski on @fuckjerry’s post. Like Ratajkowski, many users have taken to the comment section of these posts to advocate for other presidential candidates in rebellion to Michael Bloomberg campaign ads. Some users even took the “OK, boomer” meme and re-framed it as “OK, Bloomer” to comment on the ads and point out Bloomberg’s attempt at appealing to a young audience.
The Future of Meme Campaigns
After The Daily Beast reported that the Michael Bloomberg campaign was using ad memes and offering social media influencers $150 to create content in support of the campaign, users have started to question the future of presidential campaign messaging.
“We’re trying to be innovative with how we’re translating the campaign message on social, trying to do it how the internet actually works,” said a Bloomberg campaign aide to The New York Times. “Tweeting from @mikebloomberg is a very 2008 strategy. The way Trump’s campaign is run is extremely social first. We’re trying to break the mold in how the Democratic Party works with marketing, communication, advertising, and do it in a way that’s extremely internet and social native.”
Overall, the future of meme campaigns and how an audience responds to those campaigns boils down to money. Many social media users and young audiences are better appealed to through genuine connections rather than paid endorsements. For example, former candidate Andrew Yang appealed to many influential meme accounts and YouTubers, like Ethan Klein, through his policy. Bernie Sanders has secured endorsements from Joe Rogan and other popular influencers from just his policy, as well.
Many influencers have expressed an interest in the Michael Bloomberg ad campaign and creating sponsored posts for him, so the campaign has not completely turned off young voters. In fact, it makes them excited to think about the prospect of using their platform for the benefit of a presidential candidate. “We want to work with creators and we’ve never been shy about paying people for creative work,” said the Bloomberg aide. Going forward, to see how the campaign has helped or hindered Bloomberg, it will be imperative to keep an eye on the ongoing and upcoming primaries.
Check out these other brands who use ad memes:
Fenty Beauty #CYBERMONDAY, #CLAPBACK
Denny's Risk It for the Biscuit
Disney Channel Disney+ promotion
More Content from the Michael Bloomberg Campaign: