President Donald Trump’s huge 2020 war chest has allowed his campaign to spend millions of dollars on Facebook to test how different messages sit with voters.
It’s done something similar with his kids.
Members of the first family have appeared in thousands of Facebook ads since the platform launched its ad archive in May 2018. And his three oldest children appear to be basically interchangeable in many of them.
In hundreds of ads, the campaign has posted the same block of text above revolving images of Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr.
“We’ve been WINNING at an unprecedented rate,” one version reads. “You showed them what American Greatness looks like, and we’re just getting started.”
The three oldest first children were a fixture on the 2016 campaign trail, and they’ve since built out huge media footprints that reflect their respective passion projects.
Ivanka Trump pushes soft-focus content about her work on women’s empowerment to 6.2 million Facebook followers, while Eric Trump and Don Jr. split their time owning the libs across Fox News, Twitter, and Instagram.
While those content mills help the president push his message and bash his critics, the campaign uses Facebook ads largely to entice users to sign up to its massive email list and potentially donate.
The Trump campaign has spent more than $10.2 million on Facebook so far this year, according to the digital strategy firm Bully Pulpit Interactive, nearly as much as the top three Democratic advertisers combined.
It has occasionally rotated Lara Trump and spokeswomen Katrina Pierson and Kayleigh McEnany into that kids table as well, including for a recent ad bashing “Fake News.” (Tiffany Trump is nowhere to be found.)
Trump’s team, the Democratic digital group Acronym noted in its newsletter, is “testing which surrogates resonate better for fundraising and engagement with both the same and different audiences.”
The Trump campaign didn’t respond to VICE News’ request on which family member’s name or likeness tended to be the most successful for Facebook ads. But clever advertisers stick with what works, and here's what appears to be working for Team Trump:
Melania Trump: 6,700 ads
The first lady appears most often in the campaign’s Facebook ads, largely in apolitical content that tends to target women. That’s included a slew of Valentine’s Day ads bearing a grinning first couple in a heart-shaped cutout and still more asking users to sign “birthday cards” for her and the president.
“If you can figure out how to have more than one birthday in a year, you’d be golden,” Marne Pike, CEO of progressive strategy firm Veracity Media, told VICE News. “Signing a birthday card is something that doesn’t seem like taking a political stance. It’s another way to bring people into the fold who wouldn’t otherwise be engaged.”
Lara Trump: 1,700 ads
The first daughter-in-law is one of the campaign’s key public-facing surrogates, appearing in organic Facebook video and hosting its official podcast. She’s also its second-favorite ad subject.
“See, unlike Democrats, we don’t have the fake news media or Hollywood Democrats supporting our campaign,” Trump said in ads that ran last week. “That’s why President Trump is asking you to step up. Even if you can only afford to contribute just $45 today, your contribution goes a long way toward ensuring another Trump victory in 2020.
Eric Trump (241), Donald Trump Jr. (187), and Ivanka Trump (84)
The first children may not be prime subjects of the campaign’s Facebook strategy, but they more than make up for it with huge social media presences:
- Ivanka Trump: 6.2 million Facebook likes; 7 million Twitter followers; 5.1 million Instagram followers
- Donald Trump Jr.: 1.7 million Facebook likes; 3.8 million Twitter followers; 1.9 million Instagram followers
- Eric Trump: 616,000 Facebook likes; 2.7 million Twitter followers; 1 million Instagram followers
Cover: Donald Trump Jr. speaks at the Western Conservative Summit at the Colorado Convention Center July 12, 2019. (Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)