Mike Bloomberg's campaign is looking to pay influencers
By Meghan Mistry
/ CBS News
It appears Michael Bloomberg's campaign is looking to pay influencers.
A post on a website and app called Tribe shows his campaign is seeking to pay people for photo and video submissions that showcase their support for his presidential candidacy.
The "fixed fee" is $150 for approved submissions.
"Submit a video or image that tells us why Mike Bloomberg is the electable candidate who can rise above the fray, work across the aisle so ALL Americans can feel heard & respected," the call for submissions reads.
"For image submissions, please overlay text about why you support Mike Bloomberg," it says.
Tribe connects brands and agencies with micro-influencers – "everyday people with a decent following," according to Tribe – who create content that can be used for advertising. Brands and agencies then either post the content on their own channels, or have the micro-influencers post the content they approve to their own audiences.
The Bloomberg posting indicates the campaign will use the content created by micro-influencers for its own channels, rather than have the influencers post the content on their own accounts. (Typically, brands that want influencers to post approved content themselves note which platforms and hashtags they want influencers to use. The Bloomberg post calling for submissions does not do that.)
Steve McMahon, CEO and founder of Purple Strategies, a company focused on business strategy, called it "good political organizing."
"Whether they post it or not, they're asking [the influencers] to create it, so it's presumably heartfelt, authentic and real coming from a person who likes Mike Bloomberg," McMahon said. "The fact that they provide a bulletin board does not make it Bloomberg-created content, it's just content created by individual X posted someplace by the Bloomberg campaign."
CBS News reached out to Tribe for comment but did not receive a response.
The Bloomberg campaign declined CBS News' request for comment.
Since launching his 2020 campaign, Bloomberg has employed a massive media strategy. He has spent $325 million on ads alone, dwarfing ad spending by other campaigns.
Federal filings show that in the last quarter of 2019, the Bloomberg campaign spent more than $132 million on television ads and almost $8.2 million on digital ads. According to Kantar Campaign Media Analysis Group, Former Vice President Joseph Biden, by comparison, has only spent $3.7 million on all ads — just 1/36th of what Bloomberg spent in the last quarter.
The spending is buoyed by Bloomberg's personal wealth, which has enabled his campaign to become the costliest in U.S. history.
"I think it's pretty clever. They're trying to build a grassroots army that most campaigns build through fundraising, but they're not taking private contributions," McMahon said about Bloomberg's extensive advertising.
After reporting issues delayed the initial results from the Iowa caucuses, the Bloomberg camp doubled its TV ad spending. The move is part of Bloomberg's strategy to skip the first four states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – and focus on Super Tuesday states, in the hopes a moderate Democrat such as Joe Biden sees less favorable results early on.
But Lynn Vavreck, a professor of American politics and public policy at UCLA, questions whether advertising can substitute for campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire.
"I think the answer is probably going to be no," Vavreck said.
Vavreck, who has written several books on political messaging and presidential campaigns, said Bloomberg's media strategy, while focused and vast, won't garner the same momentum or ratings bump as wins in early states.
"Advertising has effects, they're just small and they go away fast," Vavreck said. "I'm not saying holding a rally has a bigger effect, it doesn't, but what's happening for Sanders and Buttigieg right now is they get a boost from being winners and that boost gets them money and that money allows them to go out and do more things and to raise more money. "
Vavreck notes it is unclear why the Bloomberg campaign is looking to use micro-influencers through Tribe.
"Does it matter that these people are influencers, or are they just an employee pool?" Vavreck told CBS News. "Is he treating the pool of people for him transactionally, for the $150? He could just go hold a rally and bring a video crew and accomplish the same thing."
The campaign's effort to find influencers through Tribe appears to be "invite only," meaning users can only find information about the campaign's call for content submissions by being notified. It is unclear how the campaign is choosing who to "invite," or how many people have been invited.
–Tim Perry contributed to this report
First published on February 7, 2020 / 3:57 PM
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