Former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg is now paying Instagram influencers with thousands of followers — including the social media agency that promoted the epically disasterous FYRE Festival — to promote his presidential campaign.
Buzzfeed News reports “a bunch of huge Instagram meme accounts, including @FuckJerry and @Tank.Sinatra, posted sponcon Wednesday night for Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg,” just hours after news broke that Bloomberg had been seeking out Instagram accounts willing to take political ads — a somewhat odd part of the multi-million dollar digital advertising strategy Bloomberg’s team is rolling out to promote the Democratic presidential candidate ahead of all-important primaries in South Carolina and Nevada.
“The memes, written in the form of fake DMs between Bloomberg and the accounts,” Buzzfeed says, “playfully roast the billionaire candidate whose campaign leans heavily on online advertising, and who has come under scrutiny for his record of over-policing black and Latino men when he was New York City mayor.”
The “fake DMs” show Bloomberg contacting the Instagram influencer accounts, asking them to please help him improve his image among young voters — a demographic that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has all but locked up.
“Hello, Jerry,” the DM to Jerry Media, the group behind the @FuckJerry account. “My granddaughter showed me this account. Your memes are very humorous. Can you post a meme that lets everyone know I’m the cool candidate?”
Each paid account then “responds,” at which point “Bloomberg” includes a “self-made meme,” usually of either himself or Sanders, depending on how desperate the account is to pass the joke.
Bloomberg’s digital ad campaign targeted mostly accounts with more than a million followers, some of whom are part of a meme “collective” called Meme 2020, that acts as an advertising network, per Buzzfeed. “They are @MyTherapistSays, @WhitePeopleHumor, @TheFunnyIntrovert, @KaleSalad, @Sonny5ideUp, @Tank.Sinatra, @ShitheadSteve, @adam.the.creator, @moistbudda, @MrsDowJones, @TrashCanPaul, @cohmedy, @NeatDad, @FourTwenty, @GolfersDoingThings, @DrGrayFang, @MiddleClassFancy, and @DoYouEvenLift,” — all Instagram and Twitter staples.
Other high-profile influencers inked deals with Bloomberg’s advertising team individually.
Most notable among Bloomberg’s targeted accounts, though, is Jerry Media, the infamous digital agency that “headlined” the social media strategy for the FYRE Festival — a bizarre effort to create an “exclusive” music festival on a remote island in the Bahamas that ended with thousands of stranded festival-goers forced to fend for themselves, “Lord of the Flies” style, after organizers failed to bring even the most basic aspects of a music festival together ahead of the scheduled event. The Daily Beast reports that some individuals affiliated with the FYRE Festival have pointed fingers at Jerry Media for being “complicit in the scam.”
Jerry Media is also behind the “Meme 2020” group, and charges tens of thousands of dollars for access to its Instagram audience.
Bloomberg’s campaign, at least, is proud of their efforts.
“Mike Bloomberg 2020 has teamed up with social creators to collaborate with the campaign, including the meme world,” a spokesperson told CNBC. “While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we’re betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with President Trump’s powerful digital operation.”