Ride or die.
Support The Bulwark.
  Join Now
The Bulwark Presents
The Triad by JVL

The Trump Digital Operation Isn’t Trying to Win the Election

It's using brute-force marketing to grow the installed user base for what comes next.
July 7, 2020
Featured Image
Artist rendering of a fractal explosion, or what the Death Star might look like blowing up. (Shutterstock)

1. About that Death Star . . .

Over the weekend the vaunted Trump digital operation rolled out a pretty amazing ad on The Facebook:

You may recognize that statue. It’s called “Christ the Redeemer.” It’s the most famous statue in Rio de Janeiro. Might be one of the 10 or 20 most famous statues in the world.

So when Trump’s digital operation promises “We Will Protect This” under a picture of “Christ the Redeemer,” either it means that the campaign thinks its supporters are idiots, or the campaign is so incompetent that they’re making the president look like an idiot.

Except that there’s a third possibility. Let me share two other Trump Digital ads which I saw over the last few days.

Here’s an email that went out from the campaign on July 6 hawking a Trump 2020 flag:

So the Trump campaign only has a limited supply of these flags. The flags are going like hotcakes. Patriots are lined up around the block to get them.

. . . And the campaign is emailing supporters offering them at a discounted price.

I mean, if you took this sort of thing seriously, you’d think that these people were idiots. If you have a hot commodity you sell it for more money, not less. Otherwise Trump Patriots would be snapping these flags up at $27 a pop and flipping them on eBay for some sweet arbitrage.

But of course, a come-on like this isn’t meant to be taken seriously. At least not by anyone with an IQ over 100.

Which brings us to the last ad I’m going to share with you:

You tell me: Does this look like a program designed to activate and persuade voters? Or does it look like a low-rent marketing scam?

2. What’s the Endgame Here?

I know what you really want to know. What does the Official Member Certificate look like?

If you look close, you’ll see that even though this email was being sent out in July, the Official Member Certificate is still using the abandoned Keep America Great campaign slogan.


To a certain extent I’m goofing on Trump and Brad Parscale. A presidential campaign is a big operation. No one is really keeping track of every digital ad that goes out the door. And to a certain extent, these things are probably the campaign equivalent of those creepy YouTube kids videos that are created mostly by bots and watched mostly by bots—where algorithms are A-B testing and tweaking to infinity.

So just because these ads are so sloppy that they look like they came out of a fly-by-night Macedonian click-farm doesn’t mean that the president of the United States is running the presidential campaign version of Trump University.

Unless it does I’m Ron Burgundy?