Mike Bloomberg’s Meme Campaign, Explained

Why DMs from the presidential candidate are suddenly all over your Instagram feed.

Do you follow meme accounts on Instagram? If yes, you may have noticed a new form of content: DMs from 2020 presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg. On the night of February 12, nearly every major meme account on Instagram (with the exception of @thefatjewish) posted a sponsored meme from Bloomberg.

They took the form of DMs from @mikebloomberg to the meme account, clearly staged, looking something like this:

Why is this happening? Are they funny? What does the internet think? Let’s dive in, people.

Why memes?

In the 2020 election, we are going to see a wave of new types of advertising. This includes sponsored posts on Instagram. The Daily Beast reported last week — ahead of the memes — that Bloomberg’s campaign was paying influencers for sponsored posts. This sponcon — sponsored content — is common on Instagram (it’s how influencers make money, typically), but it’s a first to see a political campaign wield this tool.

“Mike Bloomberg 2020 has teamed up with social creators to collaborate with the campaign, including the meme world,” Sabrina Singh, a senior national spokeswoman for the Bloomberg campaign, said in a statement to the New York Times. “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.”

On Instagram, any sponsored post has to be disclosed, either with an #ad or #sponsored hashtag. All of the Bloomberg memes say either “(paid for by @mikebloomberg)” or “(#sponsored by mike bloomberg),” which are so straightforward that many people initially thought it was a joke.

What do the memes look like?

They all follow the same format: a DM from Mike Bloomberg’s IG. They all play on popular perceptions of Bloomberg: über-wealthy, old, out of touch. They create a parody version of Bloomberg that is also Bloomberg-approved:

Once people realized what was going on, many started calling the accounts “sell outs.” Bloomberg’s campaign definitely paid a ton for these ads (reportedly thousands of dollars), but his campaign is also a literal “waterfall of cash.”

Who is really behind the memes?

Taylor Lorenz, a reporter for the New York Times, explained they were conceived of by Meme 2020, a new company. The lead strategist? A guy named Mick Purzycki, who is the CEO of Jerry Media. Jerry Media, you may remember, was involved in the Fyre Festival controversy. (Elliot Tebele, the founder of FuckJerry, is not involved in Meme 2020.) They were also the target of the #FuckFuckJerry campaign, started by Megh Wright, that called out how the meme account stole jokes and didn’t properly give credit.

Are people a fan of these sponsored memes? 

Some are!

1. They’re “lowkey genius” because you don’t realize they’re an ad.

2. They are super coordinated:

 

What about the criticism?

Definitely more negative feelings than positive ones. Josh Ostrovsky, the man behind @thefatjewish (subject of his own controversy over stealing jokes) explained why he didn’t participate in this sponsored deal in a comment on Instagram:

“They asked me to do it, I said no. I grew up in New York City so I can tell you firsthand, Bloomberg is a colossal shitbag. From the subjugation of minorities through stop and frisk policies to his hardline anti-marijuana stance, dude is a total hoe. I’d encourage any meme account owner to take schmoney from basically any brand (and use it to buy sick shit like jetskis and pure bred corgis) because brands are trash and deserve to have their money taken, but this dystopian black mirror simulation is too much for me i now need to be shot into the fucking sun k bye.”

Many others agreed:

1. “Shovel hitting rock bottom.”

2. Living in a dystopia.

3. Villainous, dark chill. Honestly these tweets are funnier than the memes?!

4. The meme accounts are also just as bad.

5. Welcome 2 late capitalism, folks!

And now it’s backfiring, as there are memes being made of the memes.

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My entire feed.

A post shared by McJesse (@larenmcjesse) on

Anyhoo. We’ll see if this works?

Image of Michael Bloomberg by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Hudson River Park; design by Grace Yagel

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