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.
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?
1. They’re “lowkey genius” because you don’t realize they’re an ad.
Mike Bloomberg has paid meme pages for sponsored posts
The creative is super meta (screenshots of him DM’ing them) – but is lowkey genius as you have no idea whether they’re actually sponsored or not
The coordination of posting across several pages is the giveaway
2020 is wild pic.twitter.com/tRFKFH4PAQ
— Catty (@CathalUK) February 13, 2020
2. They are super coordinated:
the mike bloomberg meme drone strike was an absolute next level slam dunk in that it made me think he was shameless and borderline psychotic and not just racist like usual well done bro
— L.A.S. (@SartoriallyInc) February 13, 2020
Bloomberg's meme success shouldn't surprise.
I've visited friends at the digital marketing arm of his Broadway HQ and I've seldom seen an office with that many talented tech and marketing operatives under one roof.
It's a marketing machine that was seemingly built overnight.
— Web Smith (@web) February 13, 2020
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.”
Finding out the Fyre Festival people are part of a new company being paid to do sponsored memes for Mike Bloomberg was truly the shovel hitting rock bottom https://t.co/fqALkMSc64
— Klaudia Amenábar (@kaludiasays) February 13, 2020
2. Living in a dystopia.
The fact that my favorite meme accounts are suddenly getting paid/sponsored by Bloomberg to run ads is the most dystopian shit I’ve seen in a while I’m losing my absolute shit
— noah 🤠 (@noaaconstrictor) February 13, 2020
Now that meme accounts are stanning Bloomberg, I truly feel like we are living in the future Black Mirror promised us.
— nikki👩🎤 (@nikkikoppers) February 13, 2020
there’s something so dystopian about bloomberg trying to recover from a video of him being incredibly racist by approaching countless large meme accounts and asking them to post a meme to make him look like “the cool candidate”
— em! (@dayglowraven) February 13, 2020
3. Villainous, dark chill. Honestly these tweets are funnier than the memes?!
Mike Bloomberg’s campaign paying for memes is the most “post-irony villain” move I can think of in the age of internet virality.
— #1 Internet Dad (@tankbearclaw) February 13, 2020
the words “bloomberg memes” sends a dark chill down my spine
— oatmeal influencer (@acechhh) February 13, 2020
4. The meme accounts are also just as bad.
Bloomberg is an absolute scumbag and these huge meme accounts were paid tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to shill for him. Nevermind that they became popular stealing other people’s content.
— adam ellis (@moby_dickhead) February 13, 2020
5. Welcome 2 late capitalism, folks!
tired: 'parasite' is a pitch perfect indictment of late capitalism
wired: mike bloomberg paying joke-stealing fake-follower buying "influencer" accounts to post insanely shitty memes about him is a pitch perfect indictment of late capitalism
— Michael Tae Sweeney (@mtsw) February 13, 2020
Bloomberg paying mother fuckers to make memes of him while I’m over here making fun of his ass all day FOR FREE. I hate capitalism 🥺
— Johnny Joe (@Aphex__Twink) February 13, 2020
And now it’s backfiring, as there are memes being made of the memes.
Anyhoo. We’ll see if this works?
Image of Michael Bloomberg by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Hudson River Park; design by Grace Yagel