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'Wall-to-wall campaign': Californians bombarded with Bloomberg ads


By Elizabeth Culliford

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Elizabeth Isabella, a homemaker in Burbank, California, was driving car pool when her 10-year-old son Lachlan started reciting YouTube ads by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.

"Mike will get it done," he said, repeating the slogan that played on his Fortnite and Minecraft gaming videos.

The billionaire candidate, a late entrant in the primary race, is pouring money into Super Tuesday states voting on March 3 and saturating them to a degree that political media strategists and ad-tracking firms said is unprecedented.

California is the single biggest prize of the presidential primary with more than 400 pledged delegates available.

Bloomberg, who has spent about half a billion dollars blanketing the country with ads, has shelled out about $50 million on cable, broadcast and radio ads in California, according to ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

"It was like he flipped a switch and his ads were everywhere," said Timothy Riley, a musician and Bernie Sanders supporter in Los Angeles. 

Campaigns can place TV ads in a state through buying commercials on local stations or targeting audience location on internet-enabled TVs and cable or satellite television services.

"Politics is a unique animal in that there's never seemingly been much concern paid to the frequency piece - in other words, 'Am I going to do any damage to the candidate or the brand by showing an ad every three ad spots?'" said Joel Cox, co-founder of connected TV ad tech firm Strategus.

In a Reuters/Ipsos national poll, conducted Feb. 19-25, 15% of registered Democrats and independents said they would vote for the media mogul, putting him in a tie for second place with former Vice President Joe Biden, but behind Sanders at 26%.

Support for Bloomberg slipped two percentage points after he faced intense scrutiny from other candidates last week in his first debate as a presidential candidate.

Bloomberg has argued that he has the best chance to win the general election because of his moderate positions and his willingness to spend freely from his personal fortune to beat Trump. He proposes a public health insurance option rather than "Medicare for All" and says he wants to raise taxes on the incomes of the rich rather taxing their assets. https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ELECTION-POLICIES/0100B5C33D8/index.html

The billionaire has built a digital operation called Hawkfish and hired staff from social media, advertising and ad tech companies to work on his online ad offensive.

The former New York mayor has far outspent his rivals on Facebook ads in the state, paying about $6.8 million in the last year compared to the next highest spender, California billionaire Tom Steyer at $3.3 million, according to Democratic digital firm Bully Pulpit Interactive.

In February, Bloomberg spent 7% of his Facebook ad dollars in Los Angeles, more than in any other metro area, according to data from social media analytics firm Pathmatics.

(See a graphic on the Bloomberg campaign's Facebook ad spending per state: https://tmsnrt.rs/2VuMZ5S)

"We're leaving no stone unturned," said David Chai, a northern California political director for Bloomberg, said in a phone interview.

But some were turned off by the heavy presence of the Bloomberg ads.

"It does put me off," said Sebastian Barba Ruan, a 31-year-old TV writer in L.A., who is undecided between Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The identical Bloomberg ads played several times while he was watching old "Ghost Adventures" episodes on the Travel Channel app of his Apple TV and has sometimes heard several Bloomberg ads an hour on the radio while driving.

Bloomberg is also hiring hundreds of paid digital organizers in the state to text and send social media content to their own networks.

"It's a wall-to-wall campaign," said Eric Jaye, founder of San Francisco-based consulting firm Storefront Political Media. He, his wife and daughter all received targeted print mailers from the Bloomberg campaign this week.

"His challenge is not, do people know who he is and what his message is? It's if people agree with it," said Jaye.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Sheila Dang and Chris Kahn in New York; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Alistair Bell)

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