Mike Bloomberg launches paid meme campaign, prompting ridicule and criticism

One of the messages sent by Mike Bloomberg's official Instagram account to meme pages in sponsored adverts. (Screengrab)

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg launched a sponsored meme campaign on Instagram in his quest to become the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, gaining publicity but prompting ridicule and criticism of his financial influence online.

Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and one of America’s richest men, is entering the race to become the Democratic candidate to face US President Donald Trump in the November election. On Thursday, the 77-year-old’s campaign took a new turn when images appeared on Instagram pages with large followings showing Bloomberg requesting the ultimate new campaign tool – memes.

Popular Instagram accounts including pages which post fitness and food memes all posted images reportedly showing messages sent to them by Bloomberg’s official account, requesting that they make memes for him. All the images note that the post is “sponsored by @mikebloomberg,” signalling that they are paid content.

“Can you post an original meme to make me look cool for the upcoming primary?” was one of the messages Bloomberg’s official account sent to the GrapeJuiceBoys account, which has 2.7m followers.

Another image showed Bloomberg messaging Tank.Sinatra, an Instagram meme account with 2.3 million followers, with a variation of a meme featuring Bloomberg’s rival for Democratic nominee and current frontrunner Senator Bernie Sanders.

While the images appeared to mock Bloomberg and play on him being out-of-touch by requesting younger, “cooler” pages to make him memes, they are actually part of a sponsored deliberate publicity campaign coordinated by the campaign group Meme 2020, according to a report by the New York Times.

According to the report, Meme 2020 is a collective of meme pages including @adam.the.creator and @DoYouEvenLift. Altogether, the group has an audience of more than 60 million followers.

Some users posted their appreicaiton of the campaign, with twitter user “henno” writing “every decently-sized meme page on instagram just posted mike bloomberg ads. very funny and cool, you would have to admit.”

But others criticized Bloomberg for using his financial muscle to manipulate Instagram and win votes.

“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,” wrote Twitter user L.A.S, the former editor of Complex.

Bloomberg has a reported net worth of $61.8 billion, making him of America’s richest men and richer than US President Donald Trump. He has promised not to take any donations and instead run his campaign using his own immense wealth, beginning with $30 million worth of TV adverts. His centrist status and pro-Wall Street policies have put him at odds with progressive Democratic candidates Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both of whom have criticized the disproportionate influence of Wall Street and the top one percent of Americans.

The news service that bears Bloomberg’s name has also come under criticism over its position that it will not “investigate” him or any of his Democratic rivals and allegations that it has broken its policy to not promote Bloomberg as a candidate.

Bloomberg missed the first two Democratic primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, but is reportedly focusing his campaign on March 3, so-called “Super Tuesday,” when a number of key Democratic states endorse their candidate.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:01 - GMT 07:01
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