Presidential candidates are running a ton of Facebook ads about animal cruelty, and there’s a strategic reason for that

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Facebook
  • Animal rights is a little-discussed issue on the 2020 campaign trail, but candidates’ Facebook ads tell a different story.
  • Donald Trump and Mike Bloomberg, two of the biggest spenders on Facebook ads, have run a slew of campaigns featuring heart-wrenching photos of battered animals.
  • The strategy reflects an effort to connect with the robust community of animal rights enthusiasts on Facebook.
  • Candidates’ ads usually call for people to sign a petition to end animal abuse, thereby handing over their name and contact information to the campaigns.
  • The slew of animal ads originating from the Trump campaign was first reported by The Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong as part of an analysis of the president’s Facebook presence published this week.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On the campaign trail, presidential candidates rarely spend time talking about ending animal cruelty. Their Facebook ads, however, tell a different story.

Many 2020 candidates are using Facebook ads about animal rights to capitalize on an issue that’s proven to drive engagement on the social network. President Donald Trump and former mayor Mike Bloomberg have run animal rights ads the most heavily, while other candidates have run ads featuring cute pictures of their own pets.

There’s a straightforward explanation for why candidates are embracing animal content on Facebook, even as they rarely address animal rights on the campaign trail: animal posts rule the internet.

Research suggests that the human brain is wired to respond with unique attentiveness to the sight of animals, and countless online brands have tapped into this appetite for animal content – The Dodo, an animal-centric media brand founded in 2014, drives over 2 billion video views per month on Facebook.

Here’s a breakdown of the 2020 presidential campaigns’ unorthodox – but strategic – fixation on animals online.


The 2020 candidate who most heavily promotes animal rights issues on Facebook is President Donald Trump.

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Facebook

Trump’s reelection campaign has run more ads about animal rights than any other campaign, running 450 different ads about ending cruelty to animals.

Most of Trump’s ads tout his decision in November to sign a bipartisan bill making acts of animal cruelty a federal crime. According to Facebook’s ad archive, the campaign has paid to circulate those ads more than 2,000 times.


Mike Bloomberg has run at least nine different Facebook ad campaigns promoting his “record on animal welfare,” featuring cute pictures of dogs and cats.

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Facebook

Bloomberg has bought more Facebook ads than any other politician or business this year, pouring more than $23.7 million into ads on the platform since the start of 2019, according to the ad archive.

Bloomberg has run nine different ad campaigns about animal rights in the past month alone. The ads feature wide-eyed puppies and kittens alongside a bold message: “MIKE SAVES ANIMALS.”


Senator Elizabeth Warren hasn’t touted her platform on animal rights in any Facebook ads, but she has run ads that feature her dog, Bailey.

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Facebook

Warren’s campaign has made Bailey a surrogate of sorts, sending him to Iowa to campaign for the Senator. It has also advertised Bailey merch on Facebook. The campaign has run over 100 Facebook ads featuring Bailey, according to the ad archive.


Other candidates haven’t paid for Facebook ads about animal rights, but have published organic posts on the subject.

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Facebook

Mayor Pete Buttigieg shared a story of adopting a dog, along with a call to “#ClearTheShelters.”


Both Trump and Bloomberg promote petitions on Facebook that call for an end to animal cruelty. When people sign the petitions, they hand over their name and contact information to the campaigns.

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Facebook

Circulating petitions is a common fundraising technique, drawing people to campaigns’ websites and acquiring the contact information of signees. According to The Guardian’s report, nearly 10% of Trump’s Facebook ads include a call to sign a petition.