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Michael Bloomberg is paying influencers for his presidential campaign

One of the candidates of the Democratic Party has adopted a new strategy to reach young people

Michael Bloomberg is paying influencers for his presidential campaign One of the candidates of the Democratic Party has adopted a new strategy to reach young people

Who is Michael Bloomberg? Perhaps not enough is heard of it in Italy, but in America the billionaire is a powerful and controversial figure. In addition to owning a media and technology empire, the tycoon was also mayor of New York for twelve years, finding himself at the center of controversy: from accusations of sexism (he allegedly said once that if the computer terminals of hiscompany could perform oral sex, there would be no need to hire women in the company), to the practice of stop-and-frisk, that is the systematic search of possible suspects soon limited to only black individuals, up to the surveillance to which he submitted the entire Muslim community of New York with the help of the CIA after 9/11, both of which resulted in racial profiling. It's easy to see how the billionaire isn't particularly loved by African-American communities, ethnic minorities, and especially young Americans - the subjects that are most "resistant" to political propaganda techniques. That's why Bloomberg's election team has unearthed a new strategy for dialogue with the younger generation: memes.

Michael Bloomberg knows how to sell himself and also knows full well that, after the first term of the Trump administration, the more liberal segments of the population do not like the idea of a new multi-billionaire in power – a 78-year-old white man, certainly moved by strong political and economic interests and part of the 1% privileged who own 90% of the world's wealth. Precisely for this reason his strategy of electoral promotion can not be limited to traditional media and social media (according to the BBC the sponsorships of social content are in the order of a million dollars a day) but it must reach young people, go viral. The key to everything, strange as it may seem, is memes. The pages of memes that have received requests for paid content collectively have over sixty million followers. By contrast, the NBA All-Star Game is watched by seven million people, the Oscars by thirty-seven million and the final episode of Game of Thrones by nineteen million. Accounts like @GrapeJuiceBoys, @Tank.Sinatra and @fuckjerry organized a collective and synchronized "drop" on the night of February 12th, complete with hashtags for paid content, tags to Bloomberg's account and an army of influencers to fill the comments section to inflate engagement to maximum power.

While on the intellectual side must be acknowledged that Bloomberg's team is more media-savy and intelligent than their rivals, from the political side such a propaganda move has a dystopian streak. Paid content is in fact an efficient and now standardized promotional practice and each political party uses sponsorships on social media to self-promote. But when so many economic resources are concentrated in the hands of a single individual, richer than the President of the United States himself and any of his rivals, his ability to penetrate seemingly innocuous content such as memes verges manipulation. Beyond any possible political consideration, however, it's worth noting how memes have come to be "consumed" mainly by the younger demographics, becoming in fact a possible way of access to the political consciousness of the new generations. Viewed in this light, the campaign put in place by the Bloomberg team is unprecedented and will probably pave the way for a new way of presenting political content to young people.


Bernie Sanders, Bloomberg's rival in the Democratic primary, has also seen his fame expand thanks to the virality of online content. First was Balenciaga, who in 2017 created a logo similar to the graphics used by Sanders in the 2016 presidential campaign. More recently, American stars such as Ariana Grande, Donald Glover and Cardi B gave their endorsement to the candidate while a video in which Sanders says "Once again, I am asking for your financial support" has become a viral meme without a penny being spent by his electoral team. The result of this involuntary publicity has been to make Sanders's political base one of the "youngest" in the presidential race: a recent Pew Research Center poll shows that Sanders is more popular among Democratic voters under 30 than other candidates. In addition, its base is also one of the most ethnically diverse along with that of Joe Biden.

Success in politics is always a success in communication, beyond the values that are communicated. In a world increasingly focused on digital channels and new mass media, innovative communication strategies pay only if executed to perfection. The first step Bloomberg took to integrate election propaganda with the virality of digital content and influencer marketing, which in fact equates the political candidate with a product. As the blogger Alycia Chrosniak intelligently pointed out speaking to Reuters about why she refused to support Bloomberg: "It feels weird to put out an ad supporting a person versus a product", said the blogger, who is used to sponsoring restaurants and not politicians. The cognitive dissonance resulting from "selling" a political candidate as if it were a cosmetic it's understandable, but looking at the situation with a certain cynicism you have to admit that propaganda, in the good new world of social media, is nothing but selling outrageously, both whether it's a pair of sneakers or a politician. It's the rules of the game that change, not its ultimate ends.