Donald Trump 2020 Campaign Buys Prime YouTube Ad Space for Election Day

The re-election campaign of president Donald Trump has reportedly purchased prominent ad space on the YouTube homepage at a key time during the 2020 election.

Masthead ads—placed at the top of the front page—will be shown to the platform's billions of users in the days leading up to the November 3 vote, Bloomberg reported. Financial details of the deal remain unknown, but the publication said the ads are expected to run nationwide.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, has more than two billion users and claims to reach more U.S. citizens in the 18-35 demographic than any TV network.

Masthead advertising typically lasts for a day, and was previously seized by President Barack Obama's campaign in 2012 and Hillary Clinton during her failed battle for the White House back in 2016.

In June last year, NPR reported the Trump campaign had purchased the prime masthead space to be shown around the time of the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami, and noted the spot could have cost up to $1 million for the time that it was visible to the video platform's viewers.

Last April, Trump's 2020 manager Brad Parscale said in an interview with "America This Week" that fresh ad campaign spending could top $1 billion, with about half of that on digital. YouTube masthead ads shun a targeted approach in favor of a wider public splash.

Google and the Trump campaign have been contacted for comment. A Google spokesperson told Bloomberg such political ads are common for the website.

"In the past, campaigns, PACs, and other political groups have run various types of ads leading up to Election Day," the spokesperson said. "All advertisers follow the same process and are welcome to purchase the masthead space as long as their ads comply with our policies."

Digital advertising—and the money used to fund it—will no doubt play a significant role in the strategies of all leading candidates. Statistics published by Google indicate Trump's efforts are currently only overshadowed by the lavish spending of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who has used the reach of internet influencers to spread memes about his campaign.

Fresh from a poor debate performance this week, it surfaced via The Wall Street Journal that Bloomberg will pay people to praise him to their social media followers and phone contacts.

Google updated its advertising policy in November last year, limiting election audience targeting to a selection of broad categories: age, gender, and general location.

It said in a blog post: "Political advertisers can, of course, continue to do contextual targeting, such as serving ads to people reading or watching a story about, say, the economy. This will align our approach to election ads with long-established practices in media such as TV, radio, and print, and result in election ads being more widely seen and available for public discussion."

The changes came as political ads, powerful in the right hands because they allow talking points to be targeted at specific demographics, became a focus of debate in the U.S., with Facebook doubling down on the stance that such messaging wouldn't be subject to fact checking.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsy seized the moment by choosing to block paid political advertising from his platform—even if that hasn't stopped politicians from using their accounts to share their views (and edited videos). Broadly, Facebook spun its policy as a pro-transparency move.

"We don't think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies," said Rob Leathern, the social network's director of product management, in a January blog.

"In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies. We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public."

Like Google's transparency report, Facebook offers an Ad Library tool that is able to track all advertising from the U.S. political candidates, including their spend, reach and funding.

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a Keep America Great rally on February 20, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo/Getty