- Mike Bloomberg launched an Instagram meme campaign with some of the top meme accounts on the platform, through a new Meme 2020 company led by the chief executive of Jerry Media.
- As top meme pages with a combined reach of more than 60 million post memes with the format of faux DMs with Bloomberg, smaller meme pages, personal accounts, and brands have made copycats.
- These copycat Bloomberg memes still generate free exposure for the billionaire candidate – and many of them are attempts to look like the real deal – but a lot of them are jokes, and some are anti-Bloomberg.
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If you scroll through the “#sponsored” tag on Instagram, you’ll see a lot of DMs from Mike Bloomberg.
The billionaire Democratic presidential candidate has strategically been appealing to micro-influencers, and the New York Times first reported that the Bloomberg campaign is working with Meme 2020, a new company led by the chief executive of Jerry Media, an Instagram meme powerhouse company founded by Elliot Tebele of “@f—jerry.”
Around 20 popular Instagram meme pages with a combined following of more than 60 million have since posted advertisements for Bloomberg’s campaign. Each sponsored post appears to be a DM conversation between the candidate himself and the meme account in question, with Bloomberg’s messages petitioning the account to make him go viral with a funny meme.
On the “@f—jerry” account, which has nearly 15 million followers, the faux DM conversation goes like this:
“Hello Jerry. My granddaughter showed me this account. Your memes are very humorous,” Bloomberg’s official account says. “Can you post a meme that lets everyone know I’m the cool candidate?”
“What did you have in mind,” the Jerry Media flagship account replies. Bloomberg then sends a picture of himself in shorts and vest with the caption “When you’re the cool candidate.”
“Ooof that will cost like a billion dollars,” says “@f—jerry.”
“What’s your Venmo?” Bloomberg asks. The meme’s caption says “He does look pretty cool (and yes this is really #sponsored by @mikebloomberg). The parody conversation leans into Bloomberg’s ultra-wealthy status and the culture of meme-ing online. The post has more than 400,000 likes.
Most of the comments express a combination of shock that a real presidential candidate would do a sponsored post of this nature, while some commentators like Emily Ratajkowski – an outspoken Bernie Sanders supporter – were less than impressed. She commented, “This is not a good look for you.”
But the meme account tactic is working for the candidate in more ways than one. The official sponsorships have a massive reach of their own, and largely to a younger demographic than Bloomberg has had success with.
What’s more, other Instagram accounts – some for brands, some for individuals, and some for other meme accounts that didn’t get the offer – are copying the meme format. In some cases, it’s not unlike the phenomenon of Instagrammers pretending to be sponsored for the illusion of credibility.
The meme copying and unofficial iterations were almost certainly intentional – in many cases, it’s just free exposure – and the initial format is easily customizable (and easy enough to imitate with Photoshop or fake Instagram DM generators that are just a click away). It’s the perfect recipe for meme success.
The Bloomberg DM meme has taken on a life of its own, and unofficial sponsored posts still benefit the candidate – for free
Over the past few days, dozens of copycat Bloomberg DM memes have appeared on Instagram, created by accounts that either openly admit they’re just copying the trend or are fully pretending to be sponsored by the candidate.
Many of the official memes include the Instagram feature that shows when a post is sponsored, with a banner at the top that says “Paid partnership with mikebloomberg.” But not every officially sponsored post does, including the “@f—jerry” post, which just uses the caption that says it’s “really” sponsored by Bloomberg.
A lot of the copycat posts use the same “yes this is really #sponsored by @mikebloomberg” text, either as an ironic joke or an imitation tactic. Others openly say it’s just a parody (some say “no, this is not really #sponsored by @mikebloomberg”). And others are even murkier, just saying “#sponsored.”
If you have an eye for it, it’s easy enough to distinguish between the real ones and the fakers, thanks to sloppy photo manipulation, easily identifiable DM generator markings, or just accounts with very small followings pretending they’re big enough to get sponsored. But a casual scroller may not be able to tell the difference.
Many copycats are clearly using the meme format for self-promotion or to get in on a viral joke – which is exactly how memes normally function, making it a feature, not a bug, of the Meme 2020/Bloomberg campaign.
There’s also been backlash to the Bloomberg campaign, but the negative attention still gets people talking about the candidate, especially among younger voters who are more likely to be following people like “@thefatjewish.”
That well-known meme account, which has 11 million followers, replied to one of the Bloomberg posts in a comment and signaled his displeasure with Meme 2020, which he says approached him.
—Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) February 13, 2020
“I grew up in New York City so I can tell you firsthand, Bloomberg is a colossal s—bag,” he wrote. “I’d encourage any meme account owner to take schmoney from basically any brand (and use it to buy sick s— like jetskis and pure bred corgis) because brands are trash and deserve to have their money taken, but this dystopian black mirror simulation is too much for me i now need to be shot into the f—ing sun k bye [sic].”
Negative-slanted Bloomberg meme copies follow a similar format to the official ones, but highlight the candidate’s controversies. One, in response to Bloomberg’s faux proposition, says, “Dope, can I mention how you said that blacks commit 95% of murders in NYC? that could be some comedy gold.”
That may have the opposite effect of the conversation Bloomberg’s campaign was hoping to generate with memes, but the positive-slanted ones from the major accounts they actually partnered with still dwarf the naysayers.