Billionaire and former tech firm Mike Bloomberg, Hawkfish, is struggling to rally customers six months before this fall’s election.
Some of the organizations that have had talks with Hawkfish are trying to determine how the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated the US economy, will weigh on their budgets. Still others decide how the relatively new company could help them in such a short time, since most groups already have in-house digital aids or contracts with similar suppliers.
The coronavirus has forced campaigns to leave the track and conduct their operations through virtual awareness. Outside entities, which often run door knocking campaigns in addition to their often extensive digital campaigns, place more emphasis on web efforts.
A Hawkfish representative, who asked not to be named in this story, said they were still aiming to use their resources to help overtake President Donald Trump and the Republicans in November.
“Hawkfish was created to help give Democrats the digital edge they need to beat Donald Trump and the Republicans in 2020 and beyond,” said a Hawkfish spokesperson. “We are committed to working with candidates, allies and democratic causes to reach the right voters with the right messages in the right places. From climate change to gun safety, voter access, women’s rights, education, health care and more, we’re focused on the issues that matter most to the Democratic Party. ”
This representative declined to comment on current or future customers.
Voto Latino, a non-profit organization that has a strong focus on digital engagement to encourage the participation of young Latino voters, recently had virtual interviews with Hawkfish. The parties are discussing a short-term five-digit test investment that would allow Hawkfish to fight for a chance to work with them for a longer period of time.
Hawkfish, created in 2019, has become the leading digital advertising agency for Bloomberg’s presidential candidacy. He designed ads primarily targeting Trump and received $ 60 million from Bloomberg’s fully self-funded campaign. Bloomberg, which has a net worth of nearly $ 58 billion, has finished spending just over $ 1 billion on its campaign. He ended up winning 55 delegates, including a victory in American Samoa caucuses on Super Tuesday. The former mayor of New York abandoned the race in March and has since endorsed former vice president Joe Biden.
Biden’s campaign earlier this week has yet to officially decide to hire Hawkfish, according to people familiar with the matter, who have refused to be named as these decisions are made in private. The Biden campaign is on a hiring wave that involves recruiting digital advisers who have worked for the candidate’s previous main opponents. Biden’s campaign is still in the process of determining whether to hire Hawkfish or at least two other digital providers fighting over a general election contract.
The Association of Democratic Governors, a group dedicated to helping Democrats win their governor races, has decided it will have no immediate plans to sign Hawkfish, a person with first-hand knowledge of the matter told CNBC . Hawkfish officials introduced the DGA earlier this year as Bloomberg ran for president, the person said. Rather, the DGA is monitoring its own budget during the pandemic, said the person. The group will also continue, at least for now, to focus its digital work through an internal team as they have done since 2019, added this person.
Bluegrass Values, an independent organization that was supported by the DGA during the 2019 governors’ race in Kentucky, paid Hawkfish just over $ 165,000 for their services, according to data collected by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Although it is unclear what the tech firm did for Bluegrass, the group designed ads support Andy Beshear’s successful race for the post of state governor.
When We All Vote, a not-for-profit voter organization founded by former first lady Michelle Obama, made no decision to hire Hawkfish or any other potential new supplier, according to another person with knowledge direct question. the Intercept had previously reported that the group was presented by the Bloomberg company and that they had previously worked for the group led by Obama during a legislative race in the state of Virginia. This person told CNBC that he had not had follow-up discussions with Hawkfish since at least March.
The When We All Vote co-chairs include celebrities Tom Hanks, Selena Gomez, Lin Manuel Miranda and Chris Paul.
A spokesman for the DGA declined to comment. A When We All voting representative did not return a request for comment.
Hawkfish recently presented its services to Voto Latino, a 501 (c) (4) nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the participation of young Latino voters in the 2020 elections, the group’s founder told CNBC . Bloomberg donated $ 500,000 to Voto Latino two months ago.
Maria Teresa Kumar, founding president of the group, said in an interview that the virtual pitch had taken place almost two weeks ago between their organization and the leaders of Hawkfish. They were impressed, particularly with the amount of consumer data files Hawkfish has on hand following Bloomberg’s candidacy for president. The group is willing to eventually work with Hawkfish later in this cycle.
“The interesting thing about Hawkfish is that they have all of these consumer data points and that would allow us to better explore our targeted constituents,” Kumar said on Wednesday. She has previously told CNBC they are targeting Latino voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.
Hawkfish’s leadership includes Gary Briggs, longtime marketing director of Facebook, and Jeff Glueck, former CEO of localization company Foursquare.
Kumar, of Voto Latino, said she was discussing with Hawkfish what she described as a “test investment”, in which the company could be paid up to $ 30,000 to see if it has the capacity to ” improve the voting group’s already solid digital awareness program. The competition for a test like this is fierce, especially when, as Kumar said, the group sometimes has five or six tests going on simultaneously.
Voto Latino, like other organizations that have not signed up for Hawkfish, already has a digital team in place, including preferred external suppliers. In the case of the Kumar nonprofit, she said that its supplier was Rising Tide Interactive, a group led by alumni of various congressional campaigns who helped their clients create digital ads and opt out voting efforts, among other initiatives. He recently spent just under $ 200,000 on a voter registration app called VoterPal.