- Mike Bloomberg spent more than $600 million of his own money to become president, and in the process he created 200-person data firm Hawkfish.
- It was supposed to become a long-term Democratic agency and counterpart to the Republican party that’s similar to Blue State Digital.
- A source known to Business Insider said that many executives and temporary staffers would leave Hawkfish, but former Facebook CMO Gary Briggs would continue to lead the firm.
- The future of Hawkfish could play a significant role in shaping the political ad market, which will account for up to $10 billion in spending during this election cycle, according to WPP’s GroupM.
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Mike Bloomberg spent more than $600 million in 101 days, including more than $75 million on digital advertising, according to The Wall Street Journal. One of his big bets was creating Hawkfish, a digital data firm that grew to more than 200 employees in less than a year under the former Facebook CMO Gary Briggs.
Spokespeople and sources have said that beyond electing Bloomberg, the firm aspired to become a long-term Democratic agency and counterpart to the Republican party that’s similar to Blue State Digital, which helped President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
“We are not built for any one campaign, but in this for the long haul,” Hawkfish wrote in a recent LinkedIn post.
Now, the major question is how the firm that poached top talent from the worlds of tech and advertising will work to defeat Donald Trump and strengthen the Democratic Party’s digital playbook. The firm could influence how campaigns allocate their ad dollars in this election cycle, which could account for up to $10 billion.
Hawkfish is in a state of flux as the election moves into its next phase
One senior-level Bloomberg campaign staffer said several leaders at both Hawkfish and Bloomberg 2020 — himself included — would leave in the coming days for other jobs including their former posts at top tech companies, but that Briggs will continue leading the firm.
Briggs declined to comment.
The teams are recalibrating after spending the past several months laser-focused on making Bloomberg a viable candidate, said the staffer, who is known to Business Insider but spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the matter.
“They’ve built a company that is extremely leveraged into the thumbs up or down of one man,” said another Hawkfish employee.
This person, whose identity is known to Business Insider but requested anonymity, citing the strict NDAs each staffer is required to sign, took leave from an ad agency job to work at Hawkfish but planned to return to the agency.
It was widely reported that Bloomberg staff would be paid through the November election if he stayed in the race.
The Washington Post reported that Bloomberg would continue to invest millions in Hawkfish as a separate business and that “hundreds” of Bloomberg campaign staffers would go to work for a new independent expenditure campaign (IEC) he formed.
A Bloomberg aide confirmed that report but declined to elaborate.
This IEC, whose name and scale are not yet clear, will support the eventual Democratic presidential nominee and down-ballot Democrats running for office across the country in November. It will do so without coordinating directly with any specific candidate, per FEC regulations.
The memes scored headlines, but Hawkfish is all about voter data
Hawkfish created the memes and tweets that earned attention for Bloomberg and led Facebook to change its political ad policy, but the Hawkfish employee said its most important work concerns voter identification and turnout efforts, not advertising.
Hawkfish itself said it was created as a competitor to The Data Trust, a private firm established nearly a decade ago by Republican Party fundraisers Charles and David Koch that claims to have information on 260 million Americans and signed an exclusive data-sharing agreement with the Republican National Committee in 2015.
The information collected by Hawkfish can also be used to develop, test, and target ads, as it was during Bloomberg’s brief run.
Jeff Greenfield, chief attribution officer at cloud-based ad measurement company C3 Metrics, said that with the expertise that Hawkfish now has, it could be sustainable after the election and work for any client.
“Think bigger than Biden,” said the Hawkfish employee.
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