New York (AFP) - Michael Bloomberg's campaign said Thursday it has invested in sponsored Instagram meme content in a new illustration of his record spending aimed at securing the Democratic presidential nomination.
As he vies to be the candidate to take on President Donald Trump, the former New York mayor is also challenging the president on one of his preferred battlefields -- the world of social media, where the comic images known as memes flourish.
"Mike Bloomberg 2020 has teamed up with social creators to collaborate with the campaign, including the meme world," campaign spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said in an email to AFP.
"While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we're betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with President Trump's powerful digital operation," Singh added.
Trump's surprise election win in 2016 was attributed in part to his use of social media, which was much more aggressive than his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
Among the Instagram content creators recruited by Bloomberg are fuckjerry, grapejuiceboys and tank.sinatra, each of which has millions of followers.
On Wednesday they published screen shots of humorous (but fake) private messages with Bloomberg on Instagram -- and which they said were sponsored by him.
In one of them, the 77-year-old candidate says that his granddaughter showed him the account.
In one post, Bloomberg appears to ask the account to post a meme to let everyone know he is "the cool candidate" -- along with a picture of him in oversized shorts, a Polo-style shirt and a rust-colored vest.
In the meme, the candidate agrees to pay "a billion dollars" for the post.
The light-hearted approach reflects a willingness to deflect, using self-deprecating humor to mock his age and his wealth.
Singh did not say how much Bloomberg -- one of the world's richest men -- might spend on memes, which are particularly popular with younger people.
Bloomberg has smashed campaign spending records in an effort to win the nomination, and critics argue he is effectively trying to buy the US presidency his vast fortune.
According to tracking firm Advertising Analytics, he spent more than $300 million through early February.
Bloomberg is a former New York mayor who owns the news agency that bears his name. He has a net worth of more than $55.5 billion, according to Forbes.
An average of recent nationwide surveys places him in third place after self-declared democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden.