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On Trump’s Truth Social: Ads for Miracle Cures, Scams, and Fake Merchandise

On Trump’s Truth Social: Ads for Miracle Cures, Scams, and Fake Merchandise

On Trump's Truth Social: Ads for Miracle Cures, Scams, and Fake Merchandise

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Between posts about conspiracy theories and right-wing grievances was an unusual ad: a photo of former President Donald J. Trump holding a $1,000 gold bill, which he was apparently giving away to his supporters for free. .

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But there were a few hiccups: the ticket wasn’t free, it wasn’t gold, and it wasn’t donated by Mr. Trump.

The ad appeared on Truth Social, the right-wing social network Mr Trump launched in late 2021, one of many pitches by peddlers and fringe marketers dominating ads on the site.

Advertisements from major brands are non-existent on the site. Instead, ads on Truth Social are for alternative medicine, diet pills, gun accessories and Trump-themed trinkets, according to a New York Times analysis of hundreds of ads on the social network. .

The ads reflect the difficulty several far-right platforms, including Rumble and Gab, have had in wooing big brands, preventing the sites from tapping into some of the world’s largest advertising budgets. This could be particularly problematic for Truth Social. Although the site has grown in influence with the far right, becoming a vibrant ecosystem brimming with activity, its business needs cash.

Truth Social has raised about $37 million, mostly from Republican political donors, but it burns about $1.7 million every month, according to William Wilkinson, a former executive at Trump Media & Technology Group, the social network’s parent company. And two federal investigations put about $1.3 billion in much-needed funding at risk.

Devin Nunes, the chief executive of Trump Media, said in an announcement last year that the company’s advertising strategy would help it “displace Big Tech platforms” as a major way to reach Americans.

But advertising experts say the wariness of prominent far-right social media brands, which have positioned themselves as free-speech alternatives to Silicon Valley giants like Meta and Google, is driven by types of conspiracy theories and hyperpartisan politics often found on the sites. .

Additionally, they say, Truth Social has a relatively small user base and many older users, who are less desirable to brands. Marketers have complained that Truth Social’s ad serving technology, powered by Rumble, a right-wing video streaming website, offers limited tools to track an ad’s performance or show ads to users based on their demographic profiles. These tools, now standard among the major ad networks operated by Google and Meta, are essential in determining the success of an ad.

“The further you stray from that safe center, the more marginal or extreme you become about anything, the less money you’ll make,” said Tom Denford, managing director of ID Comms, an advertising consultancy.

Truth Social and Trump Media & Technology Group did not respond to requests for comment.

Businesses can typically use the tools offered by digital advertising services to prevent their ads from appearing near words or phrases that might upset customers, such as war, assault, or suicide. Reflecting brands’ mistrust of Mr. Trump and his policies, the word “Trump” ranked as the 11th most common black term provided by advertisers in 2019, according to data from Integral Ad. Science, a company specializing in brand safety. .

“It’s really dangerous for big advertisers to be closely associated with a political figure and a political movement,” said Bob Hoffman, an advertising industry veteran and author of The Ad Contrarian, a newsletter industry criticism. “It is not in their interest to get involved in this quagmire.”

Similar challenges were faced by Twitter after Elon Musk bought the company and said he would create a more permissive environment for free speech. Advertisers either fled this platform or suspended their campaigns in response, leading to a significant drop in revenue.

“They’ve dropped Twitter because they’re not sure Twitter can meet their brand safety guidelines, and they’ll stay away until they’re reassured,” Denford said.

Mr. Musk also welcomed Mr. Trump to Twitter, reinstating his account in November. Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said this week it would reinstate the president’s accounts after he was banned in 2021 from social media services, who said Trump’s posts risked inciting more violence after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Mr. Trump is obligated to make his posts available exclusively on Truth Social for six hours, and he has not posted on other social networks since Truth launched. This agreement expires in June but can be renewed.

Rumble, the video streamer that runs ads for Truth Social, earns between $15 million and $25 million a year, according to estimates by Similarweb, a website analytics company. Rumble did not respond to requests for comment.

When ads were launched on Truth last year using Rumble’s platform, marketers complained that it offered limited ways to target ads to people based on their data. demographics, such as age, gender or interests. It also offered no way to tell if the ad had resulted in a sale, a feature coveted by advertisers and offered by major ad networks like Google.

Maxwell Finn, an online marketer, said in a YouTube video that he was one of Truth Social’s top advertisers, spending more than $150,000 on ads, including those for hats, shirts, Trump themed fancy coins and banknotes.

In the video, he called the ad platform “frustrating” and “simple,” adding that it lacked even basic functionality, forcing his company to manually track ad performance — a method that would prove impossible for advertisers with larger budgets.

“Do I think this is a platform where you can spend tens of thousands of dollars a day, especially if you only have a few products?” he says in another video. “No, probably. The audience is just too small.

Over time, the poor quality ads on Truth Social have irritated its own users, who have complained to Mr. Trump after repeatedly seeing the same disturbing images or falling for deceptive gimmicks.

“Can’t you check the advertisements on Truth?” one user asked in a message to Mr. Trump. “I’ve been scammed more than once.”

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