Four more years?

Just over four years ago, one of the creatives at our ad agency designed a simple poster. Against a Republican red background it showed Donald Trump’s name in white letters with some of the letters faded out, leaving a clear message to voters. Don’T.

It won a creative competition and found its way onto Twitter where it was picked up around the world from Taiwan to Texas. Over a single weekend it gained millions of shares and was picked up in mainstream media, some asking if ‘ghost ads’ could change voter opinion. Although it may not have been enough to influence the 2016 election, the agency was still pretty pleased with the social media campaign – it won a few prizes and impressed some new clients. But it was nothing compared with what we saw next from the new President.

Before the election Trump’s Twitter record stood at 161 tweets in a single day, on Jan 5, 2015. Once in office, he upped his sustained tweeting to an average of 44 a week. That rose to 58 in 2018 and 83 in 2019. But he really took off in 2020, when the Commander-in-Tweet had a few other things to deal with – the daily count hit 142 on the second day of his impeachment trial in January (including at one point a staggering 41 tweets an hour). His 2020 average is 250 tweets a week, and his one-day record on June 5 2020 at the height of the Covid crisis a thumb-numbing 200.

It’s been a rising torrent of noise, amplified by bots and humans alike. Twitter has been weaponised, drowning out opinion and debate. As Trump might put it, it’s unpresidented. As we go into another US election, there’s a choice to be made – between four more years of strident, divisive megaphone politics or the oldest man ever to lead the USA. Whichever way it goes, we know that the last four years have changed our relationship with politics and the media forever.