Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is unveiling a seven-figure ad buy on Thursday, his first of the 2020 election. Yang is spending $1 million on a new spot, set to run statewide in Iowa over the next week, according to details of the ad campaign first shared with The Daily Beast.
“Parent, patriot, not a politician,” the narrator in the 60-second spot, titled, “A New Way Forward” states. “A new leader who understands that what’s coming is the greatest transformation in history.”
The move suggests a shift in communications strategy for the upstart Yang, coming with less than three months until the Iowa caucus. Yang, a 44-year-old entrepreneur, rose in popularity through a rather unorthodox approach, relying heavily on podcast interviews and internet memes to increase his name recognition and fan base. But in recent weeks, he has hired an establishment Democratic consultant firm—which is behind the new ad—and is now spending a million dollars on one of the most conventional measures there is in campaign politics: TV.
“What we’ve been able to do is take this more mainstream,” Eric Ming, the campaign’s director of digital and paid media, told The Daily Beast. “This is our first ad, it’s an introduction.”
Campaign officials believe that when more caucus-goers get to know Yang, they’ll have a positive impression of him. And part of that process, they say, involves giving voters a “proper introduction” to him on television.
The first ad rollout will test the new strategy under strategists Tad Devine, Mark Longabaugh, and Julian Mulvey, who were veterans of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) 2016 campaign and who were collectively behind Sanders’ iconic “America” ad in that primary. It also comes as Yang continues to build out his infrastructure, staffing up in early voting states with alums from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Sanders campaigns.
In the spot, the narrator mentions bits of biographical information—the son of immigrants who came here seeking the American dream and became an entrepreneur—and ticks several of the Democratic Party’s biggest policy points: tackling climate change, immigration, education reforms. Passing Medicare for All. And holding Wall Street and big tech accountable. It even has a reference to Obama.
“President Obama named Andrew ‘a champion of change,’” the narrator continues.
But instead of hanging the ad on his signature economic policy—a $1,000-a-month check for every American—the ad only mentions a Universal Basic Income in text without accompanying narration. That, his campaign says, is all by design.
“This is only the first step,” S.Y. Lee, Yang’s national press secretary told The Daily Beast. “We’re going to have more of these coming.”
While Yang hovers in seventh place nationally in the latest Real Clear Politics average, coming in at just 2.4 percent under several top-tier contenders polling in the 20s, he has inched up in some early state polls. In the latest University of New Hampshire survey, he is tied for fifth place at 5 percent, beating over half a dozen other contenders, including United States senators.
In the third fundraising quarter, Yang raised more than $10 million and has qualified for the next Democratic debate in Atlanta on Nov. 20, one of only nine candidates who has met the party’s threshold, and has been part of every debate to date.
“Regardless of the narrative, we’re here to win,” Ming said. “We’re here to help Andrew win the caucuses.”