Mike Bloomberg has been paying a handful of social media influencers to post satirical memes about him for his Democratic presidential bid.
The billionaire former mayor of New York was recently the subject of several memes uploaded to photo-sharing app Instagram. Each of the posts claim to be sponsored by him.
One Instagram account, run by meme aggregator Jerry Media, depicts Bloomberg sending a direct message asking it to "post a meme that lets everyone know I'm the cool candidate."
Another from Tank Sinatra, an account with over 2 million followers, alludes to a viral clip from Democratic rival Bernie Sanders requesting financial support. But the text instead reads "I am once again asking for (you) to make me look cool."
The posts are all ads, coming with sponsorship disclaimers, and seem to be satirical. Tank Sinatra, whose real name is George Resch, even says: "Yes this is really sponsored by @mikebloomberg."
Other accounts have created similar content, including Grapejuiceboys, which has 2.7 million followers, and Sh-theadsteve, which has 5.3 million.
"Mike Bloomberg 2020 has teamed up with social creators to collaborate with the campaign, including the meme world," Sabrina Singh, Bloomberg's senior national spokesperson, told CNBC. "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."
News of Bloomberg's appeal to social media creators was previously reported by The New York Times, which said his campaign had tapped Meme 2020, a firm with links to Jerry Media, to create a "self-aware ironic character" around Bloomberg.
Jerry Media has previously been accused of stealing memes and passing them off as its own content without crediting the original creator. The organization's founder apologized, promising to "do the right thing by creators by seeking permission and giving them the credit they deserve."
Separately, The Daily Beast reported that Bloomberg had been pitching to "micro-influencers" to create sponsored content for a fixed fee of $150. Such creators typically have a fan base of 1,000 to 100,000 followers.