The ACLU Used All Tools at Its Disposal to Ensure Donald Trump Sees This Pro-‘Dreamers’ Ad

Fox and Friends, strategic targeting and Politico

You started this problem, they argue. And now only you can fix it. ACLU
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Today marks the deadline imposed by President Donald Trump to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established under the Obama administration in 2012 that allows those brought to the United States as the children to remain in the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union had a message for Trump—you created this problem, and only you can fix it—and it’s using modern media strategy to make sure he hears the message loud and clear.

First, the ACLU created an ad targeting the president using his own words.


Then, they went all out to make sure it appeared in places where he might actually see it—his favorite morning show, Fox & Friends; in the backseats of D.C.-area taxis; on Politico and the Fox News Go app for “cord-cutting Republicans”; at the White House, Capitol Hill and Republican think tanks via “custom geofencing and targeting.”

The group also led a protest outside the White House on Sunday that featured a 16-foot banner of Trump’s face.

Photo by Michelle Frankfurter, ACLU

Photo by Michelle Frankfurter, ACLU

“We’re explaining that he’s ultimately responsible; he holds the cards,” said ACLU national political director Faiz Shakir. “He’s said multiple times that the loves the kids, he wants a bill of love.”

Regarding the strategy underlying this campaign, Shakir said, “As a matter of advertising, our theory of what Trump pays attention to is that he simply cares about what’s in front of his face in terms of publicity and press attention. In terms of being a story on the bottom of page A8, he’s not paying attention … but maybe his staff are.”

In short, the group made every effort to ensure the ad would be part of Trump’s admittedly limited media diet.

“The ACLU is working backwards from strategic theories of where to place ads to get the most impact,” Shakir said, adding that the team “felt strongly that you can’t just preach to the choir. We want to be provocative and engage conservative thought.”

The ACLU also created custom Twitter ads that its followers could tweet at Trump, though Shakir said the president views that platform as “more of a press-release system for him.”


In later stages of the campaign, Shakir said the organization plans to take its strategy further, tracking the president’s whereabouts and scheduling events at key locations like his Mar-a-Lago resort. The group also will run ads in states where Republican voters have shown support for the DREAM Act, a proposed law that Congress has failed to pass Congress repeatedly since its introduction in 2001 that would give children permanent legal status.

Regarding the ad itself, Shakir said he feels “very strongly” about the strategy of using Trump’s own words. “He really put himself out there with 15-20 of these [contradictory] quotes over the past few months,” he said. “Did he lie, or has he just stopped caring? There aren’t many options here.”


@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.