The Republican National Committee's massive digital ad plans to reach Hispanics, women, millennials and independent voters have run up against a roadblock. BuzzFeed reneged on its agreement to run ads for the RNC during the general election, citing presumptive nominee Donald Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigrants in the U.S.
The RNC confirmed BuzzFeed's decision, first reported in Politico this morning. The BuzzFeed buy was a tiny portion -- just $1.3 million -- of the party's massive digital ad reservation of $150 million, first reported by Ad Age. The party had not yet actually paid BuzzFeed for the reserved ad space.
RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer questioned the fact that BuzzFeed could continue to accept ads from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, stating, "it is ironic that they [BuzzFeed] have not ruled out taking money from a candidate currently under investigation by the FBI." Ms. Clinton is under investigation for using a private email server to send official emails during her stint as Secretary of State.
The GOP booked digital ad space with multiple media partners as part of its digital ad plan, the largest of which is Google. The company did not respond to a request to comment for this story.
According to the Politico story, BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti wrote in a memo to staff that Mr. Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. is "'directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States,' because of proposed bans on Muslim immigration and comments about descendants of immigrants, among other policies."
He continued, "This decision to cancel this ad buy will have no influence on our continuing coverage of the campaign."
BuzzFeed would not provide any additional comment for this story. While some publications with a political bent do not accept ads from advertisers who oppose their political beliefs, this appears to be the first time a non-partisan publication has done so.
The GOP began arranging its buy with dozens of partners in February, the goal being to use the ad space for its own messaging in the presidential race rather than re-selling it to down-ballot campaigns. The plan focuses on premium digital video, mobile video and high-impact placements that show up in prominent spots on web pages, some of which is in Spanish language media. It will be used to target Hispanics, women, millennials and independent voters in swing states throughout the general election season including during important periods such as around debates or when some states begin early voting.
The RNC has several other media partners involved in its large general election digital ad reservation, and it remains to be seen whether any of its other media partners might follow BuzzFeed's lead.