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Pathmatics Blog

NRA Loads Digital Ads in Aftermath of Parkland Shooting

March 27 2018 by Ken Roberts
NRA on YouTube Screenshot
NRA on YouTube Screenshot

NRA on YouTube ScreenshotThe National Rifle Association (NRA) boosted its paid digital advertising in the wake of the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, as reported in the Chicago Tribune with Pathmatics data, as well as here, here, and hereWe thought we'd add some additional observations and data to the story.

The NRA drastically cut their advertising spend across digital (desktop display, mobile web, pre-roll video) and Facebook mobile starting on the day of the shooting. For the four-day period starting 2/15/2018, there was 91% drop in daily average spend to effectively $0.

Between February 19 - 21, their paid campaigns aggressively resumed and spending increased at least through the 27th. The NRA’s spend on February 27th alone, at over $58,000/day, was 600% higher than the average daily spend for the two-weeks leading up to February 14th.

The NRA’s ad weapons of choice have been Video and Facebook, with additional firepower on Desktop Display. The bulk of the spending push has been in Facebook and pre-roll Video, but desktop spend and impressions also spiked.

"The fact that the NRA is promoting their membership-drive style ad campaigns shows that their base must have been energized by the reactions to the Parkland shooting," commented Gabe Gottlieb CEO of Pathmatics.  "With the tens-of-thousands of dollars a day of spend that they are pushing, we can only assume that their objectives are being met and they are successfully adding members with this campaign."


Facebook ad spend by the NRA started to climb on February 21st, and by the 27th, Facebook spend peaked at $33,400/day, 6.5 times the daily spend compared to the first 2-weeks of February. 

NRA Facebook Ad Spend

NRA Facebook Paid PostBy March 14th, they had increased further to $67,500, more than 10-times their typical spend.

The top campaigns have been membership offers, with their Free Bag offer being the most frequent in February. Other themes include gun rights across state lines and “Defending Freedom." On March 1st, they began the "Fight or Surrender" campaign featuring spokesperson Dana Loesch.


The NRA has been heavily promoting a video  advertisement that launched earlier this year. The video features NRA speeches with NRA member video bites mostly taking place at NRA conventions and rallies.

This video has been promoted heavily on YouTube.com, including on YouTube channels such as Inside Gaming, LaurenzSide, and EnzoKnol.

As reported, the most alarming placement has been on the Kids' Toys YouTube channel.  As shown below, the video creative ran pre-roll with an NRA Companion Ad in the upper right on this Doc McStuffins Doll video.

NRA Ads on YouTube Kids Toys Channel

"As a parent of young, YouTube-watching kids, I'm horrified that Google allowed an NRA promo full of guns and firebrand speeches to run ahead of a Disney toy unboxing video," added Gabe Gottieb CEO of Pathmatics.

For the recent 12-month period, the NRA was ranked #706 by Pathmatics on the list of top YouTube video advertisers.

For the period after February 21, 2018, the NRA jumped into the top 100 at #92 in Pathmatics rankings, though video spend has since dropped to pre-incident levels.


NRA Desktop Ad Spend

NRA Desktop Display AdOn Desktop, creatives featured the same membership calls-to-action and the new "Fight or Surrender" campaign as on Facebook.

Desktop impressions also rose sharply starting on February 26. The biggest share going to drudgereport.com, smith-wessonforum.com, and dailycaller.com.

The increase, compared to the beginning of the year through February 14th, was largely through the addition of Google AdX to their buying mix.

About Author
Ken Roberts

Ken Roberts has been immersed in marketing and technology for over a decade, merging creative strategies with the latest technology, to bring products together with the people who need them. With degrees in Engineering, Computer Science and an MBA, Ken’s background in product management, marketing, sales, analytics and technology lends to his ability to attack product challenges on multiple levels. Ken began his career developing software solutions for medical records before transitioning to marketing. Ken focused on building marketing departments and operating in-house agencies. Ken’s experience with digital platforms, internet based marketing, lead scoring and business intelligence, and reporting, as well as a keen market understanding, are a welcome addition to Pathmatics, only matched by a leadership philosophy that encourages high creativity and ownership from his team.

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