For-profit

Hawkfish LLC

Formation:

2019

Hawkfish LLC is a digital marketing company that was founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D) in 2019. The company, which is led by former Facebook and Foursquare executives, was used to promote Bloomberg’s presidential campaign in 2020.

The company has drawn fire for the way it conducts business. Critics see the company as highly secretive and question the way it has recruited employees. Feminist critics have complained about the company’s all-male leadership, particularly given Bloomberg’s alleged poor treatment of female employees in the past.

Overview

Hawkfish LLC was founded by Michael Bloomberg in 2019. The company was established in order to counter the Donald Trump presidential campaign’s use of digital ads. The Trump campaign’s use of digital ads is seen by many political analysts as playing a major role in his unexpected victory in 2016. [1]

Soon after Hawkfish was founded, it immediately began hiring data scientists, tech executives, and software engineers. By February 2020, it had 200 employees based in Bloomberg’s offices in Manhattan. [2]

Supporters vowed that Hawkfish exists not only to boost the prospects of Bloomberg’s unsuccessful presidential bid but of Democrats in general in future cycles. The company hired Facebook’s former chief marketing officer Gary Briggs as one of its first employees. The company also hired former Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck. The company had its debut in the elections in Kentucky and Virginia in 2019. [3]

As of February 2020, the Bloomberg campaign had paid Hawkfish $25.7 million. The campaign has also spent $87 million on Facebook and Google ads since Bloomberg entered the race in November 2019. The company says that it will be funded through November 2020, even with Bloomberg having failed to win the nomination. [4]

Leadership

Former Facebook chief marketing officer Gary Briggs holds a senior position at the company. Former Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck also holds a senior position. In February 2020 ad executive Tim Castree was hired. There are also alumni from Google, Goldman Sachs, and other advertising firms. The company hired Eric Kuhn, a former Hollywood talent agent, to work as its senior advisor working on digital organizing and social media influencers. [5]

Controversies

In December 2019, CNBC reported that Hawkfish had told recruits that it would be the primary tech platform for the Democratic National Committee. That was false. [6]

The company Andiamo Partners was hired to recruit employees for Hawkfish. The company told recruits that it would be the primary tech platform for the DNC. In November 2019, the DNC told Hawkfish that the pitch was false and to change the pitch, which it did. The company said that it mistook Hawkfish’s work with Democratic causes as an endorsement by the DNC as its official tech platform. [7]

Hawkfish also drew complaints as part of an overall criticism of Bloomberg’s treatment of female employees. A study of expenditures by the Bloomberg in February 2020 found that most of the money was spent on consulting companies owned by men. Hawkfish was also cited for having men in its top leadership. The Bloomberg campaign defended its campaign structure and vendors saying they are “lucky to have a diverse campaign staff with women at the very top, and many talented consultants who have diverse teams as well.” [8]

References

  1. Culliford, Elizabeth, and Katie Paul. 2020. “Bloomberg Campaign Builds Out Digital Arm Hawkfish Ahead Of 2020 Election”. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-bloomberg-hawkfish-idUSKCN20G04W. ^
  2. Culliford, Elizabeth, and Katie Paul. 2020. “Bloomberg Campaign Builds Out Digital Arm Hawkfish Ahead Of 2020 Election”. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-bloomberg-hawkfish-idUSKCN20G04W. ^
  3. Culliford, Elizabeth, and Katie Paul. 2020. “Bloomberg Campaign Builds Out Digital Arm Hawkfish Ahead Of 2020 Election”. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-bloomberg-hawkfish-idUSKCN20G04W. ^
  4. Culliford, Elizabeth, and Katie Paul. 2020. “Bloomberg Campaign Builds Out Digital Arm Hawkfish Ahead Of 2020 Election”. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-bloomberg-hawkfish-idUSKCN20G04W. ^
  5. Culliford, Elizabeth, and Katie Paul. 2020. “Bloomberg Campaign Builds Out Digital Arm Hawkfish Ahead Of 2020 Election”. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-bloomberg-hawkfish-idUSKCN20G04W. ^
  6. Schwartz, Brian. 2019. “Bloomberg Firm Hawkfish Falsely Told Potential Hires It Would Be The ‘Primary’ Tech Platform For The DNC”. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/31/bloomberg-hawkfish-firm-falsely-told-recruits-it-would-be-main-dnc-platform.html. ^
  7. Schwartz, Brian. 2019. “Bloomberg Firm Hawkfish Falsely Told Potential Hires It Would Be The ‘Primary’ Tech Platform For The DNC”. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/31/bloomberg-hawkfish-firm-falsely-told-recruits-it-would-be-main-dnc-platform.html. ^
  8. Bernstein, David. 2020. “As Bloomberg Faces Criticism From Women, His Campaign Relies On Male-Led Consulting Companies”. WGBH. https://www.wgbh.org/news/commentary/2020/02/21/as-bloomberg-faces-criticism-from-women-his-campaign-relies-on-male-led-consulting-companies. ^

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