'Supporters' in Trump Facebook adverts were actors

By Rozina Sini
BBC News

Image source, Donald Trump/Facebook

A series of Facebook adverts showing people endorsing Donald Trump for his re-election campaign appeared to be actors featured on a stock video and image website.

One of the short videos posted in June on the social network shows 'Tracey from Florida' walking along a beach with a voiceover that says "President Trump is doing a great job, I could not ask for a better President of the United States of America."

But 'Tracey from Florida' is an actress, and the clip of her used in the Trump advert is available on the iStock by Getty images website for a fee. Footage of Tracey jogging, working in a warehouse, taking her dog for a walk and even dressed as a doctor are also available.

The video's authenticity was first highlighted in a political newsletter last week by journalist Judd Legum, who wrote: "Trump is not polling well among women in general and young women in particular. So it is running an advertisement on Facebook and Google featuring "Tracey" a young woman who is presented as a big Trump fan."

Image source, Tuto Photos

Although the advert shows a small disclaimer at the bottom of the screen for a few seconds saying "actual testimonial, actor portrayal," some people are asking why a president who can command an audience of genuine supporters and who is quick to criticise 'fake news' would need to use actors in promotional adverts.

On social media one Twitter user asked: "Why are you using stock video and actors from overseas to promote your re-election campaign? Can't find anyone in the US to work with you? MAGA indeed!"

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In another advert paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a coffee shop worker described as 'Thomas in Washington' is seen smiling while the voiceover says: "President Trump and his family are in our prayers for strength and wisdom from God almighty."

Image source, Donald Trump/Facebook

But type 'bearded hipster' into the stock image site and an array of video clips showing 'Thomas' in various poses appear.

The advert also includes a clip of the outside of the coffee shop where we are led to believe Thomas works, but the shop isn't it Washington, it is in Tokyo.

It appears that attempts were made to conceal that fact. Look in the top left and a street sign has been blurred out in the shot featured in the advert.

Image source, DonaldTrump/Facebook

In the original footage on the iStock video website the street sign is visible in Japanese.

Image source, RichLegg

It is not the first time stock images and footage have been used in political campaigns. During the 2016 presidential campaign, an advert for Republican hopeful Marco Rubio described a "morning again in America", showing a tugboat at dawn in front of a city skyline was filmed in Canada at the Vancouver harbour.

In September, a group supporting former Florida Governor Jeb Bush released a campaign ad using stock images from the UK and parts of south-east Asia as stand-ins for US locals.

And in January, a Donald Trump campaign advert on US border security featured footage of African migrants fleeing from Morocco into Spain.