Trump uses social media ads to entice supporters to festivities marking inauguration

US President-elect Donald Trump is using social media to ask supporters to join him for his inauguration on Jan 20, 2017.
US President-elect Donald Trump is using social media to ask supporters to join him for his inauguration on Jan 20, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - In an apparent bid to boost attendance at his inaugural festivities, President-elect Donald Trump is advertising on social media with a video in which he asks supporters to join him on Friday (Jan 20) for "our moment in American history".

The "sponsored" content has popped up on both Facebook and Instagram, and Mr Trump's team is also sending the video out through text messages to those on its expansive contact list. Ads also appeared on Tuesday on Breitbart News, the website formerly overseen by Mr Stephen Bannon, an incoming White House adviser to Mr Trump.

The low-production-value video shows Mr Trump sitting behind a desk and addressing the camera head on. "The inauguration is our moment in American history, and I want you to be with me on Inauguration Day, January 20th, at the Mall," the president-elect says.

"It's going to be so exciting. Most importantly, we're going to make America great again. I'll see you on January 20th."

The video then cuts to a shot of the seal of the 58th Inaugural accompanied by swelling music.

Mr Trump's festivities are expected to be less grand than many of his predecessors. The programme is short on A-list entertainment. Mr Trump intends to hit only three balls, and he is deliberately planning a shorter parade because the incoming president is ready to get to work, aides say.

Mr Trump, however, promised at a news conference last week an inauguration that would be "very, very special, very beautiful" and predicted "massive crowds".

Several government offices have projected a crowd approaching one million - well shy of the historic turnout of 1.8 million that came out for Mr Barack Obama's first presidential inaugural in 2009.

Speaking at a news conference last week, US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson put the number for Mr Trump at 700,000 to 900,000.

Trump aides at his transition office and inaugural committee did not respond to requests about who is paying for the Facebook and Instagram ads. The Breitbart ads include a tagline saying they are paid for by the Presidential Inauguration Committee, which solicited private funds to help underwrite the cost of the inaugural.

Mr Steve Kerrigan, chief executive of Mr Obama's inaugural committee in 2013 and chief of staff of the committee in 2009, said that "we never did an ad saying 'Please come to Washington'".

"It looks as if they're trying to build a crowd," he added.

Mr Kerrigan said the Obama team did solicit mobile phone numbers of supporters planning to attend. That, he said, was done for two purposes: to get an idea of how many people might be coming and to have a way to send text messages to people in case of an emergency.