Do you speak English well, know web culture, have a sense of humor and want to pocket $85,000? Joe Biden may have a job to offer you. The American president’s campaign team is reportedly looking, in view of the presidential election on November 5, for a “meme maker”, these publications published en masse on the internet to make viral jokes.

In the United States, this content has become essential to political communication. Because, with social networks, memes quickly become international symbols and can propel an American elected official to the forefront. Like the meme about Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wearing his mittens, during the inauguration of Joe Biden in 2021. “In the United States, there is a literal battle of image during elections and for a politician, it is necessary to take Internet codes seriously,” underlines François Jost, professor of information and communication sciences, author of the book Est-ce que tu mèmes?.

According to the job offer published at the end of May and spotted by American media, the candidate selected for Joe Biden’s campaign team will have different missions. He will need to maintain good relationships with the main online media companies, podcast creators and also meme pages. He will also work as a team to identify the best “opportunities to seize” to communicate with the codes of internet humor. The mission is paid up to $85,000 for one year.

Controlling your digital image has become a major challenge. A slightly distorted photo can quickly change the reputation of a public figure. Joe Biden has often paid the price with his rival Donald Trump and his supporters, who have mastered the art of “trolling” very well: this practice of posting a publication on the internet to spark controversy.

His Republican opponents, for example, had diverted a photo of him leaning towards a journalist to better hear him during a press conference. “In the photo, he has his eyes closed and his face tilted, so Internet users made a meme suggesting that he was sleeping,” describes François Jost. “This is what later earned him the nickname “Sleepy Joe” from Donald Trump.” A nickname constantly reused in a humorous way as soon as the American president seems, in a new photo, on the verge of dozing. Which supports the idea, for his detractors, that he is now too old to lead the country.

Beyond the critical aspect, “memes can give rise to fake news by spreading rumors based on diverted images, the origin of which we no longer know,” warns François Jost. Communication teams therefore have every interest in quickly regaining control of these satirical publications distributed on the Web.

The “Dark Brandon” meme is the perfect example. This image, which depicts the current American president with red eyes shooting lasers, comes from several conspiracy theories on social networks. But his team finally managed to reappropriate this symbol with a simple idea: sell merchandising bearing the image of this meme on the president’s campaign website and make this Joe Biden with red eyes a kind of Superman. The strategy turns out to be a success. According to figures relayed by the American media Tech Crunch, products derived from Dark Brandon represent 54% of the total turnover of the campaign store, according to Axios.

For his part, Donald Trump is not to be outdone. In his country store, his team has plastered the “Never Surrender” meme on T-shirts and mugs. All illustrated by the judicial photo of the former President of the United States at the time of his arrest in Atlanta.

For Joe Biden, aged 81, and Donald Trump, 77, it is also a way of rejuvenating their image among voters and proving “that they are still in the game”, underlines François Jost. It is for this reason that the Democrat and his team opened a TikTok account in February. In the country, the Chinese platform has a total of 170 million users, two thirds of whom are adolescents.

Joe Biden is followed by 327,000 people on this account. Subscribers can see his supporters using humorous references associated with his mandate. Like actor Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker in Star Wars), wearing a mask bearing the image of the “Dark Brandon” meme. However, this is the same Joe Biden who was very critical of TikTok and signed the law forcing the Chinese company ByteDance to sell the platform within nine months to another company, under penalty of being banned from the States -United.

“I think we can and we must integrate relevant, trendy and fun moments into our communication, especially on digital platforms,” Annie Wu Henry, social media specialist and behind the campaigns, argued with Tech Crunch in February. online of elected Democrats, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Senator John Fetterman. “But while doing this, we must continue to be strategic, intentional and attentive, even if it is a meme,” she concluded at the time. It remains to be seen which side will benefit the most from this strategy.