What began as a riff on the commander-in-chief’s limited media diet and limited interest in policy nuance has now been adopted as a legitimate communications strategy by interest groups, a new report has revealed.

For just over a year, the comedian John Oliver has been periodically buying ads on Donald Trump’s most-watched TV channel, Fox News, to educate the president on certain issues, but the Wall Street Journal has found that lobbyists are now beginning to encourage clients to advertise on the president’s favourite programs.

In February of 2017, John Oliver, who presents Last Week Tonight on HBO, and is known for his illustrated segments taking on issues of the day, first introduced the ruse “in an attempt to bring him up to speed on some information he may lack”. The ad appeared in inventory surrounding shows that the president is known to watch.

Since July, however, an ethanol group locked in a battle with the oil industry has been airing an ad on Fox news that employs a similar strategy.

“We know he watches, so this is a good way for him to see it’s something the heartland wants,” said Leigh Claffey, spokeswoman for Growth Energy, speaking to the Wall Street Journal. A few weeks ago, a new ad from the group ran, acknowledging Trump’s support.

Whether or not the strategy has proved effective, the group’s opponents have adopted the same tactic, imploring Trump to not “risk harming consumers” by bowing to the ethanol group’s demands.

There are signs that the strategy works. The makers of an ad in support of US steel were greeted by news of a favourable presidential tweet just after the spot aired around Fox & Friends in March. According to the Journal, the ads ran for just over a week at a cost of $250,000. In that time, Trump announced tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium.

Unsurprisingly, the White House had nothing to say on the matter.

Michael Steel, managing director at Hamilton Place Strategies, and a veteran adviser to the Republican party, told the Journal that the focus “on the audience of one and how to influence the audience of one” was “absolutely true.”

Lobbyists CGCN, in a memo circulated to clients earlier this summer, noted that it is “widely rumoured that Trump pays particularly close attention to programs like Hannity and Lou Dobbs Tonight to measure the pulse of this key demographic”, referring to his base of middle-class and blue-collar voters.

Meanwhile, Trump opponents such as the Need to Impeach campaign have advertised on Fox and Friends, drawing demonstrable ire in the form of a presidential tweet.

Sourced from Wall Street Journal, HBO; additional content by WARC staff