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Trump uses social media ads to entice supporters to inaugural festivities

The west side of the Capitol during a rehearsal for the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. (Mandel Nganmandei/Getty Images)
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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 Friday for “our moment in American history.”

The “sponsored” content has started popping up on both Facebook and Instagram, and Trump’s team is also sending the video out through text messages to those on its expansive contact list. Ads also appeared Tuesday on Breitbart News, the website formerly overseen by Stephen K. Bannon, an incoming White House counselor to Trump.

The low-production-value video shows Trump sitting behind a desk and addressing the camera head on.

Surprisingly, Trump inauguration shapes up to be a relatively low-key affair

“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.

Trump’s festivities are expected to be less grand than many of his predecessors. The program is short on A-list entertainment, 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.

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

President-elect Donald Trump speaks about the upcoming inauguration, saying it's going to be "very special, very beautiful." (Video: The Washington Post)

Several government offices have projected a crowd approaching 1 million — well shy of the historic turnout of 1.8 million that came out for Barack Obama’s first presidential inaugural in 2009.

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

Trump aides at his transition office and inaugural committee did not immediately 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.

Steve Kerrigan, chief executive of 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,” Kerrigan added.

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.

Jenna Johnson and Peter Hermann contributed to this report.