Closing the 2016 Political Year

Today’s blog post is courtesy of Leo Kivijarv, Ph.D., Executive Vice President & Director of Research of PQ Media

As stated in our previous guest blog posts, this was a strange year given the Trump candidacy. He spent significantly lower on media advertising and marketing than previous presidential candidates on most media platforms, with the exceptions of digital, event marketing, promotional products, public relations & word-of-mouth. That said, his campaign, the RNC and the SuperPacs pumped in significant monies during the last month of the campaign into all media, including broadcast TV and radio. This infusion occurred in those states that proved so important to winning the election – Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio. Also as expected, the tight Senate races led to more spending that first anticipated given the dueling purposes of the Republicans to keep control vs. Democrats attempting to seize control. This became evident by the market research made available just weeks prior to the election that a Clinton victory was highly favored along with the potential of a strong pull for the lower ballot candidates. Therefore the lack of spending for the Trump campaign was offset by dollars put into the Senate race, select key House and governor race campaigns in presidential battleground states and helped to drive voter turnout.

PQ Media estimates that political media buying reached $7.24B – with radio receiving $409MM.

In addition, there is much being made about earned media as a reason that paid advertising and marketing spending was down across certain media. During this campaign, Trump reportedly received about $6.4 billion in free publicity, followed by Clinton at $3.7 billion (total for all presidential candidates $13.3 billion). However, PQ Media continues to have difficulty with this arbitrary methodology for the following reasons:

  • It doesn’t include any discounting.
  • It is not targeted towards a specific audience.
  • It treats negative publicity as generating the same CPM as positive messages.
  • It proposes an assumption that someone can pay to be included in a newscast, similar to a product placement or content marketing arrangement.
    • News doesn’t work like that. It’s the gatekeeping process by trained journalists that decides what will/will not be discussed – not a brand asking to be included.

Did this proposed earned media help Trump? Absolutely! It legitimized his candidacy. He controlled the messaging that he wanted in the forefront, which took away from actual issues and candidate’s platforms discussed during the election. However, this has been Trump’s modus operandi since he built the first Trump Tower back in the 1980s. Any publicity – regardless whether positive or negative – helps promote the Trump brand. Instead of real estate, Trump treated the presidency like his personal brand.


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