Surprises from an Election Season: A Post-Mortem

We know it’s only been a week, but we hope you’re recovered from what was one of the most surprised-filled elections in recent U.S. history. While we recognize talking politics is the ultimate party no-no, we want to share a few interesting data points that we saw across our exchange. We took a look at stats as the election came down to the wire (Sept. 8 – Nov. 7) to see how spend varied across the two political parties.

Chart of election results (Sept. 8 – Nov. 7) TV ad spend vs. programmatic spend

TV Ad Spend (Bloomberg*) v Programmatic Ad Spend (Index)

Not only were multiple strategies used across parties, but the amount of money spent on advertising during the campaign reached an all time high – an estimated 11.7 Billion according to Borell Associates. Republicans leveraged a greater proportion of programmatic spend (relative to their Democratic counterparts) vs. TV*, and perhaps the opportunity to automate their spend helped lead them to ultimate victory.

Hillary was also polling ahead within the millennial generation, so her team may have put more efforts in TV to capture the older generation. Either way, Republicans recognized they could leverage programmatic to better capture the attention of their target audience.

Programmatic Spend by Party

Republican programmatic ad spend peaked at the end of September (right around the first debate) and took quite an untraditional path to Election Day. By contrast, Democratic programmatic ad spend peaked in early November and followed a more traditional curve. As mentioned in a recent post on Header Tag Wiki, this could signify the surge in DNC spending was in response to the FBI’s renewed investigation into Clinton emails, or just coincidence.

Chart of Programmatic Spend by Party Sept - Nov 2016

Mobile v. Desktop spend by Party

The increase in general global mobile ad spend signals the channel is making a huge impact on end-users. Given that consumers have increased their engagement on mobile over the past several years, it’s surprising that display v. mobile wasn’t more of a 50/50 split across both parties. However, because of the intense targeting that needed to take place to end in a win, cookie-matching via desktop was likely a safer bet for ROI.

Chart of Mobile v. Desktop spend by Party

Programmatic Video Spend by Party

Video advertisements are proven to have better KPIs, click through rates, interaction and engagement. Republicans recognized this fact and put more of their budget behind video advertising.

Chart of spend for Display vs. Video by political party

CPMs Across Parties

CPM numbers were extremely high across the board and mirrored typical private deal numbers. Both sides were fighting for the most premium impressions and willing to pay high amounts to reach their desired audience. After the first Presidential debate, Democrats saw a 40% drop in their average CPMs. This could be as a result of Trump’s poor performances in the debates and the release of the Access Hollywood video. Following the debates, Dems weren’t bidding as high and may have felt they could save and spend elsewhere.

Chart of CPMs Across Parties Sept vs. Oct vs Nov 2016

Overall, it appears that the Republican Party’s programmatic strategy could have been a factor in their election victory.

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