Clinton and Trump Digital Media Campaigns by the Numbers


The presidential debates are now over, and we’ve got less than three weeks to go before the election. Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on, everyone can agree that this has been the most interesting and unusual campaign in recent history. Goodway decided to take a look at how Clinton’s and Trump’s presidential campaigns have played out in terms of paid digital media. We used data from Pathmatics, a competitive analytics ad tech service. They use web-crawling technology to scan ads and provide data, such as estimated spends, how impressions are sold, and much more. We initially evaluated the campaigns over the past year. Clinton’s campaign spent approximately $24M during this time period, almost double the Trump campaign’s $13M. However, when we analyzed the data, $12.1M of the Trump campaign’s spend occurred in the past two months. We limited our data to this timeframe to be able to better compare the two campaigns head to head. During this time, the Trump campaign outspent the Clinton campaign by 3 to 1. Pathmatics provides daily impression and spend levels, so we took this information and calculated an estimated average CPM. Clinton’s CPM of $8.64 is a bit higher than Trump’s at $6.79. We found the difference intriguing and took a deep dive into the data to try to figure it out. Clinton has spent 84% of her budget on site-direct buys, which often command higher CPMs than ad network or programmatic buys. Only 47% of her campaign’s impression share is going to direct buys, which indicates that this inventory is expensive. Trump’s numbers are telling a different story. He’s spent 69% of his budget on direct buys, with 27% of the impressions going to direct. This also indicates that he is paying a high CPM for these impressions. However, Trump has a 65% impression share going to ad networks, with only 28% of his budget spent on ad networks, indicating a low CPM. There could be many reasons why Trump has far more impressions in ad networks than site-direct buys, but a good guess is that the Clinton campaign booked direct buys in advance, and Trump placed his buys far more recently, when perhaps less direct inventory was available. We also took a look at the top sites by overall spend. Clinton’s top adverting sites from the past two months are and It looks like Clinton has been playing to her liberal base and also trying to reach out to a politically savvy audience. Trump on the other hand is favoring more mainstream media with his top two sites, and It seems like Trump’s strategy is to try to reach the general population. Finally, the last stat we evaluated was programmatic buying. Only 1% of Trump’s budget went to DSPs, and Clinton didn’t spend any money on DSPs. Given that programmatic is now the dominant method of buying display media, we hope the next presidential election cycle shows a higher percentage of DSP buying.