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Study: Hillary’s Advertising Spending Couldn’t Offset Lack of Resonating Message

Study: Hillary’s Advertising Spending Couldn’t Offset Lack of Resonating Message

“Baskets full of deplorables” unmoved by massive advertising expenditures

The 2016 presidential election was, by almost any measure, unconventional and unique.  The Democrats’ unfathomable decision to run Hillary Clinton, a woman whose deep and abiding unpopularity among many Americans goes back to the 1990’s and HillaryCare—an antipathy that resurfaced when ObamaCare became the focus of the Obama administration, will go down in history as a world-class blunder.

A new study of the usefulness and effectiveness of advertising in presidential campaigns addresses the unique nature of the 2016 presidential election and offers insight into the catastrophic failure of the Democrats generally and of Hillary in particular.

The Wesleyan Media Project reports:

The 2016 presidential campaign broke the mold when it comes to patterns of political advertising.

. . . . The article published in The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics (open access through mid-April 2017) shows that the presidential race featured far less advertising than the previous cycle, a huge imbalance in the number of ads across candidates, and one candidate who almost ignored discussions of policy. . . . The authors share lessons about advertising in the 2016 campaign, and argue that its seeming lack of effectiveness may owe to the unusual nature of the presidential campaign with one nonconventional candidate and the other using an unconventional message strategy.

Furthermore, the authors demonstrate that:

1) Clinton’s unexpected losses came in states in which she failed to air ads until the last week.

2) Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests.

Other big lessons drawn in the paper include:

  • The impact of advertising may depend on the larger media environment and knowledge of the candidates. Ie. It’s much more difficult for advertising to have an impact in a media environment that is saturated with sensational media coverage of the campaign—and of two already well-known candidates—but that does not mean that all advertising fails to work
  • Message matters, and a message repeated endlessly does no good unless it resonates with a sufficient number of the right voters. Team Clinton’s message that Trump was unfit for the presidency may not have been enough
  • What happens at the presidential level does not always follow down ballot.

You can read the full study here.

What strikes me about this study is that it essentially supports the findings of the gender-reversed presidential debate experiment that Kemberlee blogged about.  The general feeling among the left that Hillary was better than she was simply because she is a woman seeps into advertising outcomes as well.

Clinton’s focus not on policy or her fitness for the highest office in the land was subsumed by her barrage of attacks on Trump and on his “basket of deplorables” supporters.  The negativity, however, was all but missed by her supporters, but it drowned out anything remotely positive about her potential presidency for everyone else.

The Washington Free Beacon reports:

In fact, the study found that more than 60 percent of Clinton’s ads focused on personally attacking Trump and his fitness for the White House rather than the policy differences between the two candidates. Trump, on the other hand, focused more than 70 percent of his ads on the policy differences between him and his opponent, while only spending about 10 percent of advertising time on personally attacking Clinton.

To put that in perspective, each major presidential candidate of the previous four presidential elections going back to 2000 — with the exception of Sen. John McCain in 2008 — focused at least 60 percent of their advertising on drawing policy contrasts with their opponent.

Clinton outspent Trump in advertising by $116 million in June of 2016, and in the final weeks of the race, when Trump’s team unleashed an ad blitz primarily in rustbelt states, outspent him by “$2.1 million, and her national spots aired almost two and a half times as often as Trump’s did.”

None of it mattered, however.  This study’s authors suggest that the results were anomalous and don’t indicate that a new trend in political advertising is warranted.  Maybe.  Yet the result seems to indicate instead that having a clear message that resonates with the people will carry one far further than an impressive war chest and massive outputs in advertising for a flawed candidate with no message.


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rabid wombat | March 12, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Everyone has a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is to be an exemple. The example does not always have to be good.

Interesting, but the overall issue was this was a “change” election. I do not think Hillary was the correct candidate for this election. Plus non-stop positive coverage for her and non-stop negative coverage of Trump from the Donks, the press and #neverTrump GOP. It is crazy how close she came to winning even though incumbent parties have a VERY hard time after two terms… plus, since 09, the GOP had been gaining strength, but proffered a horrid candidate in /12. Lots of angles. Hillary’s ad buys and message are pathetic, but more pathetic is, the media is completely on the Democrat’s side and the mask finally dropped this time.

    I, too, was struck by how close she came to winning given her horrendous flaws and long history of being reviled by a large swath of America. I think it really gets down to both she and Trump being almost equally and simultaneously well-known and unpopular. There was nothing that Hillary could say about Trump that everyone didn’t already know and hadn’t already figured in their decision, and there was nothing Trump could say about Hillary that wasn’t already well-known, long-begrudged, and figured in.

    Trump understood this.

    Hillary did not.

    Maybe that’s the bottom line? For many (most?) Americans, this certainly wasn’t a case of a beloved and championed figure beating an equally worthy candidate. It was the lesser of two evils, with the hope that the lesser evil would turn out to be great, and if not great, that he would at least be better than Hillary. So far, he is immensely so.

Since the “Women’s March” and the “Day Without Women” were just like the Hillary campaign – no coherence or theme – it is obvious that nothing has been learned by the Left. Not that I am complaining.

For the democrats, the scary thing is that Trump exceeds expectations in every category that is important to his supporters. Healthcare looks bad at the moment, but the current version looks like hate and switch to me.

The major thing that killed Hillary’s campaign was the deplorables comment. Until then, she had an even chance of winning.

    Walker Evans in reply to Stan25. | March 12, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I tend to think it had more to do with the baggage she was lugging around:

    Vince Foster
    An unsecure, private email server used for government business
    Her attacks on her husband’s sexual assault victims
    White Water
    Etc. and ad-nauseam

    The “deplorables” thing was just icing.

    The ‘deplorables’ comment was galvanizing and very helpful to Trump (in other words: us.)

    Before she made it, she probably looked in the mirror.

Democrats also use the same crap excuses. We didn’t get our message across effectively, or some such nonsense.

Hillary Clinton lost because she is Hillary Clinton. No amount of advertising could ever fix that.

Hilary Clinton: the most despised woman in history.

This stuff jibes with some early reporting on Hillary’s team boomeranging some campaigners heading to Michigan.

I get the impression that some of Hillary’s team didn’t want to advertise in those firewall states for fear of showing that she could lose those states.

This disgusting woman has been God-send.

But for her hogging and bribing – and her incredible resulting incompetence – there might have had a democrat president elected in 2016.