Is TV and Radio Advertising Still Effective? Insights From the 2016 Presidential Election

Promotional Products are more effective than radio or TV ads.In past decades, TV and radio advertising has been considered top shelf by many advertising agencies and execs. However, with data in from the 2016 presidential elections, it seems times are achangin’.

Is it possible this interruption style of advertising is no longer effective?

If you compare results from the election to the media spend by each candidate, it seems radio and TV ads don’t meet “cream of the crop” status, as many seem to think.

According to CNBC, Trump spent only $238.9 million compared to $450.6 million spent by Clinton through mid-October. That equates to Clinton spending nearly twice as much as Trump. The difference is staggering, yet like it or not, Trump prevailed. Why is that?

Pivotal Factors

Not only did Clinton have a huge advantage with paid media, but also was the obvious favorite with mainstream media.

When you look at the Trump campaign, he put much of his efforts into grass root efforts, social media, and promotional products. He proved to be victorious with this strategy.

Grass Root Efforts

The Trump rallies offered an in-person experience for countless number of Trump supporters and on-the-fence voters. These frequent campaign stops around the battleground states showed supporters that Trump truly cared about them. This emotional connection was vital to his successful campaign. Trump held as many as 5 rallies in 5 different states per day in the final weeks of his campaign. The connections made from these efforts were priceless.

Social Media

The social media efforts on Facebook and Twitter can’t be ignored by Mr. Trump. Although he occasionally tweeted out a comment that was perceived offensive to some, the majority of his social media posts had an incredible reach.

Donald Trump Social MediaSimple tweets such as the one pictured were shared 350 thousand times with 550 thousand likes. That’s an incredible reach on social media, which is an area so many businesses are failing.

Equally impressive numbers were seen on Facebook with over 13 million page likes and extraordinary engagement from supporters. He took advantage of Facebook Live possibly better than any other Facebook user has. His live broadcasts often topped 100K viewers with 4-5 broadcasts per day and hundreds of thousands of comments for each broadcast.

There’s no doubt we could all take lessons from his use of social media to promote his campaign, although a softer tongue is recommended.

Promotional Products

As reported by promo marketing Magazine in October, Trump spent more on these unfashionable, yet iconic, red hats than he spent on polling. The popularity of these promotional items shows the true power of this untapped advertising medium.

Trump Thumbs Up Foam HandsDonald Trump’s iconic “Make America Great Again” red hats were sold and grossly distributed around the country. Other popular promotional items included his giant foam thumbs up hand, pom poms, decals, megaphones, buttons, and signage. Most of these are classic political promotional items, yet Mr. Trump was extremely successful in selling these items to his supports. Not only did these sales raise campaign funds, but they also promoted his campaign “bigly”.

Political candidates have used promotional items for decades to promote their campaign, yet most have used them as a secondary (or tertiary) form of advertising. Mr. Trump used these items as focal points for his campaign to further promote his grass roots efforts at rallies, for which supporters turned out in unprecedented masses.

Another important observation is Trump connected with his supporters on an emotional level with issues that were important to them. The combination of emotional connection along with a tangible advertising product created an experience that was exponentially more effective than a simple radio or TV ad or a random promotional item.

Return on investment with promotional items is so much higher because these items can continue to be used over and over again. Compare that to a radio or TV ad which is gone the second after it airs. If you want another TV or radio ad, you have to pay for it. It doesn’t sound so appealing now, does it?

Well done, Mr. Trump. You set a great example for the country of how truly effective promotional items are for advertising. Through the effective use of social media and promotional products, you were able to outperform traditional advertising media.

Companies can do the same thing by connecting with their customers through useful promotional items. While easier said than done, it just takes a bit of planning for an effective strategy.

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