IX Perspectives

How the Candidates Spent Before New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina

2016 election with american flag in the background

Today we’re examining spend and programmatic strategy of candidate campaigns (excluding Super PAC campaigns) in the weeks leading up to the New Hampshire primary (February 9) and the Nevada Democratic Caucus/South Carolina Republican Primary (February 20).

New Hampshire Was a Republican Programmatic Battle

The New Hampshire primary was held on February 9th (results here). In the week before the primary (February 3 – February 9), we noticed the following:

  • Democrat spend was paltry in the days before New Hampshire. Sanders appeared to have shut his programmatic campaign off from February 2 to February 8. On February 9 the campaign purchased a minuscule number of impressions, likely as a means to get his message out to a select group of voters in New Hampshire. After Sanders, Clinton spent the least out of all of the campaigns during this week. Campaign advisers likely suggested Sanders and Clinton put more of an emphasis on in-person campaigning during this race and save budget for later primaries.
  • Kasich’s campaign spent the most of the Republicans (and pulled a win out of it). Compared to Cruz, Rubio, and Bush, Kasich spent the most in the six days before New Hampshire. His most expensive day was Saturday, February 6, where he placed 30% of the week’s total. He must have been pleased with his investment as he pulled off a somewhat unexpected second-place victory.
  • Cruz was close to Kasich, while Bush and Rubio were quieter. Cruz spent the next most of the Republican candidates – his weekly spend was 19% lower than Kasich’s. Bush was next, 89% lower than Kasich, and Rubio was at the bottom spending a mere 6% of Kasich’s week’s spending. The reason for such a low number? Unlike his opponents, Rubio didn’t spend anything from February 3 – February 7 and secured his impressions the day of and the day before the primary.


Presidential candidate exchange-wide spend (be relative index) February 3 - 9
Presidential candidate exchange-wide spend (be relative index) February 3 – 9
Source: Index Exchange US-Marketplace Data (Q1 2016)

Nevada and South Carolina Races Inspired Programmatic Activity From Most Candidates

On February 20th, delegates voted for Democratic candidates in Nevada and Republican candidates in South Carolina (results here and here, respectively). Trump again was absent from the programmatic battlefield, while the majority of the other candidates competed arduously for eyeballs (and so, hearts). Here’s what we saw:

  • Bernie came back (in a big way). After locking his wallet the week before New Hampshire, the week before the Nevada Democratic Caucus was completely different for Sanders. Compared to other active candidates, he placed second in spend for the week after Ted Cruz. Remember, Bernie spent most of all candidates in Iowa, so it seems he’s strategically allocating spend based on the ethos of each primary.
  • Bush plummeted and relied on “Right to Rise” for programmatic coverage. Despite South Carolina’s importance to the Bush campaign, Bush pulled programmatic spend for his campaign way back from February 14 – 20.  Despite the small showing, the (now surrendered) candidate had a programmatic presence through Bush-supporting super PAC, “Right to Rise,” which had the second-most political spend for the week.
  • Cruz spent the most. The Cruz campaign spent more than any other campaign during the period. Given the evangelical base in South Carolina, Cruz clearly wanted to secure a victory and attempted to do so by spending 6x as much as Rubio and 28x more than Bush.

Presidential candidate exchange-wide spend (be relative index) February 14 - 20
Presidential candidate exchange-wide spend (be relative index) February 14 – 20
Source: Index Exchange US-Marketplace Data (Q1 2016)

Why We’re Excited: Candidate Programmatic Strategy Is Emerging

The relationship between impressions, spend, and CPM pricing provides the best indication of overall programmatic strategy. By studying this relationship, you can see how differently each candidate is approaching programmatic as a tool to win votes. For instance:

  • Sanders pursued high-value targets and more expensive inventory. Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush purchased the fewest impressions of all candidates. Sanders’ average CPM was the highest in the race from February 14 to February 20. This shows that Sanders is after niche audiences and likely is using a wealth of data to indicate the importance of cherry picking specific impressions.
  • Cruz and Clinton bought blankets of impressions. The Cruz and Clinton campaigns had the lowest average CPMs before New Hampshire and Nevada/South Carolina, which suggests they have employed a similar programmatic approach. The candidates are not after high-value targets and are not big on bidding wars. Cruz bought the most impressions of any candidate before each primary and Clinton’s impressive impression haul placed her second, after Cruz, in impression share the week before Nevada.
  • Kasich was significantly more competitive in New Hampshire than in South Carolina. Though Kasich secured more impressions in the week before South Carolina, the Republican candidate spent more before New Hampshire and was paying higher prices for the ad space he won. It’s clear Kasich had his eyes set on New Hampshire and the strategy proved successful – he attained 16% of the New Hampshire vote, after winner Donald Trump.


Pricing for each Candidate from February 3  - 20
Pricing for each Candidate from February 3 – 20
Presidential Campaign Impression Share (rounded percentages) February 3 - 9
Presidential Campaign Impression Share (rounded percentages) February 3 – 9

Presidential Campaign Impression Share (rounded percentages) February 14 -20
Presidential Campaign Impression Share (rounded percentages) February 14 -20
Source: Index Exchange US-Marketplace Data

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