IX Perspectives

The Republican Programmatic Race: July 2016 Election Spend

trump signs at rally

July 2016 was a pivotal month for the Republican Party’s campaign to take back the White House. With duelling Republican and Democratic National Conventions (held from July 18 -21 and July 25 to 28, respectively), we figured we’d see some programmatic ad spend to promote these events and piggyback on the platforms and candidates celebrated at them.  Today we’re taking a look at how Republican Super PACs, PACs, party officials, and Trump used programmatic during the month of July.

Party Spend Lulls Mid-Month, Pushes Ahead at End  

Exchange-wide spend, election 2016 (Republican Party)
Exchange-wide spend, election 2016 (Republican Party)

The graph above shows total exchange-wide spend from the Republican Party on ads related to Election 2016. A few things to note:

  • The month kicks off with a (little) bang. July 1 and 2 are two of the ten highest days in the month, in terms of total spend. The influx of spend there could relate to July 4th – these two days fell right on the July 4th holiday weekend. Incidentally, these two days were the days with the most Republican video spend of the month – it seems like a Super PAC, PAC, or body like the RNC may have used the holiday week to run a timely video campaign.
  • Republican spend was highest during the DNC and after it. You read that right. There was more Republican spend during the Democratic National Convention and immediately after it concluded than during the Republican National Convention. Republican spend was over 2x higher during the DNC than it was during the Republican Party’s own.
  • The convention’s kick-off introduced a flurry of spend. The Republican Party’s average daily spend between July 18-July 31 was 3x higher than in the period between July 1 and the 17th. The party clearly used the convention’s beginning as a jolt to begin the charge to November. We expected to see spend tick upwards immediately after the convention with little slowdown until the big day. This proved true toward the end of July – we’ll have to see what August will bring.

Republican Party Spent Most on Two Units: One Ubiquitous and One Scarce

Republican Party's Top Five Ad Units, by Spend (July 2016)
Republican Party’s Top Five Ad Units, by Spend (July 2016)

Above you’ll find a graph depicting the party’s top five most popular ad units in terms of spend and impression volume. Here’s what we find interesting:

  • The bulk of Republican spend went to buying lots of standard slots. The party spent the most money on the common 300×250 unit and bought the most of these impressions. This unit is pretty easy to come by we recently reported it’s one of the most supply rich, commonly traded units within Index Exchange auctions (header and tag-based).
  • The scarcer and pricier video was the unit that came second for spend. The party spent the second-highest amount on video impressions during the month of July, 69% less spend than on the 300×250, and 93% fewer impressions. Video CPMs were the most expensive unit than all others during the month – clear prices were around 2.75x higher than the next most expensive unit, the 300×600.
  • Republican’s video CPMs were lower than average exchange price. The average price for Republican’s video impressions was 21% lower than the exchange average. This suggests the video that was procured was lower quality video than average or above average.

Trump’s Biggest July Blitz Clocks In Post Convention

trump campaign activity (relatively indexed) July 3 - 30, 2016
trump campaign activity (relatively indexed) July 3 – 30, 2016

The Trump campaign spent each day from July 3-July 30. We didn’t see anything from him in the very beginning of the month or at the tail end, right after things got really interesting. Find interpretation of Trump’s July spending habits below:

  • The campaign’s biggest day was immediately post-RNC. Unlike Republican Super PACs and PACs which concentrated spend during the competitive DNC, Trump’s most spend heavy day fell on July 22 (during Week 3), the day after “his” convention wrapped up.
  • Average CPMs steadily rise as the month progresses. Looking at the data, you’ll see that each week’s average CPM is higher than the last’s. It’s almost as if the ads become more and more targeted, or the inventory is higher quality, post-convention.
  • The strategy completely flips. The Trump campaign bought the most impressions in Week 2. Spend during that week was quite high as well, which is to be expected as it’s the week he secured the most impressions. However, look at the average CPM, it’s still low as can be and is virtually identical to Week 1’s average CPM. As the month progresses, the strategy flips. Impression volume plummets as average CPM rises. We’ve been waiting for Trump’s CPMs to increase, which are a directional indicator of programmatic savvy, and it seems the race for precision and/or quality is finally afoot.

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