One powerful illustration of the influence of earned media in the 2016 presidential election: The noticeable difference between how much Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each spent per electoral vote.
Trump spent $321.9 million, contrasted to Clinton’s $564.9 million, representing about $1.05 million per Trump electoral vote, and $2.43 million for each that Clinton won.
Strategy and timing also played a crucial role in an outcome that could have been reversed.
Following an 11,000-vote difference in Michigan, Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook expressed regret at not sending more staff to the state when speaking candidly at a meeting of campaign strategists at Harvard earlier this month.
Again pointing to the importance of targeting and timing, Trump’s digital strategy mastermind Brad Parscale told The Associated Press the Trump campaign and RNC spent around $5 million in the closing days of the campaign for get-out-the-vote (GOTV) digital ads in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida.
“You think, what if we hadn’t spent that? We might not have won,” suggested Parscale.
Despite Clinton’s comprehensive win in the popular vote, Trump’s 60 million+ votes is evidence of a well-run campaign from a nonpolitical candidate with extraordinarily strong name recognition, given his years on "The Apprentice." He didn’t need to overspend to promote himself; he’d been doing that for decades. It came down to turnout in key states.
Plus, the calculated $4.96 billion in earned media over the past 12 months allowed Trump’s campaign to reject calls for increased spending early in the campaign. On many cable news networks, coverage was all Trump, all the time.
GOTV and last-minute ads were enough to the make the difference.
In addition to the digital efforts, the last FEC reports submitted by the Trump team shows almost $39 million in TV advertising during the final weeks of the campaign.
That included $7 million for what Parscale called a “closing” commercial nationwide. The two-minute ad hit right at the core of how many feel about Washington, D.C.:
“Our movement is about replacing the failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people,” boasted Trump in the ad.
That was his promise. Given his Cabinet appointments to generals, Goldman Sachs executives and big donors, many are wondering whether he drained the swamp or invited it into the house.