The media tracking firm mediaQuant estimated Mr. Trump has
earned nearly $2 billion in earned media attention, dwarfing his
Republican competitors. Meanwhile the billionaire developer has
spent the least --
about $10 million on TV ads.
"He has created some new innovations that will be studied by all
future candidates," Mr. Jaffe said.
The advertising industry lobbyist talked to Advertising Age
about the failings of political ads in the race for the White
Ad Age: Why have voters largely ignored the
onslaught of TV ads that have dominated the airwaves in the
Mr. Jaffe: The person that spent the least
amount of money has been the most successful. That doesn't mean
that advertising doesn't work. But you can't separate advertising
from the product and people are seeing the product at many of the
If people don't like the product it's not going to sell. Jeb
Bush has spent more than anybody else and we have seen it hasn't
Ad Age: How has Donald Trump succeeded without
spending a lot on ads?
Mr. Jaffe: What Trump has been able to do is
use a mixture of earned media and social media to drive his
campaign. His use of Twitter has been one of his major innovations.
He has an enormous number of followers. He's pushy and says things
that catch people's attention. His is able to call various cable
networks and they will take the call.
Ad Age: Is the political environment a factor
in the failure of TV ads to sell candidates this year?
Mr. Jaffe: Well, the general environment has
been "the mad as hell and we won't take it any more" election,
making it hard for some candidates. How you decide whether a
product is good or bad in the political arena is whether people
support it or not. If people don't, no amount of advertising will
help. If people don't like the product, it's not going to sell.
Edsel [the infamous 1958 Ford model] advertising was very
successful in getting people to the showrooms, but when they looked
at the product they didn't like it. Advertising is not a magic
Ad Age: Have ads worked better with Democratic
Mr. Jaffe: They are certainly using their
advertising budgets more effectively. But Bernie Sanders spent a
lot of money in several states that he lost.
Ad Age: So is this election year going to
deliver a big blow to the political ad industry?
Mr. Jaffe: We don't know what we are seeing is
an aberration or a new paradigm. Copying Trump's approach can only
be done by politicians who have the same qualities he has,
including charisma and celebrity.
It is my expectation that some of the rules that are being
broken right now won't be in the general election, when it will be
harder to run a campaign just on earned media. You have to run a
general campaign that targets states with the largest electoral
votes -- and no candidate can be everywhere at the same time.
I think there will be more of the normal type of campaign
advertising. But we won't know for sure until it happens.