Deep Root also helped the Trump camp and RNC decide what ad
messages would perform best for targeted voter segments in
particular markets while National Media did the actual TV ad
Based on TargetPoint's weekly surveys, for example, if
50-something males in Wisconsin were waning in their support for
Mr. Trump, the firm would reconfigure its data models, affecting
scores in the RNC data for voters who shared similar
characteristics. That change might result in recategorization for
that voter sub-segment, possibly affecting media buys and creative
At the same time, Cambridge Analytica was updating its own
models to help determine the best messages to aim at voter segments
for last-minute digital ad targeting.
Between January 2015 and November 2016, the RNC paid TargetPoint
$4.2 million for data services, and gave Causeway around $500,000
in that time, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
Deep Root, acting as Needle Drop, was paid $983,000 by the RNC.
Cambridge Analytica was paid a total of $5.6 million by the
Trump campaign, the cost of the $5 million TV buy and $600,000 in
data services, according to FEC reports and Mr. Parscale.
No matter what twists and turns the election took, even after
the "Access Hollywood" tape scandal broke in early October, the
campaign kept its ads up in rust belt states Michigan, Ohio,
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- all states it won. In fact, the
analytics-driven approach led the Trump camp to place ads in 13
markets that Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign never bought, including
Flint, Mich.; Greenville, N.C.; and Tallahassee, Fla.
"It was out of necessity," said Deep Root Analytics CEO Brent
McGoldrick, discussing the 270 electoral votes needed to win. "It
was like, 'look if you're going to get to over 270 you're going to
have to flip at least one of those states behind the blue wall, at
least one of them," he said. "Any other campaign I've ever been
with, there would have been a major reshuffling of the advertising
and advertising budget at that point [after the Access Hollywood
tape was revealed]. Someone in the campaign would have emerged as a
nervous Nellie. That didn't happen in this case."
The data also informed development of ad creative and how it was
aimed. In the final weeks, ads such as one called "Deals," with a
tougher, masculine tone portraying Mr. Trump as a strong leader who
would renegotiate "bad trade deals pushed by the Clintons" ran in
smaller rust belt cities. In Toledo, "Deals" showed up during
Nascar Camping World Truck Series, a pickup truck racing series, in
the hopes of reaching male HRC Change voters.
To convince "HRC Change" women, the data indicated a softer tone
was needed. An infographic-style ad called "Builder" -- one that
looked very similar to those the Obama campaigns had used -- ran in
markets including Milwaukee during The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "It
takes a builder to rebuild the American Dream," said the ad, which
promoted the candidate's promises to provide childcare tax
reduction and paid maternity leave.
699,146 Florida voters
On Thursday, Nov. 3, a data set encompassing 699,146 undecided
Florida voter profiles was provided by Causeway to the RNC for
distribution to the party's field operation, the people guiding the
labyrinthine door-to-door canvassing process to get out the vote,
who would translate the data to walking maps for volunteers and, in
some states, paid GOTV canvassers. The same data went to the Trump
campaign and its direct mail, TV and other media vendors. Over the
previous weeks, similar data sets for Florida and other key states,
featuring updated targets for voter contact and all media, had been
disseminated. The goal was not unlike that of omnichannel marketing
in the corporate ad world: essentially to use the same playbook for
all communications with individuals no matter what the medium.
There were five days to go till election day and the RNC's data
coalition saw inklings of a Trump lead in Michigan and Ohio, with
Florida closing in for him. Ultimately, he won all three states --
Michigan by only around 10,000 votes, Florida by approximately
113,000, and Ohio by a wider margin of around 445,000 votes.
Cambridge Analytica, which also used ongoing surveys to develop
and update its own models, saw older Hispanics in Florida and North
Carolina coming through for Mr. Trump in its own data.
In the last week or so before election day, Bill Skelly, partner
and co-founder at Causeway, watched as the data showed accelerated
voter migration into Trump territory. "I don't know that I've ever
seen anything like it from a data perspective," he said.
So much of the election was driven by earned media coverage that
it's important to step back and consider whether well-targeted paid
media and door-knocks actually made the difference. No winning
campaign could rely solely on data-driven paid media, which, amid
the roar of earned-media messages especially in 2016, "is like a
ceiling fan in a hurricane," said Deep Root's Mr. McGoldrick.
But good data is essential nonetheless, he said.
"Trump won by 100,000 in key blue wall states, so, yes, it
helped," Mr. McGoldrick said. "It's required to win as part of an
overall messaging strategy."