Trump has scored nearly $2 billion in free media coverage

posted at 1:01 pm on March 15, 2016 by John Sexton

Trump’s ability to win primaries with little spent in terms of traditional TV ads has been a shock to many including, no doubt, former candidate Jeb Bush who spent about $82 million on ads during his campaign. A list of ad buys published Tuesday by the NY Times shows Trump in 8th place, spending just $10 million so far, less than every other candidate remaining in the race on either side of the aisle. However, Trump has more than made up for that deficit in paid advertising with earned media, i.e. free television coverage of his speeches, events and campaign:

Mr. Trump earned $400 million worth of free media last month, about what John McCain spent on his entire 2008 presidential campaign. Paul Senatori, mediaQuant’s chief analytics officer, says that Mr. Trump “has no weakness in any of the media segments” — in other words, he is strong in every type of earned media, from television to Twitter.

Over the course of the campaign, he has earned close to $2 billion worth of media attention, about twice the all-in price of the most expensive presidential campaigns in history. It is also twice the estimated $746 million that Hillary Clinton, the next best at earning media, took in. Senator Bernie Sanders has earned more media than any of the Republicans except Mr. Trump.

The figures were compiled by mediaQuant based on ad rates for various types of media. This graphic prepared by the NY Times using data from mediaQuant and SMG Delta. It shows how Trump has dominated all of his rivals in both parties with earned media coverage. (Note: paid advertising figures are not directly comparable but still give an idea of relative spending among candidates.):

Earned media

The problem for Donald Trump is that not all of that free media has been positive. Still, even coverage that is negative in tone seems to help him. A recent Monmouth poll found that his lead in the Florida primary was given a bump by coverage of his canceled Chicago rally.

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