How These Online Ads Predicted Trump’s Victory

Last week I was driving through my little beach town in Southern California.

This area is wealthy and historically very conservative in comparison to the rest of California.

So I found it interesting passing big house after big house that I wasn’t seeing a single political sign in support of Trump.

I thought, “Rich, Republican-leaning neighborhood. No open support for Trump. This is going to be a landslide.”

Obviously, I was wrong and in hindsight I feel silly.

Anyone with a job that involves online advertising and marketing, like mine, should have been able to predict a close race.

Here’s why:

Typically, advertisers and marketers go where their customers go. They follow the desires of the market, not the other way around.

In my Friday Copy Over Coffee newsletter I identify advertising strategies that smaller, lesser-known companies and brands can use in their digital advertising. (My audience is comprised of small businesses, entrepreneurs, and freelance copywriters.)

Naturally, I find the ideas that help my audience most come from other lesser-known brands. It makes sense to model companies that have the same brand awareness level as you.

And what I’m noticing in retrospect is just how much money these lesser-known companies have been spending on advertising.

A lot of the top advertisers (dollars spent) on Google and the content networks like Yahoo Gemini Native, Outbrain, Taboola, and Revcontent are small brands and companies you’ve never heard of.

Yet, they’re consistently spending as much, and in some cases more, than big brands on ads.

Further, because these smaller companies aren’t “brands you’ve heard of” they’re tasked with creating ads that quickly provide a ROI. In other words, they’re not looking to build brand awareness.

These small companies can’t afford to use typical brand advertising strategies.

They need to identify the message what will immediately attract attention and then use sales tactics that will turn that attention into a sale RIGHT NOW.

One of my first mistakes was simply not paying attention to the volume.

I was only looking at their messaging and saying, “Okay, they’re appealing to their ideal market. This is what their small niche market wants to believe.”

But it turns out that this market isn’t niche at all! The volume was right in front of my face and I didn’t see it. They’re spending just as much and getting just as many clicks as other advertisers.

The Message

Which brings me to their message – a message that obviously appeals to a large percentage of the American population.

A message that just so happens to align with Trump’s.

The message: Big government, “the establishment”, is corrupt and broken. They’re keeping you poor. They’re wrecking your health. And so on.

Before the election started heating up this message focused on Obama or just simply the government.

Ads like these below:




As election day grew nearer, blame shifted from Obama to Hilary – the obvious choice. She represented “the establishment” in this election.

Adbeat estimates that spent $216.2K on ads like these below in the last 105 days alone:



Ads with Trump in them looked a little different:


Again, advertisers with ads & messages like these consistently have been among the biggest spenders across multiple online networks.

The volume is there staring us in the face.

This anti-establishment message no longer resonates with a radical minority… it’s damn near popular opinion.

On top of that, there’s another (somewhat) new market filled with demographically similar consumers — The Prepper or Survival market.

A large group of Americans believe that America as they know it is coming to an end (according to this article they might be right).

It’s clear that a large segment of our population is concerned about disease, terrorism, or some world-changing disaster. In 2011 one of the largest direct response campaigns of all time carried the headline: End of America.

The prepper market advertisers can be found spending big bucks across all the various ad networks as well:



While not all Prepper products are sold through political messaging, their correlation with anti-establishment and Trump’s platform is pretty easy to see.

Gun rights, distrust of government, etc.

When it comes to demographics, the typical consumer of these anti-establishment and Prepper products is a 50+ white male, middle-class, and often from the center of the country.

Older white middle-class dudes get out and vote. So percentage-wise, when it comes to voting, they grow even larger in comparison to the whole of this country.

Again, what I think most people including myself missed was just how large and “mainstream” this demographic has become.

Donald Trump saw it and tapped into it.

And the direct response marketers knew it before most of us could see it.

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