Pro-Trump Data Firm Sees Local TV Upside

The media analytics company that helped the Republican National Committee get Donald Trump elected president says big data can be huge for local broadcast and cable outlets looking to attract national TV ad spending.

Washington, D.C.-based Deep Root Analytics helped identify people who voted for President Obama in 2012 but were open to casting their 2016 ballot for Trump, and figured out what shows they were watching to guide the campaign’s media buyers as they purchased commercials in local markets in swing states.

Brent McGoldrick, CEO of Deep Root, says the kind of hyper-segmentation that found dissatisfied rust belt Democrats and turned them Republican could benefit national marketers looking for an edge.

Launched in 2013, Deep Root focused initially on political advertising. After Obama’s success in strategically buying local media in 2012, “we saw the need to move beyond traditional age and gender and traditional demographic information in terms of guiding media buys,” says McGoldrick.

Even though a presidential election is a national campaign, there is an intense focus on local markets, like Des Moises, Iowa and Greensboro, N.C. “In a lot of ways, politics has been an early adopter and innovator and it has unlocked value at the local market level to get better data on what your targets are watching,” he says.

Election rolls provide a great deal of data on how often people vote and what party they’ve registered with. Campaigns also conduct frequent polls to see which way likely voters are leaning on an almost daily basis. Deep Root took that first-party data and combined it with viewing data from set-top boxes and smart TVs. It adjusted the buys nearly daily based on RNC tracking polls that showed in almost real time whether swing voters seeing the campaign’s ads were leaning red or blue.

“We were hyper-focused on about 5%-6% of the people in markets like Toledo or Detroit or Harrisburg, Pa.,” says McGoldrick.

Trump didn’t spend as much money on traditional media as many expected. That was partly because he got a later start than his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, and partly because Trump proved adept at getting free media, including news coverage and social media.

“Our view was Trump was never going to outspend Hillary so our pitch to the RNC and the campaign was that while you might spend less, you have to make sure that it’s much more targeted in terms you have to reach,” McGoldrick says.

What did potential Trump voters watch? “The Walking Dead was a really good program to reach Trump voters in particular,” says McGoldrick, referring to AMC’s series about America after a zombie apocalypse. “I won’t make any metaphors or jokes,” he adds.

From market to market, different shows were effective at reaching large numbers of Democrats who were potentially Trump voters.

In Grand Rapids, Mich., NASCAR was big along with the NBC Nightly News Weekend Edition and The Price Is Right. NASCAR was also big in Harrisburg, Pa., but ABC World News Tonight attracted Trump voters there, along with Wheel of Fortune. In Toledo, Democrats open to Trump tended to watch the CBS Evening News, NASCAR and Dr. Phil.

The shows had different audiences and the Trump campaign sent tailored messages depending on the interests of who was watching. For example, shows that skewed female would get a message about health care featuring a female announcer.

McGoldrick believes Deep Root’s efforts helped win a close race. “Do I think paid media wins presidential elections? No. Presidential campaigns by and large are really about earned media,” he says. “However, paid media is only one of a few opportunities a campaign gets to communicate in an unfiltered way. When you win by 100,000 votes in the four states that determine the election, everything matters.”

McGoldrick says that much of what Deep Root does in politics is transferrable to helping other national marketers cash in on new opportunities in local media. The company already works for some of the automakers. It works on TV tune-in campaigns and it has other issue and advocacy campaigns as clients.

Deep Root’s type of segmentation works best for companies that can most narrowly define its target markets, unlike some big packaged goods makers who see the market for their product as anyone who has a mouth or washes their hair.

It helps if the purchase decision is a combination of the rational and the emotional. If there are sharply defined competitors, like State Farm vs. Allstate, that’s good too. And it works well when the campaign has a beginning and end, like an election cycle, or a movie premiere, product rollout or story opening. Then marketers can take advantage of the ways that media consumption changes from market to market that have been largely overlooked and unexploited till now.

And marketers are expressing interest, Mc-Goldrick says. “We’re getting more and more questions about it.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.