Unruly / Blog / How Do US Presidential Candidates’ Ad Campaigns Compare Going Into The New York Primaries?

How Do US Presidential Candidates’ Ad Campaigns Compare Going Into The New York Primaries?

Did you know that already more than $1billion has been spent on US political ads during the 2016 election cycle (Borrell Associates)? Or that the Presidential candidates and independent super-PACs have pushed out more than 152 TV and digital ads between them since July alone? 

After what has seemed like a decade, we are finally getting to the business end of the US Presidential election, with New Yorkers due to go to the polls today to vote in the primaries.  And the candidates for either party are looking for anything they can do to swing the race for the White House in their favor, including their ad campaigns.

But how do the candidates’ ads compare? Well, Unruly’s USA team has taken a look at the video strategies of each of the front-runners (in alphabetical order) to see how they match up.



Hillary Clinton

Hillary is no stranger to using video to promote her bid to become the first female President of the United States. In the lead-up to the 2008 primary season she, alongside her husband and former US President Bill Clinton, parodied the final episode of The Sopranos to help promote her campaign.

Unfortunately for Clinton, despite an Oscar-worthy acting performance, it was not enough to earn the former Senator the Democratic nomination. So in the lead-up to this week’s primary, Hillary put down the parmesan and tried something different – an ad which attacks Donald Trump (without mentioning his name).

According to The Wesleyan Media Project, Between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 9, 2015, 84 percent of the 66,203 ads that aired in both parties’ races for presidential nominations focused on promoting a candidate instead of attacking a candidate or comparing one against another. That seems to be changing, however, as the election gets closer.

But it’s not all attack ads for Hillary. Her Children | Hillary Clinton ad instead focuses on her history fighting for women and children’s rights, and shows speeches throughout her years as First Lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State, no doubt trying to prove she is the most experienced candidate.  


Ted Cruz

Senator Cruz made headlines back in December for hours of cringe-worthy outtakes from his SuperPAC ‘Ted Cruz for Senate’.

But it’s his campaign video “Invasion” that shows the true tone of his campaign. The ad, which shows a wide range of people running through a desert in business attire, attempts to show the importance of tighter border controls between Mexico and the United States. Likely the campaign was going for anger, fear, knowledge, shock and surprise.

When it comes to New York, however, Mr. Cruz has yet to drop a dime on advertising in the market, perhaps because the senator from Texas does not believe in the Empire State’sNew York values”.

Not surprisingly, these comments have come back to hurt him during the New York primary, with Republican rival John Kasich using the comments in his own attack ad, “Values.


Bernie Sanders

According to Ace Metrix, Bernie Sanders has produced the most effective campaign ads across all the candidates, with his “Social Security” ad performing the highest out of all the videos tested. But the Democratic candidate is not sitting on his laurels.

Despite leading Hillary going into the New York primary, the Sanders campaign has also gone on the attack in the build-up, calling out politicians who charge high fees for speaking appearances while also opposing a $15/hour minimum wage in its “$200,000 video.” The campaign released a similarly themed ad titled “Art of the Steal”, calling out the problems of electing candidates deeply tied to Wall Street money. 

However, on the whole, Sanders’ ads have tried to be positive. Set to Paul Simon’s anthemicAmerica”, his campaign video of the same name opens with shots from his hometown New York City.  The video lets everyday Americans share center-stage with Bernie and swiftly moves into cheering crowds around Sanders’ speeches and rallies, appealing to the pride felt by viewers when watching scenes of fellow Americans.   

Mr Sanders has also been spreading his message and making waves singing the patriotic Woody Guthrie song throughout his campaign, alongside the likes of Vampire Weekend, or in the wake of riots outside of a Trump rally in Chicago.


Donald Trump

The New York businessman has been plugging his campaign goal to “Make America Great Again”. It’s a positive message, but not one echoed in his ads, which instead play on people’s feelings of fear, anger and anxiety.

For example, The ‘Great Again’ TV Spot calls on a ban on Muslims entering the US until we can “figure out what’s going on”, while his favorite topic – a wall between the US and Mexico – is also a common theme.

Benedict Pringle, founder of politicaladvertising.co.uk, was quoted in Campaign on the topic, “Trump’s great skill is to take legitimate, highly-complicated issues and propose simple and surprising solutions to them in ways that connect with his audience,” says Pringle.  

Whoever your candidate and whatever video you love best, if you’re in New York, be sure to vote on Tuesday – find your polling location here!