Ted Cruz loves The Sound of Music Live. Hillary Clinton can’t get enough of Jerry Springer. Bernie Sanders is all over the local Colorado news. A TIME analysis of data from the Political TV Ad Archive reveals the shows Democrat and Republican candidates are targeting the most this campaign season.
While popular shows like Today and Good Morning America are the overarching favorites for virtually every candidate, the ad archive also contains numerous examples of campaigns or their affiliated super PACs running spots on shows with less competition. In addition to Jerry Springer, for example, the Clinton campaign has run a majority of the political ads on The Steve Wilkos Show, The Wendy Williams Show, TMZ Live and Maury.
The Political TV Ad Archive, which was created by the non-profit Internet Archive to gather information on political advertising, tracks major media outlets in the weeks running up to select primaries and caucuses. Based on that comprehensive sample, here is a list of the top 10 shows where the 2016 candidates are advertising, as well as the 10 shows each candidate has uniquely targeted—that is, the shows where the candidate has the biggest share of all the political ads. (Because Donald Trump and John Kasich do not run as many advertisements as their competitors, sometimes their top shows are still ones where they are not the majority advertiser.) This data includes both ads by the campaign and super PACs supporting that candidate.
Click a show to see the breakdown by candidate and superPAC.
As of April 15, political campaigns and super PACs had spent $489,506,293 in TV advertising so far this cycle, according to an Ad Age analysis of data from Kantar Media. Clinton and affiliated PACs have spent close $122 million on TV ads while Bernie Sanders—without significant support from outside PACs, as he often notes—has spent close to $69 million.
"It’s harder to find good opportunities once you put a lot of money on the table," says Mitchell Lovett, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Rochester. In a paper that Lovett co-authored with Michael Peress of SUNY-Stony Brook studying the optimal allocation of TV spending for political campaigns, they suggest that "candidates could improve by more heavily targeting the most effective, cheapest programs and by targeting a smaller number of shows with very high turnout rates."
New technology has also allowed advertisers to gather highly specific information about the viewers of a show, allowing for much more granular targeting, using information on a household’s demographics based on their cable box, which provides information on what they watch. With this information in hand, campaigns can target advertisements more accurately.
"Traditionally, research has been targeted on audience concentration of people of a certain age and certain gender. The reason that is done is because the Nielsen company wasn't able to provide ratings for people who actually bought products," says Ed DeNicola, vice president of broadcast media at Cambridge Analytica—a firm that the Cruz campaign has hired this cycle. Once TV switched from being analog to digital, he says, "there were all these boxes in people's homes and these boxes were able to backhaul [report back] data." As a result, "it was possible to match the data to actual purchase information, or in the case of politics, voter registration information."
The firm uses a well-known personality profile known as the "Big Five" or "OCEAN" test that measures a person's openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
"These are extremely different types of messages that are targeted towards different personalities, and each of these can be turned into television adverts that are targeted specifically towards individuals or individual households where the dominant personality traits correspond with targeted groups," says Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica.
"I think the synthesis of big data and predictive analytics together with personality modeling in politics … is the natural evolution of what was happening in the previous cycles where data was driving a lot of digital campaigns," Nix says. "But now, data is richer, [the] amount of data is greater and the granularity is higher."
The Political TV Ad Archive, a project of the Internet Archive, tracks political ads by scanning television in major media markets near select primaries and caucus several weeks in advance, using a technique known as “sound fingerprinting” to detect an ad on local TV. Internal audits of the data versus other ways of measuring political advertising suggest this method captures the vast majority of ads. Due to the possibility for false positives using this technique, TIME worked closely with the researchers to manually check as much of the data as possible against the original footage from the show.
The ad firm Øptimus, which worked with the Rubio campaign this cycle, analyzed the advantages of advertising during non-prime-time TV slots.
The SuperPACs included in this analysis are based on Open Secrets' list of affiliated organizations: Right to Rise USA (Jeb Bush), 2016 Cmte (Ben Carson), America Leads (Chris Christie), Priorities USA (Hillary Clinton), Ready for Hillary (Hillary Clinton), Keep the Promise (Ted Cruz), Stand For Truth (Ted Cruz), Trusted Leadership PAC (Ted Cruz), Make DC Listen (Ted Cruz), Reigniting the Promise (Ted Cruz), Courageous Conservatives PAC (Ted Cruz), Carly for America Cmte (Carly Fiorina), Gilmore For America LLC (Jim Gilmore), Security is Strength (Lindsey Graham), Pursuing America's Greatness (Mike Huckabee), Believe Again (Bobby Jindal), New Day For America (John Kasich), New Day Independent Media Cmte (John Kasich), Generation Forward (Martin O'Malley), Concerned American Voters (Rand Paul), America's Liberty PAC (Rand Paul), Opportunity & Freedom PAC (Rick Perry), Baby Got PAC (Marco Rubio), Conservative Solutions PAC (Marco Rubio), Working Again PAC (Rick Santorum), Great America PAC (Donald Trump), Patriots for Trump (Donald Trump), Unintimidated PAC (Scott Walker).