Bernie Sanders has run the most effective creative this cycle while Donald Trump and Ted Cruz’s ads are winning the hearts of Republican primary voters. That’s according to a survey by Ace Metrix, which has been measuring the effectiveness of this cycle’s video ads.
Moreover, the findings suggest that while digital consultants are making great strides in targeting their creative, the overall scores on digital ads lagged behind those produced for traditional TV. Of the 152 spots that respondents scored, only three online-only ads received top marks from respondents.
Ace Metrix, which primarily has corporate clients, has been offering its testing services to campaigns since 2012, but stepped up its outreach effort last quarter. It hopes to expand its presence in the campaign market with the help of newly installed vice president Mark Bryant, a former executive at Resonate.
“Our platform’s ideally suited for media consultants, pollsters and the emerging data and analytics officers,” he said. Through the responses of its online focus group of 500 voters, campaigns can measure their ads against the market “norm.”
“You can discern very quickly how your ad is performing with different segments of the electorate at a glance, and you’re able to see that with every other ad that’s run in that category,” said Bryant.
In its latest survey, Sanders’ “Social Security” ad earned the highest marks overall with an Ace Score of 550. The same ad led among Independents with a score of 535. Other Sanders ads, including “Real Change” and “Works For Us All,” were similarly well received.
“They’re anti-status quo, overall aspirational ads, and the themes include higher family income, equal pay, making college affordable, fair and reasonable healthcare costs,” said Bryant. “These are themes that seem to do well with Independent voters.”
Devine Mulvey Longabaugh and Revolution Messaging are producing Sanders’ traditional and online advertising this cycle. Meanwhile, one of Clinton’s most effective ads, which was produced by GMMB, was “Keith,” which tells the story of a man trying to care for his aging mother.
“The personal-story ads that Hillary has run do consistently well,” said Bryant. “If I’m Martin O’Malley, I’m looking at what’s effective across Bernie’s ads and Hillary’s ads. There’s a consistency to them.”
John Kasich’s video ads, which are being produced internally and by Salt Lake City-based Arena Online, were effective for general election voters. His spot “Never Give Up” was ranked the 10th most effective in the the overall survey. But when it came to reaching Republicans, Cruz and Trump’s ads, “Rebuild Our Military” and “Great Again,” were ranked one and two, respectively. Both ads have what Bryant called “the anti-radical terrorism theme.”
Ace Metrix uses an online panel gathered through a third-party vendor to score the ads. Its survey uses eight quantitative questions and one open-ended question, which yields qualitative feedback. The final score is a combination of responses categorized by attention, agreement, relevance, desire to seek information, learning and credibility.
“If I’m Hillary Clinton, I can look at how my ads are stacking up against my opponents, and relative to the ads being run by the Republican primary candidates,” said Bryant.
The company’s service is based on a subscription model and can be used for message testing or measuring how an ad stacks up against the competition after it’s released. There’s a monthly fee to utilize the platform, which the company is targeted at competitive congressional races, statewide races and presidentials.
“We’re testing all those ads whether or not we have a client [in that campaign],” said Bryant. “We’re doing that at the presidential level and the statewide level. We’re also doing that at the congressional level, but with select districts or races.”