Trump’s Ads in Iowa Gave a Boost to Cruz: Political Ad Testing Results

By Aaron Reid
February 3, 2016

After his first loss in Iowa, Donald Trump may want to consider quantifying the true implicit impact of his ads.

In the days preceding the Iowa Caucuses, the Sentient Consumer Subconscious Research Lab conducted a study measuring the implicit impact of exposure to Trump’s ad on emotional associations with the candidates. The results were telling.
While the initial reaction to Trump’s proposal to place a temporary ban on Muslim immigration proved to have implicit resonance with likely voters, the creative execution in his “Cut the Head off ISIS” ad did not have the same implicit impact in Iowa.

We measured the implicit emotional attraction to the top candidates before and after exposure to a number of political ads.
In the three days before the Iowa Caucuses, Republicans exposed to the Trump ad showed a significant decline in positive emotion toward Donald Trump.
Political Ad Testing Trump Cruz Emotions
Moreover, not only did this ad reduce positive emotional associations toward Trump, Ted Cruz was a significant beneficiary. Following exposure to the Trump ad, likely Republican caucus goers felt more positive about Cruz.

Quantifying Implicit Measures of Ad Impact

These results highlight two key points in ad-testing. First, it’s time for our industry to more broadly adopt quantitative implicit measures of ad impact in our ad testing. These studies are run in a matter of days or hours and provide clear insight on the effectiveness of creative execution.

Selecting the Appropriate Audience for Implicit Ad Testing

Second, it is critical to test ads on a sufficient sample of your target audience. The voters in Iowa may have been reacting very differently than the voters in New Hampshire or South Carolina to Trump’s ad. If Cruz’s win in Iowa is any indication, this ad may have been a misstep by Trump.
Implicit ad testing can help brands (political and consumer) to avoid those kinds of costly missteps.
Learn more about Sentient Subtext implicit ad testing here, and watch our insights blog closely for our Super Bowl 50 ad testing results next week.

Thanks to to Behavioral Scientist Dr. Nate Decker for his insight and collaboration on this study.

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Aaron Reid


Founder & CEO, Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

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