Donald Trump used free airtime on cable news networks to bolster his campaign without spending millions on traditional advertising during the Republican primary.
But during Sunday night’s second presidential debate, Hillary Clinton beat Trump at his own game, though just barely.
The Democratic nominee earned $1.6 million in free advertising during the debate and in the hours immediately, after while Trump earned $1.5 million.
“There was a significant spike in Hillary mentions (TV and online) right as the debate started,” said John Derham of iQ Media, a company that tracks real-time TV and online media mentions and appearances.
The dollar amount was calculated by multiplying the length of a clip when Trump or Clinton was mentioned on the air by the total audience of viewers who saw the clip.
“Since there were no ads that ran during the debate, this is calculating the real estate taken up just by the names as mentioned during the debate – within the debate itself and on other TV and online channels,” Derham said.
Neither Trump or Clinton dominated the discussion last night, as Clinton saw a big spike online as the debate started while Trump was mentioned more on TV. Clinton’s spike occurred as more people were tuned in at 9pm.
To crunch the numbers, iQ media used closed captioning to count how many times “Donald Trump” or “Hillary Clinton” was uttered during the debate and scrubbed the internet for mentions of both candidates from 9 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
Even though Trump took up 65 percent of the on-air TV time during the debate and in the hours afterward, Clinton’s name appeared online 63 percent of the time, compared with Trump’s 37 percent.
After the first debate, iQ media calculated that Trump had 56 percent to 44 percent in media mentions, and Clinton flipped that trend on Sunday evening.
“Keep in mind also that this was just during the three hours of the debate and after,” Derham said. “Leading up to the event – throughout the day – there were huge numbers of mentions for Trump. But as the debate got started, Hillary saw a huge spike.”
Clinton is still investing more on traditional advertising that doesn’t rely on media mentions. She’d spent $131 million on TV ads, compared with Trump’s $25 million, through the end of last week.