President-elect Donald Trump may not like the media he so passionately rails against, but the reality television star turned politician wouldn’t be where he is today if it weren’t for the medium. Not only because The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice turned the New York real estate mogul into a household name, but also because of how his presidential campaign used it to attract certain kinds of voters who cared for certain political issues.
As his son-in-law Jared Kushner explained in a recent interview with Forbes, Trump’s campaign finances — which raised and spent significantly less than Hillary Clinton — were utilized to target specific groups of voters in ways not traditionally practiced in American politics. The main thrust of this was the campaign’s “secret data operation,” which Kushner managed “like a Silicon Valley startup”:
Kushner’s crew was able to tap into the Republican National Committee’s data machine, and it hired targeting partners like Cambridge Analytica to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most: trade, immigration or change. Tools like Deep Root drove the scaled-back TV ad spending by identifying shows popular with specific voter blocks in specific regions — say, NCIS for anti-ObamaCare voters or The Walking Dead for people worried about immigration.
Deep Root Analytics, a media consulting company founded in 2013, moves beyond traditional “spray and play” advertising operations in order to maximize their clients’ television commercial campaigns. So when Forbes writer Steven Bertoni explains Kushner and the Trump campaign’s use of the company’s services as “identifying shows popular with specific voter blocks in specific regions,” he isn’t mincing his words. These tools literally let them identify what programs potential voters were watching, targeted them via those shows, and amplified any and all successful efforts.
Hence why The Walking Dead fans saw so many pro-Trump ads during their favorite show’s commercial breaks — especially ads pertaining to the Republican nominee’s stance on immigration. After all, it’s a series about a dystopian future in which the protagonists must fight against a constant barrage of outsiders, both dead and alive. Rick Grimes and company aren’t too fond of newcomers, be they old allies from seasons past or violent antagonists equipped with barbed wire-encrusted baseball bats.