#Unmissable: Trump and the Art of Bad Publicity

Image by Courtney Dercqu

It’s been four weeks since the American people chose Donald Trump as their new president, the dust is slowly settling and the financial markets are picking up, even flourishing — in itself something hardly anyone could have predicted.

If I had only placed a small wager on a Trump victory. With the odds running anywhere between 6:1 and 10:1, I would have struck gold.

It’s funny that no one was confident in his ability to win the election, not even a senior Trump adviser who bluntly told CNN on election night: “It will take a miracle for us to win.”

Yet here we are, and I still can’t get my head around what blinded everyone’s senses. Did I, like many others inside this bubble, just refuse to believe that he had a chance?

Trying to find an answer, I decided to turn to the root of all evil: the media. Did the media, perhaps, give Trump his chance? Of course, not!

New York Daily News blasts Trump: ‘Dead Clown Walking’

However, they did help him tremendously, offering him huge amounts of early unfiltered exposure, along with a ridiculous emphasis on every tiny meme developed around his push to power. Trump knew this and played along, proving the old adage that “there is no such thing as bad publicity,” which guaranteed him acres of free coverage.

And so, we were proven wrong. While Clinton focused on encouraging followers to vote, Trump’s key messages — #AmericaFirst and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain — spread like wildfire and the results soon came tumbling in.

Despite both presidential candidates posting roughly the same number of times, the future US President came out on top for social media actions, positive responses and shares; scoring no less than 72.4 million engagements — more than double Clinton’s 33.6 million interactions.

For example, just look at Trump’s apology post for his lewd comments towards women, which amassed 24 million views, 504,000 likes and 125,000 comments and was shared over 378,000 times, thus reaching more than 127 million users.

Or maybe it was the added benefit of social video platforms like Facebook Live, which found their perfect companions during the 2016 Elections. While Trump significantly underspent compared to Clinton, he launched “Trump TV” through Facebook Live, where he was able to reach large audiences with rich video content delivered straight through phones, bypassing the so-called liberal (and expensive) media and getting the engagement he needed to turn the polls to his favour.

In the end, it’s difficult to consider these numbers and judge which aspects of all this were instrumental in Trump’s triumph. But we know from past experience how social media has been playing a key role ever since Obama’s revolutionary use of Twitter back in 2008.

The reason, I believe, we didn’t see it coming was due to a so-called ‘echo chamber effect’. This is the dynamic by which our views are reflected back to us by like-minded friends in our social networks. We simply don’t hear enough alternative points of view. What then happens is that it reinforces our own opinions and distances us from an understanding of The Other Side.

It’s almost a foregone conclusion that future candidates will focus more of their energy on getting their manifesto out through social marketing channels. And realising full well that in this new era, if you can attract enough engagement, it’s really the case that any press is good press.

But where will this lead us? Or, as The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert so elegantly put it in his Facebook Live stream on election night:

“Who’s Going to Clean Up This Shit?”


Marco Lemcke is a London-based, interdisciplinary Creative, who works on various projects for both traditional advertising- and digital-agencies, as well as individual clients. Find out more at: www.marcolemcke.com