How did Frank Underwood’s ad perform against Bush and Rubio’s?

How would the campaign ad from Southern Democrat Frank Underwood (House of Cards) perform against campaigns from Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio?

We conducted a scientific poll to benchmark Underwood’s campaign ad aired during the CNN GOP Debate against Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio’s. Here’s some teaser data on the Netflix “House of Cards” (HOC) ad for your entertainment!

Video Tested

Frank Underwood Campaign Ad
Jeb Bush Campaign Ad
Marco Rubio Campaign Ad

Let’s look at the numbers:

Spot Trender Data, participant reaction after watching Frank Underwood vs. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio campaign ads

Underwood’s ad dominated in likelihood to share, as well as being much more likable and different than Bush and Rubio’s. Rubio’s message was the most relevant and understandable to voters. Bush’s ad under-performed in every key metric. Notice that respondents are significantly more likely to vote and donate to Rubio and Underwood than Jeb Bush after watching the ad.

Now let’s look at how voters perceive the candidates after seeing their respective ads:

Spot Trender Data, how participants feel about Frank Underwood vs. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio after watching the campaign ads

After seeing the ads, GOP primary voters thought Underwood was most presidential and most likely to beat Hillary Clinton in the general election. They also perceived Frank Underwood as the most innovative. Marco Rubio shined in protecting religious freedom. Both Underwood and Rubio scored significantly higher than Bush in most criteria. Surprisingly, their ads beat Bush in “would keep America safe,” “can deal with China and Russia,” and “would be a good commander-in-chief”. Bush’s ad mentioned 27 admirals and generals support him because “Jeb has the experience and knowledge to protect your family.” This line didn’t work.

Live Reaction Graphs:

What makes Underwood’s ad so good? As participants watch the video, they used the up and down keys on the keyboard to indicate whether they liked or disliked what they are watching. Here’s the normalized reaction graph of Underwood’s campaign ad:

Spot Trender Live Reaction Graph comparing Frank Underwood vs. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio campaign videos

Comparing Underwood’s ad with Rubio and Bush:

The second-by-second viewer reaction above is highly consistent with how the ads performed quantitatively. Overall, Underwood’s ad recieved a very positive reaction. It started high and ended high. Rubio’s has its ups and downs. Bush’s ad started relatively positive but dipped below 0 around 7s and remained negative. Note that Underwood ad performed extremely well before the viewers even saw their favorite House of Cards character. Overall, it’s an excellent ad!

Some interesting First Impressions about each ad:

Rubio’s “About”

  •  “Sincere, hopeful, optimistic. A man who appears to love this country and who doesn’t seem to be filled with anger, I feel like he could really pull this country together.”
  •  “He is too negative, he should focus on positive statements… I will ‘insert something positive here’… Then he can be taken seriously. As it is, he is just whining.”


  •  “I really liked the kids with the flag”
  •  “Americans taking pride in their presidential leader with hope, confidence”
  • “Typical political ad featuring wholesome activities, but ending with empty rhetoric.”

Bush’s “Desk”

  •  “Too much mud-slinging.”
  •  “It just puts down all other candidates. I would prefer to just hear about the things Jeb could do for us, not what the others have done in the recent past.”
  • “So far those that are being attacked on this ad are – in my opinion, great or would be great leaders…”

Key take-aways

  • While attack ads do work, it didn’t work in Jeb’s favor this time.
  • Respondents loved the idea of kids being patriotic and running around with the American flag!
  • Hope really sells. Underwood’s hopeful message correlated with the high “is presidential” score. Talking about problems without providing solutions = “whining.”
  • Watch out candidates, Underwood is coming for you… and he’s only getting started!


Scientific Polling Methodology and Details:

Spot Trender conducted a scientific poll with 960 US citizens nation-wide who are eligible to vote in the Republican Presidential Primaries. Each participant saw 1 campaign video and fill out an online questionnaire about the video he/she just saw. There were 300 qualified respondents for each video. Fielding took 1 day to complete.

Reaction Graph
As participants watch the video, they used the up and down keys on the keyboard to indicate whether they liked or disliked what they are watching. Spot Trender generated the reaction graphs by normalizing it with the number of participants. How the Y-axis is calculated at every second:

Green line (likes) = total ups /number of participants

Red line (dislikes) = total downs/number of participants

Average (light blue line) = (total ups – total downs)/number of participants

For example, If 100 participants who voted 15 ups and 5 downs at 5 second, the Y-axis at 5s would be  (15-5)/100 = .1

Statistical Analysis Table Interpretation Guide
Results were tabulated as “Top 2”, i.e. the sum of the top two most favorable outcomes for the answers. For example, the results above were the sum of “liked it a lot more” and “liked it somewhat more”.

All results were tested at 95% confidence level unless specified otherwise. Cells with statistical significance were highlighted green.

For example:

Interpretation: Cell A is better than B at 95% confidence level.

About Spot Trender:

Spot Trender is a powerful cloud-based platform for dynamic pre-testing of commercials to help you make faster insight-driven advertising decisions from concept (storyboards, animatics) to post-production creatives.

Spot Trender is 90% faster than the competition and accurately predicts your ad performance in as soon as 3 hours instead of 3+ weeks. Our world-class data scientists and advertising veterans combined with an advanced analytics engine give you the time and data-driven insights to dramatically improve your ad campaign performance before running them.

Our crowdsourced platform seamlessly connects you with more than 45+ million qualified participants worldwide. Allowing you to automatically measure real-world customer responses and reactions to each ad spot as well as its impact on sales and brand awareness.

We’ve developed an impressive track record as the leading Commercial Testing and Analytics platform trusted by the world’s leading brands and agencies.

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