DES MOINES: The phoney war is over, and the results of the first Republican caucus, won by Ted Cruz, suggest that data and analytics could be a key source of advantage in the 2016 US presidential election.

Fast Company reported that the Cruz campaign spent $7.2m in fees for data and analytics in the fourth quarter, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission, while the Trump campaign paid out $738,517 over the same period. Trump spent more on hats than data, the report stated.

At least two other candidates were similarly underpowered in digital, with Jeb Bush spending $800,000 and Marco Rubio $450,000.

Last week the Wall Street Journal noted that one fifth of the Cruz campaign's media spending has gone on digital ads, with half of that devoted to video.

Chris Wilson, director of research and analytics for the Cruz campaign, explained that video ads were focused on TrueView ads on YouTube as these were the nearest thing to TV ads available but with much better targeting.

He added that he preferred these to autoplay Facebook ads since, while they can be skipped after five seconds, they are usually watched with the sound on.

Further, the campaign is using custom messages to target key constituencies: he revealed that the Cruz team has developed no fewer than 178 different consumer data segments to use when determining which ads to show to specific web users.

While targeted digital may be attracting a growing share of political ad dollars, the power of television is not being ignored.

Advertising Age reported that four political advertisers, including the Marcio Rubio campaign and three super PACs linked to Rubio, Bush and Cruz, have bought Super Bowl spots in the New Hampshire and South Carolina markets – the locations of the next two primaries.

Brent McGoldrick, CEO of data and analytics firm Deep Root Analytics, pointed out that spending on these spots could prove as effective as buying multiple spots on local TV over the course of a week. In any case, there was no guarantee that local inventory would be available.

Data sourced from Fast Company, Advertising Age, Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff