Based on projections for midterm ad spending and lessons from recent cycles, there’s no question that political marketers will need to further diversify their media mixes this cycle if they want to avoid over-saturating voters.
But of the $7.8 billion projected to be spent on marketing in the ’22 cycle by Kantar/CMAG, only $215 million of that is expected to go to radio.
Although some industry observers speculate that number could increase as budgets shift closer to Election Day, overall it should still be higher, according to Tony Hereau, VP of Cross Platform Insights, Nielsen.
Hereau recently gave a presentation to AAPC members where he noted that a 10-percent allocation to AM/FM radio “boosts voter reach by +8% with no increase in budget.”
The main reason for advocating for more radio spending, according to Hereau, is “massive reach.”
“When you’re trying to make a big impact in a local market, right before a specific date, like an election, you can’t wait for reach and frequency to spool up over a long period of time,” he said. “You need to hit people quickly, and reach a lot of them so that they show up and vote. And radio can do that.”
But that argument runs up against established spending patterns by political marketers.
“Political advertisers fall into this trap of like, cut and paste, where they say, ‘Well, we got elected last time with this strategy, let’s go with that again. It’s tried and true.’ But what’s happened is the world has changed since then,” Hereau told C&E.
As so-called cord cutting increases, he noted that political marketers often get stuck trying to reach light TV viewers with media plans that subsequently overwhelm heavy viewers who get a spot eight times while the former sees it once or twice a week.
That phenomenon was very pronounced in December 2020 in Georgia during the Senate runoff races. During that period one in every three ads on television was political.
“There was not that same phenomenon happening” on radio, he said. “It was like one out of every ten ads, maybe, that were political.”
He added: “It’s so hard to cut through the clutter when so many of those light viewers are just not seeing those ads. Marketers just have to get a lot more creative. They have to diversify their approach.”
One of the most striking findings in Hereau’s presentation deck is the number of swing voters who are listening to different radio formats. Typically, news and country stations are political marketers first calls when making radio buys.
But those aren’t the stations reaching the highest percentage of swing voters. Rather, it’s “Mexican regional” radio that has the broadest reach with 55 percent of swing voters listening to the format compared with 46 percent for country and 43 listening to news/talk/info.
“There is so much money that is coming into the political space for this upcoming midterm election,” he said. “There’s clearly an opportunity to direct some of that to radio.”