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The Election Cycle Winner? Radio!

June 16, 2016

As divided as opinions over candidates may be, as raucous as the sound bites may get – there is still something Americans can agree on during this election cycle – radio is the clear winner for getting your political message to the voters who count.

There are many reasons for radio’s dominant reach but when it comes to media campaigns for candidates, it’s hard to beat radio. First of all, let’s state the obvious. It’s everywhere – in your car, your house, your office, and on your cellphone. Secondly, with its widely varying formats, it can target the folks you’re trying to reach with your political message more easily than any other media. Third – and this one is a biggie – it’s cheap!

So, let’s take a look at the advantages that radio offers over other popular media such as television, online venues, and smartphone apps. As stated, it’s everywhere – most importantly, in your car. The New York Times reported in a 12/03/15 article (“Campaigns Turn to a Cheaper Medium to Get Voters’ Ears: Radio”): “Television viewers can tune out, and online audiences can scroll by or click ‘Skip this ad.’ But radio listeners, stuck in their cars for long stretches, may be the closest thing to a captive audience for political commercials.”

In addition, radio’s sheer reach means it grabs more listeners than other media. For example in a 07/28/15 article in Forbes magazine (“The All-But-Forgotten Medium With The Biggest Reach”), it was reported that “radio actually has the most reach among American media consumers. 93% of adults listen to the radio each week as compared to 87% who watch TV… In terms of the American population, this means that 243 million people over the age of 12 are listening to old-fashioned broadcast AM/FM radio every week.”

How does this translate into this election cycle? The New York Times article stated that “political advertising on iHeartMedia… with 858 stations in more than 150 markets, was already up 30 percent for the fourth quarter over the same period in 2011.” That’s a lot of additional revenue for radio!

Now, getting back to radio’s wide selection of formats, Talk radio obviously comes to mind. But surprisingly, music stations also do well. In an interview on “The Ed Schultz Show” in a segment called “Get Ready for Endless Radio Ads During the 2016 Election Cycle,” Holland Cooke, a media consultant, discussed how different formats target different segments of voters. (See the full interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f60orMda1ho) In addition, The New York Times article stated that “major radio companies are stepping up their efforts to help politicians reach the voters they are courting – and to capture more of their advertising spending. Nielsen Media and Experian Marketing Services have teamed up in the top 48 radio markets … to help radio companies show advertisers how to target listeners according to party affiliation, likelihood to vote and more.”

And, last but not least, radio is a bargain! The New York Times reported that: “A campaign wanting to reach voters in the Des Moines market with an effective ad purchase would have to spend about $85,000 on television… To reach the voters to the same degree would cost only $48,000 on radio.

“Side by side, the contrast is even starker: A 60-second campaign ad during the 6 p.m. newscast of KTTV, the NBC affiliate in Sioux City, in mid-November cost about $900… A minute-long ad at the same time on KSCJ, the conservative talk-radio station there, went for as little as $20…”

And we haven’t even discussed production costs yet. Contrast about 90 minutes to record a radio spot at $1,500 and expect to pay ten times as much for a television ad.

So in this election cycle, if you want to get the most bang for your buck; if you want to reach the most voters and potential voters; and if you want to specifically target the voters most likely to check yes for your candidate, you should be voting for radio!

-Barbara Krebs, Quality Assurance