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Radio’s Political Post-Mortem

December 8, 2020

After an election, both parties, including the winning party, perform an assessment of what went right and what went wrong. What can be done better in the next election cycle? This is commonly known as an election post-mortem.

Now that the 2020 election is mostly over, our industry should also ask these questions:

  • How did we do?
  • What did we do right?
  • What could we have done better?

While we cannot redo 2020, the next federal election is less than two years away. Some states like Virginia and New Jersey have major statewide elections in November 2021, with primaries in June 2021. It’s best to make these assessments now, while everything’s fresh in our minds, and start to formulate a plan for future election cycles.

How did we do?

It should be no surprise to anyone reading this that money poured into advertising outlets like never before. According to a recent AdAge article, $8.5 billion dollars were spent on ads during this election cycle. Of that, $1.8 billion was spent on the presidential election. While most of the presidential dollars were network and/or targeted to the key swing states, $6.7 billion ad dollars were spent on local candidates and issues.

According to Kantor/CMAG, from April 1, 2020 through election day, radio grabbed only 2.2% of ad dollars spent on the presidential race.

While individual radio stations may be pleased with the political dollars that boosted their fourth quarter, nobody in our industry should be satisfied with getting only 2.2% of the presidential pie.

What did we do right?

Some of the large broadcast groups have people or whole departments concentrated on the political arena. Their focus, strategy, and tools no doubt helped them positively impact radio sales. The political dollars our industry received were helpful given the otherwise bleak sales in 2020, but certainly it could have been better.

What could we have done better?

Smaller groups need to dedicate the proper resources to grow political dollars. We as an industry must promote radio as a tool to influence voters that is superior to other advertising outlets. The radio industry should investigate and determine how to grow our share of this advertising category. We need to build a plan and execute it.

One interesting observation was the spending difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Overall, Biden spent more on advertising than Trump. More importantly for our industry, Trump spent 1.3% on radio while Biden spent 3.6%.

It may be a stretch to assert a direct correlation, but Biden received over six million more votes than Trump, and almost three times more of his funds were allocated to radio. Cause and effect? Maybe. Great story to help promote the value of radio? Definitely.

What can you do now?

Your next election cycle will begin before you know it. Build a plan and lay the foundation now. The top-line benefits could be tremendous.

How can we help you?

Our team of Ratings Experts help radio stations showcase their value to all types of advertisers. To learn more, contact us here.

-Charlie Sislen, Partner