In the Circle

Radio Advertising Has Political and Campaign Strategists All Ears

The 2016 election was a poignant reminder that politics is personal and the race to win any campaign is really a race to turn out voters at the polls. With 93 percent of adult consumers tuning into radio each week - more than TV or smartphones - the opportunity for campaigns to capitalize on radio advertising is greater than ever.

For the past several election cycles, the radio industry has focused on measuring the impact of radio advertising not only on the big ticket, but also on hard-fought down ballot races across the country. What we found this cycle signals that radio is a key differentiator for candidates embracing more sophisticated targeting to achieve the holy grail of politics - the ability to know your voters and to entice their vote.

As the election played out, increased radio demand was driven in large part by heightened pressure for campaigns to lock in their base and sway critical undecided voters. While every election cycle has seen more advanced audience data measurements driving advertising dollars, this time around, radio made important headway because increased demand was met with an influx of new tools and measurements that paid big dividends in hotly contested state races and ballot initiatives.

Nielsen’s Voter Ratings are behind some of this shift, empowering campaigns to be able to match voter behavior with radio listening habits. Radio’s local approach to programming means local stations attract different voter types, and these voters migrate to different stations depending on the time of day. Now that campaigns can access this crucial information, they can build a better road map for reaching different segments of the local electorate. This data played a role in many of the smaller races this past cycle, and will influence how future campaigns allocate advertising dollars.

In tandem, through our own research, we are working to provide valuable context around radio listening behaviors to help candidates and political strategists engage local electorates. Our findings confirm much of what down-to-the-wire campaigns need to hear —- that radio consistently has the highest reach among all kinds of voters, and there are multiple radio formats that appeal to voters, not just news and talk.

Moreover, research tells us that radio advertising delivers voters to the polls. With radio standing out as the leading media platform to reach battleground independents (more than 94 percent tune in on a weekly basis), campaigns are starting to recognize the opportunity to engage persuadable voters locally, using emotional messages that out-play attack ads and celebrity endorsements in driving influence.

In the last 10 years, data has redefined how campaigns identify and engage voters. Finally radio is tapping into this trend, and advertising spending is on the rise as a result. Sophisticated campaigns will continue to win elections using smart targeting data, and radio has stepped up its game to help candidates better compete in the future.