With less than 90 days before voters cast their ballots, campaigns are fine-tuning their media strategies for what’s projected to be another record-breaking year of political advertising. Despite reaching 92% of Americans 18+, radio typically gets only 3% of political ad spend. Roughly half goes to broadcast TV, one-fourth to digital and 17% for cable TV. Fresh real-world data from Nielsen shows campaigns can reach significantly more registered voters by adding radio to their media mix and thus improve their odds of winning a tight race.
“While digital audio has targetability, AM/FM is the only audio platform that has the scale, no matter the demographic,” Rich Tunkel, Senior VP of Business Development at Nielsen Audio, said Tuesday. “Winning an election means winning the most voters. Whether that’s electoral votes, district votes, votes among persuade-ables, whatever your cohort is, reaching more of them is your goal and the cornerstone of an audio strategy begins with AM/FM radio.”
Tunkel suggested a “Moneyball” approach to political media planning would benefit campaigns, a reference to the famous Oakland A’s use of statistical analysis to improve their on-field performance, made famous in the 2011 movie starring Brad Pitt as A’s general manager Billy Beane. During Nielsen’s “Moneyball of Politics and Media” webinar, Tunkel pointed to what is arguably the world’s most data-driven advertiser – and biggest spender – to illustrate how marketers that do their homework include radio in their buys. In the four years since the last presidential election, Procter & Gamble went from using almost no radio to becoming its second largest advertiser, based on spot volume.
Rewinding The Tape
Tunkel noted that both P&G and many political campaigns use Nielsen Media Impact, a cross-platform media planning tool to map out and optimize their media strategies. The tool combines all of Nielsen’s audience currency datasets, side-by-side, to show the impact of adding specific media to a campaign and how the various media interact with each other to deliver audiences.
Sticking with the baseball analogy, Tunkel “rewound the tape” back to January, to examine billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s campaign spending in the state of California. NMI data shows the former New York City mayor spent $2 million on TV ads to reach 75% of registered voters in San Francisco for the state’s Democratic presidential primary. Reallocating just 2% of that $2 million budget would have improved the campaign’s reach to 83%, a 12.3% increase. And redirecting 20% of that $2 million media buy to radio would have lifted the campaign’s reach to 93% of voters for a 24% lift – without spending one dollar more. Gross rating points (GRPs) would have jumped from 1,219 to 1,661, a 36% increase, while the cost pet point would have been reduced by 27%.
Across the four California markets where Bloomberg advertised – L.A., Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco – the NMI data showed that an 80% TV and 20% radio mix would have increased the campaign’s voter reach from 84% to 95% while also improving reach among the critical voting segments of Hispanics and Blacks.
From there, the webinar shifted to a comparison of the primary election advertising for former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Dallas from Feb. 26- March 3 in the run-up to the Texas Democratic primary on Super Tuesday. The case study showed the hour-by-hour reach of their TV buy among registered Democrats followed the typical TV viewing curve, reaching less than 10% of the target each hour until 5pm when the reach trajectory jumped each hour until peaking at around 18% in the 9pm primetime hour.But the Biden campaign got to 6% more Dallas registered Democrats 18+ and 26% more Black registered Democrats 18+ than Sanders by allocating 13% of its budget to radio. Biden ended up winning the Texas primary in a stunning turnaround.
A top takeaway from Nielsen’s “Moneyball of Politics and Media” webinar was that layering radio on top of a mix that includes TV, cable and digital allows campaigns to reach more voters, more often.
Summarizing the findings for media buyers, sellers and political strategists viewing the webinar, Tunkel suggested that political media mixes could be improved by adding radio. “The window for political is very limited, we’re coming up on the home stretch. But because of the environment that we’re in, because there are no conventions, there’s less opportunity to make an impression with voters than ever,” Tunkel said. “Using local media effectively is going to be more important than ever in key battleground states.” Based on the data shown, re-assessing existing budgets could generate significant lift, he said. “Work with what you have and you can see some amazing gains. You will optimize to improve reach but we also saw that you did not have to sacrifice frequency, impressions and, most of all, cost efficiency. In fact, it improved all of those metrics.”