BIA Advisory Services projects TV, cable, satellite and digital will capture the majority of the estimated $7.3 billion in political ad spend this year. In contrast, radio will get about $342 million, or less than 5% of the total. With Election Day now less than seven weeks away, new research from The Media Audit makes a strong case for radio to receive a larger share based on its ability to reach opinion leaders, who have the potential to influence voting behavior.
“It is likely to be a tight race and opinion leaders will be very important,” says Nick Miller, VP at The Media Audit. “In this political season, opinion leaders potentially will make the difference, and radio can make a difference in influencing these influencers.”
According to The Media Audit, less than 5% of adults are opinion leaders. The highest concentrations are found in the smallest parties – the Green Party and Libertarians. Republicans edge Democrats in having opinion leaders in their ranks.
Its data shows radio is an integral part of opinion leaders’ lives. Just 4.8% of the adult population falls into the opinion leader category. But heavy radio listeners, defined as those who spend at least three hours a day with the medium, are more likely to be opinion leaders. In fact, (7%) of heavy radio listeners and 5.8% of medium radio listeners (1-2 hours a day) are opinion leaders. “If political strategists want to get the best bang for their buck, they should buy radio – for both reach and frequency,” Miller argues.
BIA estimates local TV stations will bag $3.3 billion or about 45% of the political spend, compared to $342 million for radio. Put another way, for every political dollar radio pockets, TV will get ten. “This seems inequitable when you consider that only 24% of heavy TV viewers are opinion leaders compared to 31% of heavy radio listeners,” Miller says. What’s more, 43% of opinion leaders are light TV viewers compared to the 11% of opinion leaders that are light radio listeners. “Clearly radio has a strong story for opinion leaders and should be a complement to TV, thereby earning a larger share of the budget,” Miller contends.
The BIA estimates show cable, satellite, and telecoms receiving 19% of the political spend, about four times larger than radio. Yet cable reaches 47% of opinion leaders, satellite reaches 30% and radio reaches 88% in the average day. “When buying cable or satellite, political agencies should be buying radio to reach those opinion leaders who don’t have either,” Miller says. “Radio reaches 86% of the opinion leaders who don’t have cable and 88% of non-satellite subscribers.”
In conclusion, Miller suggests campaigns should buy radio to reach opinion leaders in the remaining weeks leading up to the elections. “In short, radio could make the difference between winning or losing,” he says.