Is Radio’s Ability To Reach Swing Voters Resonating With Campaigns?


Tony Hereau, VP of Cross Platform Insights at Nielsen, has been making the rounds at state broadcaster association conferences and other gatherings with a study showing radio can make a difference in reaching swing voters this year. The study is gaining traction beyond the radio industry and resonating with the intended target – campaigns and politicos.


Campaigns & Elections, which serves campaign professionals with publications, conferences, events, and awards, picked up on the study in a story headlined, “The Case for More Radio Spending in ’22.”


The article contends that political marketers “will need to further diversify their media mixes this cycle if they want to avoid over-saturating voters.” The thinking goes that much has changed since the last election, including media behavior. And while campaigns and candidates like to stick with the playbook that got them elected last time, that strategy may no longer work in today’s environment.


Among the groups Hereau presented the findings to is the American Association of Political Consultants' (AAPC). That presentation caught the attention of political marketers – and Campaigns & Elections, which interviewed Hereau about the study.


“Political advertisers fall into this trap of like, cut and paste, where they say, ‘Well, we got elected last time with this strategy, let’s go with that again. It’s tried and true.’ But what’s happened is the world has changed since then,” Hereau told C&E.


As more Americans cut the cord to cable TV, political marketers are struggling to reach light TV viewers. They end up overwhelming heavy TV viewers who end up seeing a spot eight times while light viewers only see it once or twice a week.


“It's those younger-skewing voters that are much harder to reach with television, because they're using it so little,” Hereau told the AAPC webinar in February. “It's going to make it harder to achieve those reach goals, or make it more expensive, when you keep over-saturating those heavy viewers and continuing to spend to reach those light or non-viewers.”


This was especially evident during campaigning for the Georgia Senate runoff races in December 2020. Viewers were barraged with campaign ads. On television one of every three ads was political. “There was not that same phenomenon happening” on radio, Hereau told C&E. “It was like one out of every ten ads, maybe, that were political.”


Hereau added: “It’s so hard to cut through the clutter when so many of those light viewers are just not seeing those ads. Marketers just have to get a lot more creative. They have to diversify their approach.”


Sticking with the Georgia Senate runoff elections, where both Democratic candidates won by a slim margin of 55,000 and 93,000 votes, Hereau showed how moving 10% of ad budgets from TV to radio in Atlanta for the same cost would make impact by reaching 235,000 more voters, including 117,000 swing voters, in a media environment less cluttered by political ads. Hereau noted that in terms of actual spend, Democrats spent 7% of their budget on radio vs. the GOP's 4%, which also could have made the difference.


“There is so much money that is coming into the political space for this upcoming midterm election,” Hereau told C&E. “There’s clearly an opportunity to direct some of that to radio.”

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