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Passwaiter: This Political Season, Radio Has Money On The Table.


There will be roughly $10 billion to $12 billion in political ad spending in 2024, and radio can grow its market share — if the industry takes a proactive stance in pursuing the money.


That’s according to Steve Passwaiter, President, Silver Oak Political, who made his remarks Sunday at an NAB 2024 session in Las Vegas entitled “Radio Works for Political.”


Moderated by outgoing RAB President and CEO Erica Farber, the panel also included Pat McGee, Executive VP of Political Strategy at Katz Radio Group, and Idil Cakim, Senior VP of Research and Insights at Audacy.


“Now here’s one thing that I want all of you in radio to remember,” Passwaiter said. “If you don’t take anything out of this presentation, take this: Get out the vote.”


Passwaiter said some emerging trends in the electorate are creating opportunity for radio. Among them: the migration of Black men away from the Democratic Party toward the Republican Party, and a virtual tie amongst Latino voters. As a result, Democrats will need to reach those voters, putting those dollars into play for stations that reach those demographics.


“If you’re going to make money on the presidential race, that’s a natural,” Passwaiter said. “You guys should own that money. You should demand that money. You’ve got that emotional tie with those two communities that lean into radio so much that it makes you almost impossible not to buy.”


Passwaiter noted that there will be other opportunities from ballot initiatives, state legislatures and state supreme court races.


“You shouldn’t miss the opportunity to introduce yourself to people at the party level in the states,” Passwaiter said. “And this is one of these things where like nothing bad can happen. And I think it’s worth the effort. The money will certainly be there.”


Cakim, who recently took part in a collaborative study with Nielsen and other radio companies, told the room that research underscored the fact that the medium reaches and mobilizes voters. But it also offers a tangible kind of human connection that other forms of media can’t replicate.


“Yes, we’re a massive reach medium, and we’re still powerful,” Cakim explained. “But there’s also that trust in the influencer voice. There’s also that discussion that happens around the spoken word programming that really keeps the conversation going. So it’s ad-plus, it’s context with ad, that truly makes people feel they’re part of the discussion. And that makes them go out and vote… TV just does not do that the same way.


McGee said that while the broader landscape for radio during this political year is positive, there will be seven to 10 states that will be the most active, especially swing states and those with key ballot initiatives like abortion and marijuana legalization.


He also urged industry pros to push back against consultants and the common, prevailing narrative that TV should be the top priority in a campaign’s advertising mix.


“If you talk to a lot of these consultants, any one of them will tell you if they lose a race, and if they bought one point less in television, they might not work again,” McGee said. “They might not get rehired. Television is 100% feeding first… We have to just keep pressing against that.”

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