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Radio Projected To Reap $769 Million In Political Ad Buying, As It Plays To Its Strengths.

According to experts, the 2024 election year is expected to be the biggest ever in terms of political ad buying, with PQ Media forecasting a record $14.6 billion spend, up 44.4% from 2020's $10.1 billion. PQ predicts radio's take of that to be $769 million, a 5.3% share of the total, representing a 35% growth rate, significantly higher than its 27% growth estimate for overall marketing media.

While according to PQ Media Executive VP Research Dr. Leo Kivijarv, much of radio's gain in 2024 is likely to be attributable to its digital media extensions, he reminds advertisers of traditional radio's key advantages in RAB's “Radio Matters” blog.

“Too many candidates and advocacy groups forget that radio is among the best media to engage with voters for numerous reasons,” Kivijarv says. “To increase the spend and growth, radio operators need to remind political strategists and media buying firms of benefits that radio offers over other media.”

Rural And Demographic Strengths

Among those benefits is radio's strength in rural areas where, Kivijarv says, “radio is the major medium to connect with voters, as there isn’t a local digital media site, the television stations cover the larger cities in the DMA, and newspapers are usually weeklies, if there is even a print newspaper still being published in these small towns. Direct mail is a distant second because the voting profiles are not as sophisticated as the large cities, and out-of-home usually is limited to lawn signs.”

Kivijarv also notes radio's ability to reach all audience demographics and psychographics. “Need to reach people of color? Radio listenership among minorities over-indexes the general population, particularly Hispanic and urban formats,” he says. “Need to reach Democrats? Research shows they like adult contemporary, urban and news/talk/sports. Need to reach Republicans? The same research shows that they like country, as well as adult contemporary and news/talk/sports. Need to reach the independent swing voter? Put the ads on rock, [CHR] and adult contemporary.”

Higher Engagement And ‘Decision Point’ Listening

There's also the argument that radio listeners are more likely to engage with political ads than they would while watching TV. “During morning and evening drive, the consumer is in a mindset to listen to messages, as they often turn on the radio in the morning to listen to the weather, traffic conditions, local news and sports results, and during the evening commute will listen for entertainment venue attractions,” Kivijarv says. “[Compared to radio], Marshall McLuhan described [television] as a cool medium because it doesn’t require much attention, and where media multitasking is often occurring (using two or more media simultaneously, like TV and mobile).”

What makes radio potentially advantageous for candidates is that it reaches consumers at the point of decision. “Almost two-thirds of radio listening occurs while driving, often [while] running an errand, such as going to a grocery store with a list of items to purchase,” Kivijarv says. “As such, the consumer, in this case the voter, is in a mindset to listen to ads that persuade and/or strengthen brand identity (i.e., the candidate).”

Affordability and Quick Turnaround

From the buyer standpoint, radio offers affordability and the ability to quickly turn around the commercial production process. “If a candidate or advocacy group wants to change the tone of the messaging mid-campaign, radio offers the most efficient method to start the revised campaign quickly,” Kivijarv says, “[and] with some of the lowest CPM rates for local media, it reaches a larger audience than can be delivered for the same price point by competing media platforms.”

The blog points out that newer media options have been popular ad choices over the history of presidential elections, and in 2024 it will be streaming media's turn, with PQ projecting 488% growth vs. the 2020 election, with mobile media up an estimated 105% and experiential marketing up 263% compared to COVID-challenged 2020. Broadcast TV, meanwhile, is expected to see just a 23% gain, its lowest growth in decades. “Despite its low growth rate, broadcast television will continue to be the elephant in the room, generating $5.6 billion in political media buying,” Kivijarv says. “Other top-five media platforms include direct mail, streaming video, cable TV and the internet, which combined would only be approximately $300 million more than being spent just on broadcast TV.”

Read Kivijarv’s complete post HERE. 

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