Radio’s Political Advertising ‘Superpower’ Is Reaching Light TV Viewers.


Politicians are as addicted to television advertising as they were to handshaking and baby kissing in a pre-pandemic world. But as Election Day draws ever closer, radio’s opportunity grows as TV busts at the seams with political ads. Online video isn’t much better. YouTube is reportedly sold out of political ads in some states. Bloomberg reported last week that YouTube is so inundated with election ads that it has been unable to place as much as three quarters of the amounts campaigns would like to spend on a given day.


A Nielsen analysis of political ads placed during the 2016 cycle illustrates why radio should also be in line for some of those dollars – even without sellouts – particularly when a campaign is working to reach light TV viewers. Westwood One Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard said the analysis found that shifting a budget from an 80%-20% mix of television and digital to a 70%-30% mix did little to increase voter reach. In both cases, the voters reached remained at 79% despite boosting how much money was spent on digital. “One of out of five registered voters is not reached,” said Bouvard in a blog post.


Instead, if campaigns are seeking to grow the number of potential voters they are exposing to their ad, Nielsen’s study suggests broadcast radio would be the right move. That is because adding AM/FM commercials to a buy that also includes TV and digital would generates a 15% boost in voter reach for the same budget. In other words, keeping the overall budget flat and shifting 20% of spend to AM/FM radio generates huge growth in voter reach – jumping from 79% to 91%.


Bouvard said broadcast radio’s real “superpower” is with voters who are light television viewers. The Nielsen analysis, based on the 2016 campaign, discovered that when a candidate used only television they reached just 17% of light TV viewers. But when FM/AM radio was added to the media plan, Nielsen found a campaign’s reach of light TV viewers tripled from 17% to 53%.


“There is a belief that connected TV can fix TV’s light viewer issues,” said Bouvard. “It helps, but just a bit. Even with connected TV in the plan, the addition of AM/FM radio still causes voter reach to explode.”


Nielsen’s data showed that a combination of broadcast TV, connected TV (also known as over the top or OTT), and digital ads generated a 57% reach. Amazingly, when just ten percent of the ad dollars are repurposed for broadcast radio commercials, Nielsen said the overall reach soared from 57% to 80%, increasing the total reach of the campaign by 40% with the same budget.


For a campaign to miss what is defined as light TV viewers is not a minor problem. Nielsen Scarborough reports 38% of registered voters – or nearly two in five – are light TV viewers. That audience segment only generates six percent of total TV time spent, making it difficult for a buy dominated by television ads to reach a large number of voters. Bouvard said AM/FM radio is the solution, since it reaches 90% of registered voters who are light TV viewers.

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