The long-time attack plan for political advertising, heavying up on linear TV, may not be effective at reaching most difference-making voters, according to a study from media company MiQ, which serves hundreds of political clients. The analysis of commercial viewership trends across 16 million U.S. homes shows both Republican and Democratic advertisers missed between 25-40% of potential voters with ads mostly on linear TV during the 2020 and 2021 campaigns.
The amount of missed voters was more than enough of a gap to make a huge difference in U.S. Senate, congressional, and gubernatorial races with little-to-no margin for error, according to MiQ. While campaign ads have traditionally gone after heavy TV viewers with a loaded message schedule, the top 40% of exposed households in the campaigns tracked by MiQ consumed over 90% of all TV impressions, while the bottom 60% accounted for less than a tenth of all TV impressions viewed.
The argument for reaching different, less-saturated audiences using other media is also made via MiQ's finding that while most opposing candidates expect to compete over shared media space and TV audiences, there was for both years' races a significant 63% overlap. Driving this need to reach those missed voters is MiQ-cited data that nearly three-fourth of U.S. linear TV viewers are over age 50, while 18-34-year-old account for just 9.8%, even while representing more than half of the overall connected TV audience.
“For decades, the playbook for political advertising has remained fairly status quo: repeatedly serve ads to a mass audience assumed to be tuning in through linear television,” Melissa Kurstin, Managing Director for MiQ Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions, says. “But in a world that has so obviously shifted its viewing habits – relying on the tools, technologies, and strategies of yesterday is a recipe for disaster today. The bottom line now is that political campaigns that focus solely on linear TV don’t just risk over-indexing against certain groups – they’re physically restricted in how much of the total voting population they can actually reach through the channel and that can be a glaring issue for those looking to win.”
What's made MiQ's research possible is the prominence of automated content recognition (ACR) technology. The continued growth of smart TV sales, with penetration expected to exceed 90% in North American homes by 2024, has enabled MiQ to generate real-time data on what ads are being shown at any given moment on millions of TV screens.
“For political campaigns with a limited window to establish name ID and policy positions, they can’t afford to be fighting against both short memories and voters who have been overloaded with ads as our findings highlight,” Kurstin says. “Richer data sets available in TV, advancements in measurement, and a growing number of outlets to target voters through CTV will help campaigns be far more strategic and truly transform political advertising into a precise and scientific practice that can ultimately make or break who wins.”