Radio Advertising During An Election

Every four years, buying radio advertising becomes an exercise in frustration and scarcity, as presidential, gubernatorial, congressional and senatorial candidates scoop up commercial inventory at rock-bottom rates, as protected by law.

For the media, this means less available commercial inventory to sell.  For buyers, this means higher rates, as stations and networks seek to make up the shortfall of low, political rates by letting the marketplace slug it out in an up-to-the-minute auction where no air time is truly guaranteed to air until it actually airs.

Here are three tips to help you maintain your sanity during this year’s perfect storm of political demand.

1. AVOID SWING STATES – National and regional advertisers will do well to steer  clear of hotly-contested states like Ohio and Florida, where PAC dollars will flood the marketplace to sway voter preference.  Converversely, traditionally stable states (like Republican Texas or Democratic Maine) generally attract less national funding, resulting in a somewhat less cluttered market conditions.

2. SHIFT YOUR DAYPARTS – Most political ad buys target the most listeners available, during radio’s prime time.  And why not?  With the guaranteed lowest rates on the station, there’s no need for buyers to get overly creative in their buying strategies.  That opens the door for you to negotiate better deals in evenings, overnights and weekends, as many mainstream advertisers simply sit out the voting season.  Time is available at reasonable rates in these lesser-demand day parts.

3. VOTE REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT – With neither candidate currently above the 50% voter poll benchmark, both parties will actively target Independents, which represents the largest block of undecided voters.  A 2012 BIGinsight survey shows the median percentage of politically-Independent listeners on an average radio station as 22.9%, ranking these radio formats as having the highest percentage of Independents in their listener base:

28.6% New Age
27.2% Rock
26.6% Alternative
26.0% News
25.9% Classical
25.6% Sports

At the bottom of the Independent format list – and more likely to have reasonably-priced commercial inventory available – are stations programming these formats:

16.2% Religious
18.0% R&B
18.2% Latin/Hispanic
18.8% Blues
18.9% Hip Hop

The good news is that less than two months from now, the political, logjam for radio time will end with the November elections.  Just in time for the annual holiday media crunch.

Mark Lipsky is the President and CEO of The Radio Agency. Please follow The Radio Agency’s Blog “Sounding Board” by subscribing to the email or RSS links above.Visit our website TheRadioAgency.com

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