Every political season, radio serves as a powerful tool for reaching voters. Research shows that radio reaches 92 percent of Americans each week, emphasizing the importance of the medium.
Radio Ink recently did an interview with Roger Rafson, Gen Media Partners’ senior vice president political/issue advocacy and strategic alliance, to discuss the importance of radio for the 2020 election cycle. Rafson made a few interesting remarks that point to radio playing an even more important role in this election than in years past.
Spending on political ads continue to rise. Rafson says that political spending on radio ads will reach new heights for the 2020 election cycle. While the 2016 presidential election cycle set the record for the most money spent in radio for a presidential election cycle, Rafson states that the spending for the 2018 mid-term elections was “37 percent higher than 2016, despite being in a mid-term year.” The spending explosion for the 2016 and 2018 elections indicate that radio has continued to grow as a political medium and will only continue to do so for the 2020 presidential election.
Testing new markets. While radio spending is only expected to increase for the 2020 election cycle, Rafson believes that this spending will be focused on different formats and stations from previous election cycles. Rafson elaborates by saying that “buyers from Republican candidates are asking for planning rates and information for formats that are unusual for them such as Hispanic formats, urban, and high reach stations.”
Changing it up to avoid burnout. While candidates are expected to be buying and running ads on the radio for the six to nine months before the election, they will need to keep their ads fresh in order to not wear on the minds of voters. Rafson states that having “a lot of different ads and rotating them” is critical in order to avoid listener burnout. Rafson expects political candidates to use and rotate various types of radio ads during the upcoming election cycle to range from personal and issue driven ads to attack ads run by Super PACs.
Local elections make radio even more important. Radio is an important tool in both local and national elections but local elections represent the starting point. Localized issues present an opportunity for relationships to form between radio stations and candidates. Local stations speak directly to the candidate’s constituents and having a strong local presence is vital towards political success. As the voter pool becomes smaller for local elections, access to this smaller pool also shrinks so local radio stations play a critical role in communicating to voters of local elections.