No matter which Boston television station or cable channel adults tune to in 2022, they can expect to be assaulted by a deluge of political advertising. Often entire commercial breaks are stuffed with back-to-back pleas and promises to secure viewers' votes.
But is advertising on WCVB, WHDH, WBZ, WCVB, or WFTX the most effective way to reach likely voters in the Boston area? Or is advertising on cable channels provided by Xfinity, DISH, DirecTV, and RCN the way to go?
The answer is neither. According to research from Nielsen, the best way to reach local adults who are most likely to vote is by advertising on Boston radio.
Every week, 2.5 million likely voters will listen to Boston radio stations. This is significantly more than watch local TV, cable, and streaming video. More that use social media and streaming audio. More than will read newspapers.
The dominant reach of Boston radio is consistent among all likely voters regardless of political party affiliation...Democrat, Republican, or independent.
Despite the remarkable differential in reach between Boston TV and Boston radio, many political campaigns continue to spend an outsized portion of their advertising budgets running television commercials. But, media research indicates that almost half of these TV expenditures are wasted.
Recent research from Nielsen reveals that 45% of voters are considered to be either light or zero users of local television, up from 30% ten years ago. So, although Boston television should be included as part of a political advertising strategy, something else needs to be included to reach the large share of the electorate that TV cannot reach.
According to Nielsen, local radio reaches the vast majority of voters who will rarely or never be exposed to political advertising on television.
During recent election cycles, increased investment into radio advertising correlates with a political candidate's margin of victory.
In the highly contentious 2021 Senate runoff election in Georgia, the Democratic candidates invested more than twice as much in local radio than did their Republican opponents. Consequently, both Democratic candidates were able to win by razor-thin margins.
Local radio advertising was also credited for making the difference in the 2021 race for Virginia Governor.
A document published by the Center for Campaign Innovation (CCI) spotlights that radio ads by the Republican gubernatorial candidate played a disproportionate role in helping to boost the candidate to narrow victory in November over the incumbent Democrat.
The document's author reveals that the Republican candidate had the radio airwaves to himself until mid-September and he argues that it made a big difference in a race. Additionally, it underscored what's been debated for years in the world of campaign politics, that while TV's reach remains high, radio and digital have greater efficiency and ballot movement for those they do reach.
Furthermore, a survey conducted by the CCI found that Virginia voters who recalled seeing the Republican candidate's TV commercials as well as hearing the candidate's radio spots were 6.84% more likely to vote for him than those who did not hear the radio ads.
As a comparison, the CCI notes that the combination of digital advertising with TV commercials only gave the Republican a 5.46% boost among voters. In a close race, that small difference in lift can be the margin of victory.
As local politicians and political action committees (PAC) began planning their 2022 campaigns, all evidence indicates that a significant portion of marketing budgets need to be earmarked for advertising on Boston radio.
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