Campaigning on radio

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Question: If you're running for office, should you use radio advertising to preach to the choir or should you try to convert nonbelievers to your cause? The answer is yes. And that underscores the value of radio to a political campaign. It can easily be tailored to both of these strategies. Experts in radio's role made these and other points at a program presented by NAB and RAB in Washington yesterday. The goal for radio is to become a bigger part of campaign budgets.


StateNets Radio President Thomas Dobrez moderated the session which featured Tom Edmonds of Edmonds and Associates, who represents Republican interests and Greg Pinelo of GMMB, who represents Democrats. Despite working for different sides of the political fence, they were in general agreement on the value of radio.

Let's go back to the point above. The fact that outstanding creative talent can produce commercials quickly and inexpensively, and air time is reasonable priced, makes it easier to mount a multi-pronged ad offensive, allowing various messages tailored to the highly concentrated demo groups provided by radio's format structure. So you can preach to the choir – and between normal radio measurement tools and a campaign's own polling, you can find out where they are, and you can still go after swing votes, within certain boundaries. Pinero suggested dividing people into supporters, swing votes and those who will never go your way, and advised conceding the third group and spending your cash where it will do some good.

Edmonds noted that disclaimers and "I approved" messages tend to make :30 spots unattractive for political buyers, so stations may want to soft-pedal any attempts to move them to the shorter spots. Pinero noted that the campaign season keeps getting longer and spending will begin sooner each time around. He suggested early radio blitzes for the purpose of branding the candidate, and also to get in ahead of the political clutter of the final weeks. It is also an effective way to underline the messages being sent out on other media.

Josh Wexler of SoftWave Media Exchange noted how back room service providers like his can help guide a political campaign through the sometimes arduous task of actually placing buys, and iBiquity's Bob Struble talked about opportunities for the future once HD Radio has fully established its footing.

RBR observation: We've been surprised that radio doesn't seem to be pulling more political business, especially since politicians may want to quickly respond to opponents or take advantage of an opponent's misstep. And TV can be a wasteful medium for many local races, where more precisely targeted outlets provide more bang for the buck. But the fact that radio can be devastatingly effective is reason enough to put it in the budget.


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