Can radio win elections?


Forecasters say more than 2.5 billion bucks will be spent on political advertising in 2008, and caution that their forecasts may end up being on the low side. Most of that spending will go to television, but the number for radio is growing. Many campaigns try to buy up as much primo TV inventory as they can, and then use radio only as a fill-in for certain ethnic targets or geographic regions outside the primary TV DMA.

But can radio work as the main medium for a significant campaign? The Southern California Broadcasters Association (SCBA) cites a case study that proves how radio can work as the primary ad vehicle for a campaign. California Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia may well be the only politician in the country who uses radio n a 52-week basis – and she has been doing so for five years. Garcia represents Eastern Riverside and all of Imperial County. She is a Republican and her district was redrawn three years before the last election to benefit the Democratic Party.

Yet, Matt Rexroad, managing partner of the Sacramento PR firm Meridian Pacific, who supervised Garcia’s advertising, said she managed to win again with 58% of the vote. Rexroad told SCBA that when his firm did research about the effectiveness of the campaign, some respondents gave verbatim answers right from the radio spots. "That tells me without a doubt that our radio message is penetrating," he said. Facing terms limits in her current position, Garcia is now preparing to run for the California Senate in 2010 – a district that includes her current Assembly district, plus more territory. Don’t be surprised if her strategy again includes lots of radio to get her message across. 

RBR/TVBR observation: Everyone wants their face on the tube and many willing to pay for it. But when it comes to local and personal there is no substitue for local radio.