Tue. Dec 1st, 2020

Where Did All The Campaign Cash Go In Radio?

Here comes the election. And there goes the political billing that came with it.

Political Ad Spend to Reach $6 Billion for 2020 Election - eMarketer  Trends, Forecasts & Statistics

So, what happened? I spoke with some sales executives in South Carolina, Florida and medium sized cities in the West to get a feel for how the political ad spending season went. Did they get bought, how did they get the business and what will be the election outcome impact on future billing? 

Recently, Bloomberg wrote a story about how YouTube was literally sold out of avails for political advertising. Nielsen piled on suggesting that 40% or more of all tv ads in South Palm Beach, Las Vegas, Portland, Charlotte and more cities were political spots. So, how did sports radio clusters do? Here is who I spoke with:

  • Ken Brady – General Sales Manager, Seven Bridges Radio 1010 XL/92.5 FM in Jacksonville, FL (All Sports)
  • John Sheftic – Market Manager, DBC Radio in Myrtle Beach, SC (cluster does NOT include Sports)
  • Mystery Manager – Mid-Size market out West (Cluster includes a Sports station)

How would you describe the effect political spending had on your revenue during the pandemic?

Brady: We have not had any political and or issue advertising during this election cycle.  We normally do not receive much of either but having none has been a surprise to me considering the amount of money being spent this cycle.  From my observations the sports format has been knocked down in terms of formats in the mix.

Mystery: It definitely helped. However, we don’t typically get Presidential campaigns to spend here. We saw some local and state money in during the primary and we are seeing some spend for congressional race. 

Sheftic: It has been a huge shot in the arm considering the challenges the market has with a slow down in tourism. We also have WRNN which is conservative talk and WYAV which is Classic Rock. Both have huge signals and dominate in the 35-64 voting demo. The Lyndsey Graham/Jaime Harrison race is setting record spending levels.

New poll has Jaime Harrison leading Sen. Lindsey Graham by 1 point in  Senate race | WCIV

Do you pursue political business? If so, how? 

Brady: Based on lowest unit rate rules we made a decision not to pursue candidate advertising and only take the federal that we have to if asked.  The election cycle is in the middle of football season where we have higher demand and get premium rates.  What we have tried to go after is issue and PAC money, but we have not had any luck.  The stations that show up better in the ratings or are attached to larger broadcast groups are receiving those dollars.  We are a locally owned and operated stand alone and this year it seems it has been tougher to get ears to listen to reps tell our story and act.

Mystery: Yes, we get a list of all open seats, candidates and any potential issue money and then begin to contact them all.

Sheftic: We do pursue the business. We purchase a list of candidates and contacts. We email and call long before the election to share demos, formats and general station information.

Do all AE’s sell political or do you consolidate down to a few reps?

Brady: I handle the potential candidate advertising.  I have spread the issue and PAC business exploration throughout my staff.

Mystery: We don’t limit it, but it ends up being just a few of our local sellers that really go after it. Most of the federal races and issues come nationally. We did see an increase this year in Presidential money being spent via network advertising in syndicated national news talk shows.

Sheftic: I have a designated manager who handles all political. This ensures all correct detail and information in the public file.

How much will election results impact future revenue in your area?

Brady: There is always some “wait and see what happens talk“ in every election cycle, but that always fades.  I think a lot will depend on how the stock market reacts to the election results.  When stocks go up or stay steady it seems consumers are more comfortable spending on big ticket items and projects.  If stocks go down and stay down there is always a bit of anxiety that impacts consumer and advertiser spending.  It works its way out as consumers become comfortable with their new pay, savings and retirement fund dynamic either to the positive or negative.

Let's break down the numbers - Marketplace

Mystery: That’s difficult to predict. However, the ultimate outcome of this year’s presidential race could take days even weeks before we have an outcome. Due in large part to absentee voting and the fact that each state has their own rules with regards to deadlines for mailing ballots. Some states absentee ballots have to be received and validated prior to the polls closing. Other states aren’t that way. This will create uncertainty and disruption. Just how much that will affect the ad community, we won’t know until we get there.

Sheftic: It won’t affect anything moving forward other than helping 4th quarter budgets.