"By setting up shop here, and in a meaningful way, they are
showing they are taking it seriously," Mr. Passwaiter said. "There
is no substitute for actually being here. They have put themselves
in a good position to get a piece of all the money that's going
Campaigns should allocate 15% to 20% of broadcast budgets to
radio or risk "leaving some voters on the table," according to Mr.
Pittman. "It's not just that radio's cost per voter impression is
much lower, enabling greater frequency; radio's flexibility also
makes it easier to turn on a dime and pivot on key messaging
whenever campaigns need it."
TV remains the leader in political advertising, and it's not
clear that it will give up share easily. Kantar Media estimates
that political TV ad spending will also grow, topping $4.4 billion
this year, up from $3.8 billion in 2012.
"TV will be extremely important for the foreseeable future,"
said Peter Pasi, VP-political sales, Collective, an advertising
firm. "It's the best way to tell a story -- sight, sound, motion.
"There's no better way to reach a broad audience."
But many times candidates are actually trying to reach a very
specific, niche audience, "and that's challenging to do on TV," Mr.
Indeed, campaigns and their allies are starting to place a
greater emphasis on radio, as the growth of digital platforms like
iHeartMedia's own iHeartRadio, allow for deeper audience targeting.
But most of the growth is happening in digital radio, not
terrestrial, according to Vincent Harris, CEO of Harris Media and
chief digital strategist for Senator Rand Paul.
The opportunity to geo-target voters is making campaign managers
and candidates look more closely at digital radio, Mr. Harris said,
especially since, for the the most part, TV does not offer the same
levels of audience targeting.
"As digital radio gets more sophisticated, campaign managers and
candidates realize it's one of the best ways to stretch their
dollar," he said. "Radio is still very effective and very cheap,
and now there's the means to reach a very targeted audience."
iHeartMedia will lean on its vast trove of data from iHeartRadio
to target listeners beyond obvious formats like talk radio.
"iHeartMedia can tell campaigns where moms are, where
millennials are, where African-Americans are, across all formats
and locales because the company now offers the data and tools to do
just that," Mr. Day said.
Advanced audience targeting and data-matching is available on
iHeart's digital platform, Mr. Day said. But the company is also
using data gleaned from digital to inform traditional terrestrial
"Essentially, we deliver data-informed voter targeting across
our entire platform," he said.
The majority of political advertising on radio historically went
to talk news, but the ability to use data to find audiences
wherever they are listening opens the door to other formats, Mr.
"There's opportunity to spread money to music formats, for
example, where in years past it was a bit of a struggle," he
It also helps radio's cause that TV has been facing its own
issues. The sheer amount of content available across TV and digital
services has fragmented audiences, while the ability to skip ads
and watch content on non-ad supported platforms has become
Mr. Pittman bolsters his pitch with Nielsen data showing that
broadcast radio reached 93% of the U.S. population, while TV
reached 85% in the third quarter. And when it comes to reaching
millennials, radio reached 92%, ranking first. TV comes in third,
"TV no longer has the reach it did; radio is a lot cheaper than
TV and in many cases digital," Mr. Pittman said.
A 60-second spot on radio is also about 30% to 40% cheaper than
even a 30-second TV commercial, depending on the type of radio,
according to Will Feltus, senior VP at National Media, which
focuses on Republican media research specializing in voter
There are 89 legislative bodies being re-elected on Nov. 8;
iHeartMedia classifies 23 of them as highly competitive. "And there
are thousands and thousands of down-ballot races in which TV is
inefficient and cost-prohibitive for candidates," Mr. Day said. "So
we see a huge opportunity."
iHeartMedia predicts this election cycle will be the biggest yet
for the company. The radio giant saw political ad spending increase
30% in 2015 from 2011 leading into the 2012 presidential election,
indicating strong pre-cycle spending, Mr. Day said.
Mr. Day joined iHeartMedia last summer Yahoo-owned BrightRoll, an ad tech firm. During his time
at BrightRoll, Mr. Day introduced the brand to the D.C. market,
building new offerings and establishing new partnerships, as well
as serving as a liaison to political parties and candidates, issues
and advocacy groups and coalitions. He previously served as digital
campaign advisor for online advertising company Conversant, where he established their D.C.
iHeartMedia was searching for someone with the right combination
of political connections and ad sales experience.
The company plans to use the momentum from the election to
propel its ad sales beyond the presidential race.
"While this particular election will end in November 2016, we
are taking a much broader and longer term view: there are elections
taking place all the time across the country -- judgeships,
gubernatorial, House and Senate, local statehouse elections, local
and national ballot initiatives and more," Mr. Day said.