Radio & TV Advertising Contrasted

(By Bob McCurdy) Recently, I touched upon the concept of annoying people by over-exposing them to the same commercials and the negative impact it can have on an ad campaign.

I highlighted that TV, as is true of every medium, has its heavy and light viewers and how the heaviest TV viewers (about 20% of viewers) account for about 50% of all TV viewing and 50-60% of all gross impressions of any TV campaign, with the lightest viewers barely being exposed to any.

This is a concept that should be reviewed with every advertiser or product category that has a tendency of executing “entrée” style ad campaigns instead of opting for more of a “buffet” type approach, and there are few ad categories that lean toward the TV entrée approach more than issue and candidate advertising.

Nielsen’s Commspoint was used for the following analysis. The target demo was A35+ in the battleground state of North Carolina who are “politically moderate.” Commspoint is a much-respected channel planning tool that evaluates 69 different media channels on their ability to deliver on a client’s marketing objectives. A key part of its foundation is built upon a survey of over 23,000 U.S. consumers as well as the input of media experts. It forms the backbone of many major agency’s channel planning tools.

The first thing to note in the chart below is that in spite of a TV campaign of 2,000 GRPs, not an unusual amount when it comes to political (500 GRPs/week over 4 Weeks), almost 10% (9.5%) of North Carolina’s “politically moderate” adults would not be reached on TV. The second thing to note is the large percentage of listeners (35%) exposed to this hypothetical commercial 20+ times.



As reviewed last week, averages can be misleading. The frequency distribution of the above TV campaign would approximate the following:

– Heaviest (20%) TV viewers (P1) exposed 60x
– Heavy (20%) TV viewers (P2) exposed 28x
– Medium (20%) TV viewers (P3) exposed 16x
– Light (20%) TV viewers (P4) exposed 6x
– Lightest (20%) TV viewers (P5) exposed about once.

Twenty percent or approximately 220,000 of North Carolina’s “politically moderate” A35+ would only be exposed about once over the course of a month with the investment of 2,000 GRPs in TV. This should be cause for concern for any candidate, as should reaching any TV viewer 60 times. Combine this with the 9.5% or approximately 100,000 of North Carolina’s “political moderates” not even being reached with the TV campaign in the first place, and the candidate’s left with close to 30% or about 330,000 North Carolina’s “political moderates” ineffectively —  or not at all — reached by that massive TV campaign.

In today’s intense and competitive political environment, the margin between victory and defeat is too narrow to conclude that this type of ad dollar allocation should or could suffice.

Commspoint was then used to optimize media allocation with the same budget as above but this time the program was able to “consider” radio. The campaign’s messaging goal, the same as above, was simple: to communicate “high quality” and “trust” and the strategy was straightforward, to generate “consideration,” and “inspire with ideas.”

In the following chart, the Commspoint “optimized” schedule that included TV and radio is in red, with the 100% TV metrics in blue.



It’s clear that the TV/radio media mix easily out-performs the TV-only option generating +20% more influential reach (“Influential reach” is defined as those effectively communicated to by a combination of the 4 tasks-high quality, trust, consideration, inspire with ideas), 6.3% more net campaign reach which equates to reaching about 70,000 more of North Carolina’s A35+ who are “politically moderate” than the TV-only campaign, is +14% better in communicating a “high quality” message, 21% more effective in generating “consideration” and +17% more efficient in inspiring North Carolina’s politically moderate with ideas.

Radio plays a “multiplying” role, acting in a complementary fashion by extending reach, while serving to magnify the ad campaign’s high quality and consideration messaging, simultaneously inspiring North Carolina’s “political moderates” with new ideas to consider — all important to winning an election.

There are several other benefits to adding radio to any media mix. One is known as “encoding variability,” which occurs when consumers exposed to the same message in different media process the messaging in a more complex manner due to the use of different senses. The other is known as “multiple source credibility,” which is when commercial messaging takes on additional credibility due to it being communicated by two independent sources.

The above would largely hold true with just about any product category and are likely projectable to any market and any state politically, regardless of GRPS or budget, due the phenomenon known as the point of diminishing returns, as well as the fact that radio reaches the lightest and non TV viewer more efficiently and effectively then TV.

The bombardment of political TV dollars is around the corner. “Less is more” when it comes to TV political carpet bombing.


Bob McCurdy is Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group.
This article was previously featured in Radio Ink

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