Now that the dust of the 2016 election has finally settled, and a new President and Congress have taken office, campaign strategists may have had a small opportunity to relax…and begin planning for the 2018 elections.
In 2018, control of the Senate will once again be contested, with 34 seats up for grabs. If this last cycle was any indication, next year could break another record for campaign spending. And in addition to the entire House of Representatives standing for reelection, 36 states will have statewide gubernatorial elections. With such a high stakes and active campaign season, reaching voters and effectively influencing their opinions will be critical.
A groundbreaking report released earlier this month by the Wesleyan Media Project confirms two key narratives that political professionals have known for a long time: Message matters, and TV remains a critical driver of voter behavior. In analyzing Donald Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton, the Wesleyan report found that “the content of Clinton’s ads and her failure to advertise early in key states may be as important factors in her loss as Trump’s novel approach to TV advertising and social media.” Hillary Clinton’s loss, the report’s authors say, can be attributed to strategic decisions in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, “where she only began to advertise heavily in the week before the election.”
Given TV’s influential role in driving political outcomes, and where the ad dollars flowed in the late stages of the 2016 presidential and Senate races, candidates in tough races should once again be looking to local broadcast TV to shape their messages and persuade voters at the polls.
That’s because local broadcast TV reaches more people in one day than any other platform and remains consumers’ medium of choice, making it a campaign’s most effective and powerful marketing tool. In fact, Nielsen's latest Total Audience Report (Q3 2016) shows that adults continue to watch more than twice as much TV each week compared with the second and third most watched media platforms. Also, TV dominates video viewing at 93 percent, compared with watching video on the internet (5 percent) or on a smartphone (2 percent). While political campaigns must make effective use of all advertising platforms, if a campaign’s goal is to get their ads in front of the most voters, TV remains the go to platform.