Political Radio Advertising: What Every Maine Candidate Needs To Know

On September 26, 1960, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon participated in a presidential debate.  According to Time Magazine, “what happened after the two candidates took the stage is a familiar tale.  Nixon, pale and underweight from a recent hospitalization, appeared sickly and sweaty, while Kennedy appeared calm and confident.” The TV audience who was Political advertising Portland Maine Radiowatching that night judged Kennedy to be the winner, but, as Time goes on to explain, “those who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had won.”  The moral of the story: On radio they never see you sweat.  A lesson anyone running for elected office in Maine should take to heart.

The history of politics on the radio goes back to the very first day of broadcasting.  On the evening of November 2, 1920 radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh in what is arguably the first radio broadcast ever, spent the night announcing the results of that day’s presidential election between Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox.  What is ironic, both candidates had come from careers as newspaper publishers and their election marked the shift in how Americans consume news.

Today, 94 years after Harding v. Cox, radio still remains an awesome medium for influencing Maine voters primarily because of targetability.  Radio reaches 93% of Maine voters every week, but as the 2012 election taught us, it is most important for a candidate to reach the audience who will turn out to vote for her or him (going forward candidates will be generically referred to as “her” or “she”).  And radio does that better than any other mass medium.

Radio’s Targetabilty Can Turn Out The Right Vote

For example, the stations of Portland Radio Group reach 201,236 voting-age people every week.  But this audience comprises just about every type of voter possible.  But by examining consumer research from Gfk MRI, a candidate can determine which station appeals to her best target. If a candidate is targeting middle-of-the road, independent voters, then research indicates that the listeners to a radio station such as Coast 93.1 (WMGX) are 23% more likely to consider themselves as middle of the road and 16% more likely to have voted independent in the past election. 

On the other hand if a candidate is targeting political activists who turn-out on Election Day and vote Republican, than a station like WGAN would be appropriate. Research indicates that this station’s audience is 120% more likely to have contacted an elected official during the past year; 52% more likely to show up on Election Day; and 60% more likely to vote Republican.  Of course research is available for every type voter and every type of radio station to make sure a candidate’s message reaches the best audience.

Radio Advertising: What Every Maine Candidate Needs To Know

Once a candidate for elected offices decides to use radio, there are some important things she needs to know:

  1. Radio stations are only required to sell time to candidates for federal offices such as the presidency or congress.  Candidates for state or local offices should check with individual stations in Maine to see if they will be selling time to state and local candidates. To find out if the stations of Portland Radio Group are selling time to local candidates click here.
  2. If a radio station accepts advertising from one candidate in a particular race, then the station must allow all legally qualified candidates for the same race to advertise as well.
  3. For a state or local candidate, a radio station may limit the number of commercials she can buy; the times-of-day she may advertise; and the length each commercial can be.  But, these same restrictions must apply to all candidates running for the same office.
  4. During the 45 days prior to a primary election and 60 days prior to a general election, a legally-qualified state or local candidate is entitled to pay the lowest-unit-rate for the class of time she is purchasing.  Radio stations are required to furnish these rates and a description of the different classes-of-time upon request. The 2014 political windows in Maine are April 26-June 14 and September 5-November 4.
  5. Once a candidate decides to buy time from a radio station, she will be required to complete a disclosure form that the radio station will provide.  This form will ask for detailed campaign information including party affiliation and the name of the treasurer of the candidate’s authorized committee.
  6. The candidate must pay for all advertising in advance.
  7. Every commercial must make clear who has paid for it.  This must be done in strict compliance with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.  Here are acceptable ways to do this
  • If the commercial is paid for directly by the candidate or the candidates election committee: “Paid for and authorized by Mary Jones” or “Paid for and authorized by the Committee to elect Mary Jones”
  • If the commercial is paid for by a candidate’s agent: “Authorized by the candidate and paid for by Bill Smith, treasurer” or “Authorized by the candidate and paid for by Bob Brown, Chairman of the committee to elect Mary Jones”

Finally, radio stations are not required to produce commercials for candidates. Like all the other rules, however, if a station produces a commercial for one candidate in a race, then the station must produce commercials for all candidates in that race.