Politics Ain’t Beanbag

There is a common thread to what politics and the media business are: leverage. The smart politician uses a specific and controlled application of power to achieve a goal and the smart media buyer or seller finds a leverage point in the medium she wants to use. These worlds come together in the election process, which was highlighted in the two recent Republican primary debates.

So what’s the first leverage point? Both debates produced a lot more viewers than the average. As the table below shows, for the Republican debate, both networks scored huge increases in their respective average Primetime ratings for the month.

Republican Debate Info

But those are not all the leverage points the two networks achieved. And it is important to note, that without Rentrak’s massive and passive footprint, the marketplace would not be able to see the leverage points I’m about to show.

Automotive is an incredibly important advertising category. The debates delivered almost eight times Fox News’ usual number of luxury SUV buyers, with a 15.2 rating! Sure, Fox News does well among extremely upper-income homes, but it sure looks like “the Donald’s” friends tuned in as well—the debates had almost nine times the average number of households with $250k or higher incomes watching, with an 18.1 rating.

Not surprisingly, a lot of Republicans viewed, with a 20.2 rating. However, this was “only” five times the average number of Republicans tuning into Fox News. The big surprise is the appeal to Democrats, while the Democratic rating is “lower,” at “only” a 14.0, the leverage was huge—more than eleven times the average number of Democrats tuned in to watch the debate than normally watch Fox News.

Fox News Debate Leverage

Now let’s turn to the leverage points for CNN. What’s interesting here is that the leverage was pretty much universal. The two key targeting groups we studied, automotive and income levels, all had about the same strong overall lift. In other words, all boats pretty much rose the same amount. (Isn’t that a Democratic Party goal?) So all the news was good for CNN, but there was a little bit more good news. As shown below, new pickup buyers were more than six times likely to tune into the CNN debate as they usually do. “Upper Middle Income” of $75-to-$100k also hit that more than six times mark of their typical average.

The party appeal was the reverse of Fox News. Over seven times more Republicans tuned in than is typical to the CNN debate, while “only” five times as many Democrats did. And not surprisingly, the Republican rating of an 8.6 was higher than the Democratic tune-in of a 6.6.

CNN Debate Leverage

So, as the Presidential season moves forward, the smart advertiser will see the advantage of the debates for upper-income and automotive targeting. The smart politician will see the debates as being watched by the other side.

At the very least, it won’t be boring!

[1] As of the writing of this blog, Rentrak’s September Ratings were not final, and therefore some minor changes may be seen.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and Research Company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Political Fragmentation

One thing that has become clear from the recent election is that traditional outlets for reaching conservatives are not delivering what they used to deliver. The chart below shows the shift in viewership for “The O’Reilly Factor” since last October. The decline in total ratings was a .75, but for the core audience of conservative viewers (from Rentrak’s Political Segmentation Schema), the decline was even greater — a 1.6 rating drop. Ratings stabilized in January, but are still way off their pre-election high.

Shift in Live HH and Conservative Viewers to The O'Reilly Factor

“Hannity” shows the same pattern. Total ratings are down by .9 and the rating among core conservative viewers was down by around double — at a 1.8 decrease.

Shift in Live HH and Conservative Viewership for Hannity

Of course, just because conservatives are not watching the tried and true the way they used to does not mean they can’t be captured on TV. The chart below shows this for a sample of networks where large concentrations of conservatives can be found.

Index of Conservative ViewershipUnfortunately, the Republicans stuck to an old style type-buying pattern, using traditional demographics and sticking to a limited number of networks. Obama for America used a privacy-protected matching process to align their key segments with Rentrak viewer data. This enabled them to buy much deeper, going to around 60 networks. Rentrak went to the Republican side and made the same offer. We were turned down. The results were much more narrow with traditional buys going only 18 networks deep.

Marketers have often talked about fragmentation with traditional targets. Obama for America was smart enough to see it happening in the political arena. It’s up to the Republicans now to recognize the reality of political fragmentation or remain in the marketing world of 2004.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.