How have the presidential candidates used podcast advertising in the election?
With an election shaping up to be unlike any other in history and record spending for advertising, we got curious about how the two major campaigns planned their podcast ads. The most fascinating takeaways were how similar the number of ads run are between the two candidates but how starkly different the shows where they appeared are.
To start our investigation, we looked at which genres of shows were covering 5 major topics each week. Those topics are: voting, the economy, coronavirus, the Supreme Court, and healthcare. Magellan AI samples the top 3000 podcasts each week so in our research, we looked at what percentage of those top 3000 were talking about the topics over time.
To better understand where the conversations about the issues were happening, we broke down the episodes discussing these topics into their respective genres. Below, you’ll find the percentage of podcasts in each genre that had our chosen keywords for each topic. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the coverage was weighted to news shows but the issues impact a variety of the population and therefore, have been discussed on a wide range of podcast genres. In these views, we’ve filtered out any genres that were consistently below 5%.
After analyzing how the content of the podcasts covered the topics, we switched our focus back to the campaigns. In any type of advertising, the two main targeting options are context or demographics. Programmatic podcast advertising allows advertisers to fine tune their demographic targeting but often lacks the tools to make placements based on context. And direct placements have the opposite challenge: great context targeting, little demographic refinement. We were curious about the approach that each candidate employed: Did Joe Biden for President target demographic segments where they knew they needed more voters? Did Donald Trump for President place ads in shows that discussed issues of interest to undecided voters? While we can’t get the precise answers to these questions, we can make some educated guesses based on where the ads appeared.
The Candidates - Former Vice President Joe Biden
Starting with Joe Biden for President, the campaign ramped up their podcast advertising over time. 87% of ads appearing after the Democratic National Convention announced Biden as the official Democratic candidate on August 20th. As a result, the campaign made our top movers and shakers list for September.
Interestingly, the majority of the campaign’s ads have been on comedy shows. As we approached November 3rd though, more ads appeared on news shows. Looking back to the graphs above about which genres were discussing the issues, it’s obvious that comedy shows were second to news - especially with regards to voting.
To see how much overlap there was between the ad placements and the shows discussing issues, we looked at how many of the campaign’s ads appeared in episodes that mentioned our keyword set related to the issues. From this chart, we observed that the Biden campaign’s ads have appeared most often on shows that were mentioning voting, the economy, and (more recently) the Supreme Court. In fact, 9.5% of all ads detected after the nomination were in shows discussing voting, 7.8% in shows discussing the economy, and 5.6% in shows discussing the Supreme Court.
In addition to the ads placed, the Biden campaign published a podcast in early spring where Joe Biden invited guests to have conversations about policies. The podcast began before Biden announced his official intent to run for president and stopped publishing shortly after his bid was announced.
The Candidates - President Donald Trump
The incumbent president took a different approach to podcast advertising. Perhaps the digital team recognized the continued growth in podcast listeners and advertisers throughout the early months of the pandemic as we observed that the campaign’s podcast ads were concentrated in July. Interestingly, the total number of ads detected for each candidate so far are very close: 210 for the Trump campaign and 235 for the Biden campaign.
When we dive deeper into where these ads appeared, we find that the Trump for President team only placed ads on shows in the news and culture genres.
Given the narrow scope of the show genres, it wasn’t surprising to find that the Trump campaign ads heavily correlated to shows discussing top issues. 24.3% of all ads appeared in shows discussing voting and 21.2% in shows discussing the economy.
In a similar approach to the Biden campaign, the Trump campaign published a podcast of their own. They got a later start than the Biden team and published the first episode on May 30. But, they’ve continued to publish new episodes consistently throughout the election season. The podcast features soundbites from President Trump’s speeches but does not feature the President as a host or guest. Lara Trump meets with various guests including politicians, economists, and even a country music star.
Given that the campaign ad spend estimates are in the billions of dollars, it’s clear that podcast advertising was a small piece of the media plan. Beyond the campaigns themselves, there are a number of other advertisers who are running political ads in all media channels including iHeartMedia and League of Women Voters. All of them have the same central message that bears repeating: be sure you vote!
This data was collected from the millions of ads that Magellan AI has processed from the top 3000 podcasts sampled each week. Learn more about tracking advertisers and how this information can help you build a better media plan by requesting a custom demo.
Index image provided by macrovector_official via Freepik