In speaking with a number of clients about the Presidential election, we continue to confront some difficult issues. Many stations are still asking whether they should even be talking about this hot race, while others are tackling it in many different ways.
Here are some things to consider when calculating your strategy during the final days leading up to the election.
First, "Saturday Night Live's" ratings are telling. The October 4th show (featuring the VP debate) averaged a 7.4 household rating. That's at about the same level as their September 13th show (the first Sarah Palin/Tina Fey spoof), and the highest numbers the show has earned since December 14, 2002 (Al Gore and Phish were the guests). These ratings speak volumes about the power and impact of this election.
Second, our Tech Poll - back in February - indicated that 84% of respondents were planning on voting in the November election. You would think those ridiculously high numbers would be even stronger today.
Finally, 70 million Americans watched the real Palin/Biden debate. And almost as many viewers tuned in McCain and Obama's second debate. These are American Idol numbers, and they underscore the public's interest in this contest. An article in the New York Times about charitable galas told the story of a mega-event in New York City last week for the New York Women's Foundation (featuring Mayor Bloomberg and Robert DeNiro). The organizers had to set up a plasma screen in a side room so that attendees could watch the debate. Now, that's engagement.
So, what does this mean for your station?
Morning shows and other high-profile personalities have to find a way to integrate this bigger-than-life event into the fabric of their shows. There are many ways to accomplish this, of course, from parodies, to listener votes, to even providing information about how and where to vote on station websites. Ignoring the election is a bigger sin of omission than not adding a hot new release from a key core artist.
7-11 has found a way to reflect the election by taking their own coffee poll. You either go for the Obama or McCain cup - a small way to register your opinion, and in the process, the convenience store chain ends up with a great, buzzworthy promotion.
We have a number of stations that are now taping the debates (and other press conferences) to use Obama, McCain, Palin, and Biden drops to promote everything from listening at-work to other station contests and attributes. And several Jacobs’ clients are running their own "President" campaigns at their stations - the perfect, non-partisan way to talk about the election, while injecting humor, localism, and the audience into the mix.
This election is a game-changer. It is impacting TV ratings (probably radio ratings, too), it's what people are talking about, it's the source of much humor and parody, and it's something that you cannot get from your iPod.