Center for Campaign Innovation

Radio played a key role in the upset victory in the November Virginia Gubernatorial race that had first-time candidate Republican Glenn Youngkin overtake former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014-2018, was running for a non-consecutive second term.

Youngkin “basically had the radio airwaves to himself until mid-September,” the Center for Campaign Innovation says, which the non-profit group believes was a huge factor in the first Republican gubernatorial win in the state in a dozen years, Fox Business reports.

While usually playing third fiddle to TV and digital in political advertising spend, Youngkin’s radio campaign played a disproportionate role in helping fuel his narrow victory, according research conducted by the Center for Campaign Innovation, which Fox Business says trains and guides conservative candidates through the digital transformation of politics. This even as his spend on radio was smaller than what the campaign dropped on TV and digital advertising.

"Youngkin pressed his advantage early on radio which also boosted his TV and digital advertising," the Center for Campaign Innovation’s Eric Wilson wrote in a research report. "Effective campaigns follow the data and our research shows that radio still has a place in campaigns fighting a fragmented media landscape."

The group says the "research from Virginia provides valuable insights for campaigners heading into the 2022 midterms as they plan their paid media budgets."

Candidates should use an “all of the above” ad strategy that includes radio, the group says, "because the average voter’s attention is so fragmented, no single platform will provide the reach needed to meaningfully move numbers… while TV’s reach remains high, radio and digital have greater efficiency and ballot movement for those they do reach."

The Center for Campaign Innovation’s research found that voters who recalled seeing Youngkin’s TV ads as well as hearing his radio spots were nearly 7% more likely to vote for the candidate than those who did not hear the radio ads.