TVision: Swing Voters More Engaged with Mid-term Ads

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Voters not aligned with either the Democratic or Republican parties are more likely to pay attention to political ads than the partisan counterparts leading up to the 2022 U.S. mid-term elections, according to TVision.

In a blog post, the TV ad measurement firm noted that candidates and Super Pacs will spend an estimated $2.1 billion on linear TV and approximately $300 million on CTV advertising. Using TVision's Ad Scoreboard, the company evaluated how much attention different audiences are paying to political ads—specifically if the ads are garnering attention from their Democrat and Republican base, and engaging  independent voters. 

Drawing a parallel between how the amount of attention paid to a consumer ad helps enhance brand awareness, TVision said the same can apply to political ads to provide insight to campaign advertisers and political pundits. 

The key takeaways:

  • Viewers are tuned in to the mid-terms: TV audiences are more likely to be in the room and paying attention when political ads run compared to all other TV ads.
  • The swing voters are paying attention: Independents paid more attention to TV advertising than Republicans or Democrats.
  • News channels offer opportunities to reach the base: Republicans pay the most attention to Fox News and Democrats to MSNBC.
  • Super Pacs are grabbing attention: Democratic Super Pacs are capturing attention in major urban demos

During the survey period—from Jan. 1, 2022 to Aug. 29, 2022, TVision found that the average TV ad captured attention from 37.4% of viewers for at least 2 seconds, but viewers engaged more with political ads (38.7%). Even a 1% variance in attention is noteworthy, the company said, adding that even more important, those viewers stayed in the room 22% longer, and paid attention 15% longer to political ads than all other ads, suggesting the messaging, and creative elements are engaging viewers. 

TVision said that, especially for candidates and causes in critical swing states, its survey panelists who identify as Independent paid the most attention to TV advertising, suggesting that there is still opportunity to engage voters outside of the base. 

TVision has broken down its new digital audience segments via political affilations and TV viewing behavior to help consultants (i.e., its customers) create targetable political audiences. Political segments include Engaged Republicans, Engaged Democrats, Unengaged Republicans, Unengaged Democrats,  and Low News Viewers. As an example, "Engaged Republicans" will reach declared Republicans who also are heavy watchers of Fox News. Likewise, "Unengaged Democrats" will reach declared Democrats who are not heavy watchers of TV news. 

During the period of its eight month study, the consulting firm found that older viewers pay the most attention to TV advertising, which also holds true for political advertising. However younger viewers—18-24, who traditionally vote at the lowest rate (particularly during mid-terms)—are also noticing political advertising more than other advertising, which TVision says could be paying more attention to the elections this year. Younger viewers are paying 12% more attention to political ads on CTV than non-political ads.

In terms of who watches what, the results were fairly predictable, with Republicans responding more to ads on right-leaning Fox News and Democrats noticing the ads shown on MSNBC, which leans left. Independent voters are more engaged with ads on CNN, TVision said, adding that Republicans pay a whopping 71% more attention to ads on Fox News than to similar ads on MSNBC.

For those who decry the pervasiveness of negative ads, TVision says its  data shows that positive ads can also break through and capture attention. A Future Forward USA Action ad for President Biden captured 54.1% ad attention in Dallas. According to TVision’s Ad Scoreboard platform, the Bold Action ad, ”which highlights President Joe  Biden’s Climate Change initiatives,” scored a 105.7 for Creative Breakthrough. Creative Breakthrough measures how well an ad captures attention compared to ads that ran in the same pod. 

TVIsion reviewed viewer engagement with TV advertising on Linear and CTV for people 18+ years of age between January 1, 2022 and August 29, 2022. TVision’s panel includes approximately 13,000 viewers across the United States and they self-report political affiliation. 

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.