Campaigns Follow Young Voters to Streaming Radio

Digital ad spending by campaigns is expected to soar, and Pandora is a favorite for candidates and advocacy groups appealing to young minority voters.

How Candidates Are Using Pandora to Target the Youth

Listeners who tuned in to Spanish and Latin music streams on Pandora in Colorado, Florida, and Nevada in June got an earful about Donald Trump. Specifically, they heard ads blasting the Republican’s assertions that a Latino federal judge can’t fairly oversee a case involving Trump University. The spots were paid for by the pro-Hillary Clinton super-PAC Priorities USA Action, which has budgeted $35 million for digital advertising this year. A significant chunk will go toward trying to influence Latino voters. “It’s probably the largest expenditure in a presidential campaign toward Hispanics by a super-PAC,” says Priorities spokesman Justin Barasky.

Digital ad spending by campaigns is expected to soar to as much as $1 billion this year, from $159 million in 2012, says media consultant Borrell Associates. Pandora is a favorite for candidates and advocacy groups appealing to young minority voters, who, ratings service Nielsen says, spend more time than average getting news and entertainment on mobile devices.

With about 80 million users, Pandora is the No. 1 U.S. radio-streaming service. It ranks No. 3 in average monthly minutes per visitor among young people, behind Facebook and Google, ComScore says. In the past three years, Pandora has doubled its streams of music from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the rest of Latin America and has more than 100 Latin stations—more than either pop or rock. About a quarter of its listeners are Latino.

That increases Pandora’s value to campaigns. “Being able to target them on mobile devices that we know they’re spending a lot of time on, especially with audio ads, which we know are particularly effective, gives us a leg up,” says Tim Lim, a partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic ad agency. He declined to comment on clients, but Clinton’s campaign has used the company, according to campaign spending records.

Pandora says more than 100 campaigns ran ads on its streams in the first three months of the year. It’s already exceeded its 2014 political ad revenue, and ads aimed at black and Latino voters are up 500 percent. “It feels like we’re going to see a lot of things accelerate as we get closer to the convention,” says Sean Duggan, a vice president for advertising at Pandora.

The company isn’t alone in seeing a big increase in minority-specific advertising. Univision, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S., expects revenue from political ads running on TV, radio, and online to exceed the $60 million it made in 2012. Last year, consumer-products companies spent $6.2 billion on TV advertising targeting Latinos and about $379 million on radio ads, tracking company Kantar Media says.

A record 27.3 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in November, and half will be millennials, the Pew Research Center shows. In the 2014 Florida governor’s race, Republican Rick Scott’s digital ad buyer, National Media, bought time on Pandora and on Univision’s website, running ads targeting voters originally from Colombia, Cuba, and Puerto Rico ahead of Scott’s re-election victory. The firm says its polling found Scott won the Cuban-American vote by a margin of 35 percentage points, after independent exit polls on election day said Scott lost those of Cuban descent to Democrat Charlie Crist by 4 points.

With polls showing Trump trailing Clinton badly among Latinos, some consultants are telling Republicans in congressional and state races to redouble their outreach. Says Brent McGoldrick, chief executive officer of GOP strategy company Deep Root Analytics: “If I’m running for Congress or if I’m running for Senate and I’ve got a decent percentage of my voters who are Hispanic, I’d better make sure that I’m on Spanish-language TV or digital with a message focused on those voters.”

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