2012 Voters Are Going Further ‘Off the Grid’

More aren't seeing political ads on TV

Mitt Romney's digital director, Zac Moffatt, is among those who have pointed to data showing voters in key swing states like Florida and Ohio are watching less live TV and are becoming what campaigns call "off the grid" voters. A Say Media research study released today indicates the trend is only picking up steam.

Partnering with bipartisan political research groups like Targeted Victory and Public Opinion Strategies on the Republican side (Moffatt co-founded Targeted Victory) and the Democratic firms Chong & Koster and SEA Polling and Strategic Design, the study finds that more than 40 percent of likely voters prefer alternative video sources to live TV, with many choosing streaming video over the traditional broadcast model.

This is the second year that Say has released an "off the grid" study, and while the percentage of voters who hadn't watched live TV in one week had hardly changed (roughly 30 percent), Internet streaming via laptop or desktop was up 4 percent, totaling 15 percent of video use among 18-to-44-year-olds. Streaming via console or a device like Apple TV was also up 4 percent, totaling 10 percent of video use in the demographic. The information reveals that younger voters are "time-shifting" and watching video on their own time, almost always skipping any and all advertising along the way.

Another notable trend shows that smartphone growth exploded among eligible voters in 2012 from 37 percent to 52 percent of Americans. In Florida, 53 percent of voters are toting cellphones (up from 38 percent last year) with the figure slightly lower in Ohio (41 percent up from 28 percent last year). The study also revealed that just under a third (32 percent) of likely American voters have purchased a tablet, opening the door for campaigns to target voters in more interactive ways than ever before.

David Tokheim, vice president media solutions at Say Media, told Adweek that while the trends point toward dwindling live TV viewership in the long run, TV will always be a part of the mix. He warned marketers and campaigns that an understanding of a region's technological profile is key to delivering an efficient message. "The shift away from broadcast is more of an opportunity than an obstacle,” he said. Tokheim calls the reliance on on-demand media "a huge shift that creates a fundamental difference in what any political advertiser or marketer needs to do." He suggests that "if you are smart and reach people each day where they are spending their time with a smart message that reflects the mode of technology, you’ll see efficiencies in the spend and a huge spike that makes a very big difference."

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