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Intro to Commercial Radio Advertising for State and Local Candidates 2020

Prepared by Dennis Martin, CRMC/CDMC

Member/ Kalamazoo County Democratic Party


There are many options to consider for “legally qualified” candidates to promote their name, their ideas and their platform.  There are several local Radio stations and each reaches a different demographic and different geographic area.  A Radio campaign can offer cost effective frequency, the ability to update quickly if needed and can reach listeners at home, at work and in the car.  Many stations simulcast their on air programming on their Internet stream.  A candidate’s commercial would typically also air on that stream.


Candidates qualify for “lowest unit rates” (the lowest rate given to any other advertiser for a purchase of the same class of time in the “political window”). A station can decide whether or not to sell time to state and local candidates.  Once they decide to sell time to one candidate for a particular elected position, they must sell it to all candidates in the same race. They can restrict state and local candidates to buying advertising time during certain “dayparts”. 

(“Dayparts” include Mornings/Midday/Afternoon/Evening/Overnight) 

The Radio station can provide you with a rate card showing length, daypart and rates.  Candidates must pay for their advertising in advance for each schedule.  

Political Window

This is the period 45 days before a primary election, or 60 days before a general election.  During the political window, candidates can purchase time at lowest unit rates.

“Equal time” or “Equal opportunities”

Broadcasters must treat candidates for the same race in the same fashion.  If one candidate is given free time on the air, an opposing candidate who requests it must be given an equal amount of comparable free time. (This can include on air interviews).  If one candidate buys time, the opponent must be given an opportunity to buy an equal amount of time with an equivalent audience size.

Sponsorship Identification

The candidate’s commercial must include appropriate sponsorship identification. (Paid for by the Committee to Elect Joan Smith).  The candidate’s voice must also appear in the commercial.

(*Source Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP)

Area Radio Stations

Midwest Communications Inc. 

  • WKZO 590 AM/106.9 FM – News/Talk (Adults 35+)
  • WVFM 106.5 FM – Light Rock (Women 25-54/Adults 25-54)
  • WTOU 1560 AM/96.9 FM – Urban Contemporary (Women 25-54)
  • WQLR AM 1660 AM – Sports/Talk (Men 25-54)
  • WNWN 98.5 FM – Country (Women 25-54/Adults 25-54)


  • WKFR 103.3 FM  – Contemporary Hits (Women 18-49)
  • WRKR FM 107.7 FM – Classic Rock (Men 25-54)
  • WKMI  1360 AM – News/Conservative Talk (Men 35+/Women 35+)
  • K102.5 WKFR-HD2  Classic Hits (Women 25-54)


  • WQXC  100.9 FM – Oldies (Adults 35+)
  • WZUU 92.5FM – Rock (Men 18-49)


Western Michigan University

  • WMUK 102.1 FM – News Talk/Public Radio (Adults 35+)
  •  (As a Public Radio station, they may offer interviews but they do not air commercials)



First, get as much free exposure as possible. WKZO, WTOU, WMUK and WKMI typically will do interviews with candidates.  If they interview one candidate for a race they are obligated to also interview the opponent. Ask for the opportunity for an interview.  

When it comes to Radio advertising avoid the temptation of choosing your favorite station, choose the stations that target the voters you want to reach.  Recommended stations:

  1. WKZO – The leading news station in the county with a live morning show hosted by Ken Lanphear.  Listeners are Adults 35+ the core of the strongest voting demographic. Afternoon program is Michael Savage, a syndicated Conservative host so I’d avoid that daypart.
  2. WVFM – A safe for the whole family station that reaches Women and Adults 25-54. Good for all dayparts.
  3. WTOU – Reaches women 25-54 and is very popular with the African American audience. Good for all dayparts. They offer interviews on Saturday afternoons.
  4. WKFR – Reaches younger Women 18-49. Good for all dayparts.

Radio commercials can be :30 seconds or :60 seconds in length.  Rates are often lower for :30’s.  Unless there is an elaborate message :30 seconds is often sufficient.  Have a single point to make, include the candidate’s name and office at least twice in the message and include any marketing positions or slogan that you are using in other media for your campaign.  The candidate’s voice must appear somewhere in the commercial.  Often it is a tag like: “Paid for by the Committee to Elect Joan Smith.” 

 If the candidate has a strong, confident voice they can voice the entire commercial.  Otherwise, consider having a spokesperson read the message and the candidate voice the tag. The Radio station should provide free studio time to record the commercial and can email it to any other station.

Advertising budgets can be tight. One strategy is to schedule commercials to air the day before Election Day and then schedule the previous days as the budget allows. It is recommended to schedule a minimum of 3 commercials a day so that more listeners will hear the message, and hear it with repetition.

If you have any questions I’m as close as the phone at 269-598-4279 or email dmartin603@charter.net.  Vote Blue!