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Digital battleground to target advertising at specific audiences

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Media agency dentsu’s Melanie McDonald, who works with clients to plan and buy advertising space, expects to see an increase on digital and social platforms from the 2019 election “as migration to connected TV viewing has grown significantly in the past three years”.

She expects digital to be the key advertising battlefield in the 2022 election.

“The younger voter is the audience that can be easily swayed by messaging that is aligned to their specific beliefs and digitally does a great job of that one-on-one interaction to deliver a candidate’s campaign message.”

Chris Walton, managing director of independent media agency Nunn Media, said campaigns targeting particular demographics or potentially even certain seats will leverage BVOD and other digital media.

“In Wentworth, [Liberal MP Dave] Sharma will try to position himself as an advocate for clean energy,” he said.

“The most effective way to target geography is using digital media.”

Before the election was even called, the Liberal Party was outspending Labor on Facebook and Instagram, investing $92,500 on ads across the platforms in the past 90 days compared to Labor’s $35,700.

The figures are from Meta’s ad library, which contains data on spending across Meta’s social media platforms Facebook and Instagram.

Between January 7 and April 6, Mr Albanese outspent Mr Morrison, investing $28,300 on ads on Facebook and Instagram compared to the Prime Minister’s $16,700.

Labor’s own internal review into why it lost the 2019 election pointed to the party’s digital campaign as lacking, noting it was used to amplify the content of other aspects of the campaign rather than using it to speak to voters directly.

It found the ad campaign was not informed by a clear strategy and the magnitude of Clive Palmer’s spending “crowded out Labor’s advertising in broadcast, print and digital media”, and that the digital campaign “was inferior to the Coalition’s and that of its allies” .

In 2019, Labor spent a total of $10.7 million on its campaign advertising, with the Liberal Party just behind with a spend of $9.95 million, according to Nielsen Ad Intel.

Once again, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party is dominating digital advertising, drastically outspending both Labor and the Liberal Party on Facebook and Instagram between January 7 and April 6, investing $294,000 across the platforms.

According to data from Pathmatics, Clive Palmer’s Australian United Party has spent an estimated $8.9 million on digital ads over the past 12 months, with drastic spikes in October and at the start of the year with the main investment on desktop video ads through Google’s YouTube.

Pathmatics assess ad spend across the digital ecosystem (websites and social media platforms) by collecting data through a panel of people who sign up to use an app to detect the ads they see in digital environments and then applying a “cost per mille”, or CPM, that is the cost an advertiser pays for 1000 views of an ad – obtained from Facebook’s public filings, or other public information, to estimate spend.

“Clive Palmer is certainly sticking to his words that he intends on running the most expensive political campaign in history, spending nearly $9 million over the past 12 months on digital advertising alone,” said Pathmatics ANZ regional director Eugene Du Plessis.

Mr Walton said United Australia’s 2019 strategy of outspending the mainstream parties was “wildly ineffective” as it did not direct votes to the party, but likely had an indirect effect on shifting voters more to the right, helping the Coalition win and Labor lose.

Ms Osborn argued a party can spend the most and have the highest share of voice but not win “if the core message of your campaign does not resonate with the people in the electorate you are trying to convert”.

“You must be tactical in how you send your message to people, and ensure you are delivering the right message to the right audience, in the appropriate environments,” she said.

Thinking about when and where to spend must come along with smart messaging, Mr Walton said.

Citing examples like Kevin07, It’s Time and Barack Obama’s We Can, he said it is “very effective copywriting” that helps present a unifying tone to a campaign.

“There are good examples of using colors and even slogans to effectively send the signals because to cut through on a policy level is so hard,” he said, pointing to the UAP’s use of yellow and the Independents use of teal to suggest a unified front as they target safe Coalition-held seats.

“If you’re able to unify through speeches, to news interviews, to social media and broadcast ads, it is highly effective when done well,” he said.

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