Federal election: Digital erodes TV's dominance as parties spread ad dollars

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 15 June 2016

Australian political parties are pouring far more campaign advertising dollars into digital than in the last federal election, according to Standard Media Index (SMI) figures for May.

Government spending for May was $52.3 million, which includes the first three weeks of the 2015 federal election campaign. This spend includes political and non-political campaigns, but YoY growth of 118% suggests a massive uptick due to the election. 

The May 2015 government spend has already surpassed the $50.1 million spent in the two months leading up to the 2013 federal election.

In this election, digital accounts for 27.4% of the category's media agency bookings compared to only 7.6% in the 2013 election campaign. 

The sharp increase in digital coincides with an equally steep decline in TV's share from 66% in 2013 to 35% this campaign.

It's important to note the SMI's figures only refer to media bookings in May and there is still a full month to run until the vote takes place on 2 July.

Political parties may well increase their TV spending, but the early signs are that digital and other media formats are making inroads into TV's dominance as the traditional media of choice for election campaigning.

The share of political and government advertising in print is also up to 13.6% (from 10.1% in 2013) and radio's proportion has almost doubled to 13.6% (from 6.8% in 2013).

Second-highest spender

Overall, government spending for May increased by 118% YoY, helping the category climb to number two behind automotive for the month. This is well above the government category's annual position as the 10th largest spender in 2015. Automotive is usually the top advertising sector each year.

"Australia’s advertising market continues to enjoy higher demand and this month much of that has unsurprisingly come from the government category due to higher Federal election-related spending," SMI Australia/NZ managing director Jane Schulze says. "And the parties look to be targeting regional media with the dollar increases in regional radio and press higher than their metropolitan counterparts."

With the addition of late digital bookings to come, media agency bookings for the month were $622.5 million, only 0.8% down on May 2015. Schulze says it is likely the May record will be smashed once the late digital bookings are included.

By media category, outdoor (up 22.8%) and radio (up 8%) reported the highest YoY growth for the month, but both were aided by timing factors when compared to May 2015.

For outdoor, this included a third campaign loading period in the month, compared to two in most other months, while radio benefited from an extra Monday, which is the day when weekly campaigns are usually paid.

TV media bookings were down 1.5% on last year, while newspapers (down 19.6%) and magazines (down 26.1%) had larger reductions due to one less Saturday than in May 2015.

Newspaper groups maintain that SMI's monthly figures are inaccurate because they do not contain direct sales bookings.

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