Australian government spends near-record $175m on advertising

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 6 December 2016

The Australian Government has spent a near-record $174.7 million on advertising campaigns in the past year led by huge campaigns for the Federal Election, Defence Force recruitment and the government's innovation drive.

This is marginally less than the $185.3 million on advertising spent in the 2007-08 budget, but well above the $107.1 million spent in the 2014-15 budget.

The $129.1 million spent in the first six months of 2016 is easily the highest half yearly figure since 2007. Dentsu Mitchell is the media agency that places most of the government's advertising while Havas' work on defence force recuitment is the largest contract for creative.

A major shift in government spend this fiscal year has been the rise in digital advertising. In the past year the government spent $57.4 million on digital, which was 33% of overall spend, compared to $28 million in 2014-15, which was 26% of the ad pie in 2014-15.

TV is still the dominant channel with $66.6 million in spend, while press ($18.7 million) and radio ($15.5 million) had healthy rises on last year and out of home spend more than doubled to $10.1 million.

The biggest campaign of the past year was the Australian Electoral Commission's campaign to inform voters about changes to the Senate voting system.

Media placement cost $43.3 million while consultancy fees added another $7.6 million with ad agency BMF Advertising paid $2.01 million for its work on the creative.

The second-largest campaign was on a defence force recruitment drive to fill about 7,800 positions across the armed forces.

Havas netted $17 million for its work on advertising creative, the largest sum paid to an ad agency for a single campaign, while $31.4 million was spent on media placement.

Defence force recruitment was easily the largest campaign the previous fiscal year with ad spend of $31.3 million.

Malcolm Turnbull's innovation and science agenda campaign, an election promise, cost $18.8 million with Whybin/TBWA's creative work costing $3.65 million.

The Australian Trade Commission spent $13.7 million on a campaign to sell the North Asia Free Trade Agreement to business and the wider public, which included $2.1 million for creative to 303 Mullen Lowe and media placement worth $10.4 million.

The government spent $13.4 million on a campaign to reduce violence against women, with BMF Advertising earning $1.1 million on creative. Only $200,000 of the $10.5 million spent on media was placed in Indigenous media channels despite the relatively high levels of domestic violence in Indigenous communities.

Other topical ad spends include $2 million on a campaign to warn asylum seekers not to enter the country via boat, $4.2 million was spent on an awareness campaign about the dangers of ice use, which seems relatively low considering the damage the drug causes across much of regional Australia. Meanwhile, $8.7 million was spent on an anti-smoking campaign.

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