Defence tops soaring federal government ad spend in 2018 financial year

Federal government spending on major ad campaigns jumped by over 50% during the 2018 financial year, with Defence the biggest spender despite the same-sex marriage plebiscite.

In its annual report on campaign advertising by government department and agencies, the Department of Finance has revealed Defence spent $46.1m in advertising during the financial year, nearly a third of the federal government’s total spend of $157m.

The Defence department’s spend was made up of two campaigns, the $16m Defence Industry Skills and Jobs campaign and the ongoing Defence Force Recruiting program which cost $30.1m over the financial year.

Dentsu X, then Dentsu Mitchell, billed $30.1m for the recruitment campaign’s media placement,  while Host/Havas received $12.7m for its creative services.

Host/Havas retained the lucrative creative account for the ongoing campaign last year having held it since 2013.

Of the $30m spent on the program, $12.3m went on TV,  while $10.9m was spent on digital and $4.6 on out-of-home.

The Defence Industry Skills and Jobs campaign saw $7m spent on TVCs while digital and out-of-home scored $4.2 and $2.1m respectively.

Spending on the campaign is unclear from the department’s annual report however TBWA received $2.4m and Dentsu X charged $15.4m for their work on an “Industry information campaign” during the financial year according to Defence’s annual report for 2017-18.

The same sex marriage plebiscite, conducted between September and November 2017, was also a boon for the adverting industry with the federal government spending $19m.

Spending through the federal government’s Central Advertising System, was administered by Dentsu X during the period. In May, the government awarded the contract to UM, which had held the account for eleven years before the then Dentsu Mitchell won the tender in 2014.

Released by the Department of Finance shortly before the Christmas shut-down, the report covers the 2018 financial year (1 July, 2017 to 30 Junea 2018) and provides detail of 27 government advertising campaigns worth over $250,000 run during the period.

Overall, the federal government spent $59.1m on television advertising, $55.1m on digital, $16.6m on radio and $12.8m on out of home over the financial year.

Other major campaigns included the $11m National Child Care Plan, run by the Department of Education and Training, and the $6.9m Energy for the Future campaign – also known as ‘Powering Forward’ – run by the Department of Environment and Energy.

The Powering Forward campaign has attracted criticism from the opposition which claimed its slogans are based on statements made by government ministers. The complaints have seen the national audit office launch an investigation into it and a number of other campaigns.

The 2018 financial year was not a record year for government advertising, however, with the Turnbull government spending $174m for the 2016 financial year ahead of the election that was held in July 2016.

Australia will hold a federal election during the 2019 financial year. The date is yet to be announced, however it is likely to be held before 18 May.


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