Government ramps up ad spend by 50 per cent as election looms, new numbers suggest

The latest numbers on ad spend in the Australian market suggest spending on government advertising rose 50 per cent in April compared to the same time last year.

Spending on public information announcements and the like is always a political battleground, with opposition parties accusing the government of using public money to promote its own agenda. With the federal election due in September, the reported 50 per cent rise is likely to draw such accusations.

According to Standard Media Index numbers, the spend rose from $14.2m in April last year to $21.3m this April, an increase of 49.7 per cent. In the two years before that, spending had been steady at $14.6m in April 2010 and $15.3m in April 2011.

In the four months of the calendar year to date covered by the report, government spend is virtually flat compared to 2012, down 0.9 per cent, suggesting that the increase in government ad spend has come in recent weeks.

SMI gathers its data from Australia’s major media agencies.The calculation of government spending is separate to any spending by individual political parties.

Media analyst Steve Allen told Mumbrella: “Every incumbent government ramps up spending before an election and there is no exception to that rule,” said Allen.

“Sometimes it’s very genuine because there are major substantial reforms going on; this present government is arguing that case, but it will be interesting to see where they spend that money.”

Today the Coaltion’s spokesman on scrutiny of government Jamie Briggs MP said: “In 2007, Julia Gillard promised that ‘Labor will end the abuse of taxpayer funded Government advertising.’ Just like the budget surplus pledge, this is another broken promise.

“These ads, especially those spruiking Labor’s education policies and the NBN, are blatant political campaigns which will air right up to the election and they should not be funded with taxpayers’ money.”

The SMI report also indicated that while advertising spend on both television and digital was up in April, print revenues continue to fall with magazine spend falling 35.5 per cent compared to April 2012 and newspaper spend falling 20.5 per cent.

In the financial year to date, newspapers are down 19.1 per cent and magazines down by 20 per cent.

“It shows that media agencies are turning their backs on print and unfortunately magazines are getting caned to death and the battle between the two major publishers is obviously contributing to that,” said Allen. “What appears to be occurring is that the magazine sector is hammering itself to death.”

According to the April 2013 SMI report, television and digital are the winners in the current market with TV up 7.4 per cent in April 2013 while digital was up 14.5%. For the financial year to date, TV was down 1.8 per cent and digital up 24 per cent.

Radio revenue was estimated to be down 10.2 per cent for the month and four per cent for the year.

Nic Christensen 


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