Over the past month, more than $6 million has been spent on social media in an attempt to influence the opinions of Australians on a range of social and political issues.
- Online ad spend shows how important the WA vote is
- Labor spent a big chunk on targeted Facebook pages
- The Liberals focused more on promoting their candidates
Spread evenly across the country, that would equate to about 24 cents per person.
But in WA, spending is about 15% higher than that, reflecting the key role the state is expected to play in federal elections.
Over the past week, that figure has risen further – almost 20% – as the pressure to win the West Australians intensifies.
An analysis by the ABC found stark differences between how the two major parties campaign online and exactly where that money is spent.
Last week, between April 23 and April 29, political parties, lobby groups and a range of other organizations handed over $232,922 to Facebook’s parent company Meta to run ads on its platforms in Australia. -Western.
Labor pumps money into interest groups’ Facebook pages
About 40% of that, or $93,045, came from the Labor Party or pages affiliated with it.
Much of that has been spent on pages like Stand Up for WA and Every School Every Child, which often only reveal their affiliation in a short piece of text revealing who the ads are paid for.
Just $13,209 of the party’s social media spending went to candidate pages, split roughly evenly between incumbents and promising candidates.
By comparison, the Liberal Party spent $33,598 on its accounts, more than two-thirds of that on candidate pages.
But that figure was boosted by the efforts of Andrew Hastie, who was WA’s 10th biggest political spender during that period, shelling out $5,705 for Facebook and Instagram ads.
And while Labor hopes to win a number of seats in the west, Mr Hastie’s seat, Canning, did not get much attention, held by an 11.6% margin.
Mr. Hastie’s office did not respond to questions from the CBA about his expenses.
Ad gets almost a million hits in four days
A look at some of the items this money has been spent on shows why the parties are putting so much effort into this space.
Facebook’s ad library shows that an ad, posted by the “Stand Up for WA” page and paid for by WA Labor, was viewed between 900,000 and one million times in Western Australia in just four days.
Estimated expenses for this scope are between $10,000 and $15,000.
In the 30-second video, the Labor Party is only mentioned in a brief disclaimer at the end, with that time being used to remind Western Australians of Scott Morrison’s comments and actions during the pandemic and wildfires. black saturday bush.
“If WA can’t trust ScoMo, let’s try someone else,” the ad suggests.
In total, the $22,478 the page spent in just one week secured it between 1,840,000 and 2,070,000 impressions, the number of times the ad appeared on a screen.
Mr Hastie’s spending of $5,705, on a series of ads highlighting both the work being done in his community and warning of a Labour-Green alliance, earned him between 446,000 and 516,000 impressions in the during the same period.
Labor sharpens national image as Liberals put forward candidates
Tama Leaver, a professor of internet studies at Curtin University, said that kind of spending makes sense as parties try to make every dollar count.
“If you have a war chest so to speak, spending it specifically on voters who are thought to be swing voters is a much better way to spend an ad dollar than putting a 15-second ad on a show that the most people don’t watch TV,” he said.
And the spending in WA shows exactly what each side is trying to achieve, with Labor focusing on their party’s image, while the Liberals highlight the profile of local members.
“That means if you’ve voted for someone in the past and you’re trying to keep it, then that face is hopefully already familiar to you, but I think Labor is also doubling down on the fact that ‘There are Labor candidates who probably aren’t as well known,’ Prof Leaver said.
“Labour has had a number of quite similar leaders, so I think they certainly have to build the profile of Anthony Albanese.
“And to be fair Scott Morrison is fighting the opposite battle, I think his profile is probably too strong and they’re trying to tone down that profile by reminding everyone there’s a whole team there.”
Different sets of rules for social media platforms
Professor Leaver said another reason for the heavy spending this year could be that more people are turning away from traditional media.
“People don’t search for as much information in the traditional sense anymore, and yet social media is still an integral part of their lives,” he said.
And while spending has been significant so far, he expects the peak to come in the days before the election.
Indeed, election advertising is banned on radio and television during a “blackout period” from the start of the Thursday before the election until the polls close at 6 p.m. on election night.
“And yet those same rules don’t apply to social media, so at this point, instead of there being no advertising, I think what we’re going to see is that it’s absolutely going skyrocketing on social media over the past four days,” Professor Leaver said. mentioned.
“Everyone gets a little relief from this publicity and has the opportunity to reflect for a few days, which is the intention of these laws, seems like a good idea.
“But that’s only a good idea if it includes social media, which it doesn’t.”