Government ads: shared services flagged for spin control

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Digital and online is catching up in the ever-contentious work of government advertising. And the Independent Communications Committee is back to monitor activity. It’s ultimately a budget saving.

New Commonwealth advertising guidelines are unlikely to quench public interest in how governments justify campaigns. But the gradual shift to digital and online visibility points to more being done in-house, according to one mandarin — saving not just budgets but awkward explanations.

Department of Education and Training boss Lisa Paul faced questions at Estimates on the government’s most recent campaign to “address misconceptions” about the Coalition’s higher education reforms. The 10-week run of upbeat TV and radio spots (video above) launched less than a week after their university deregulation plans were defeated in the Senate. That campaign reflected the status quo of government advertising and its reliance on traditional mediums. But the latest campaign expenditure figures published by the Department of Finance late last month suggest that’s changing.

Commonwealth TV, radio and print advertising has continued to drop for the third year in row. Digital campaign spending has grown each year, although the growth in 2013/14 was marginal. A total of $106.5 million was spent on all campaign advertising, including $7.8 million on ethnic media and $1.8 million on indigenous media.

The 2013/14 expenditure was inflated across all mediums and audiences due to the $15.7 million spent on the 2013 federal election, twice the outlay of the 2010 election, and Defence Force Recruiting doubling its TV expenditure to $19.2 million. No other agency came close to spending as much as the Australian Electoral Commission or the ADF recruiting arm. Without those ubiquitous Defence Jobs TV ads aimed at networks’ most in-demand (and expensive) audience of young men and women, digital media buy would have by now overtaken all other Commonwealth advertising formats.

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