Election 2020

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Campaign social media spending ramps up

In this week's round-up of Facebook election advertising we take a look at Labour's first week of spending up large

After a long period spending very little on Facebook advertising, Labour splashed out $13,000 promoting its income tax policy last week. 

During the same time period the National Party spent just over $14,000 to bring its total advertising spending on Facebook since July 14 to $105,133.

Labour, which has a significantly larger social media following than other parties, has spent just over $22,000 on Facebook advertising.

From now until the election, more advertising is likely across a number of media channels. Sunday was 'Writ day' - marking a month until the election. This is the day parties are able to start advertising on television and radio and start using broadcasting funds allocated by the Electoral Commission. The broadcasting allocation can also be used for online advertising.  

Both National and Labour launched somewhat similar campaign ads on television, with their leaders talking straight to camera. These videos were also posted to their Facebook pages.

While the spending has ramped up, the content has remained tame.

Tim Dorrian, co-founder of Aro Digital, a digital media company that has been tracking party and politician activities on social media, said he was surprised to see the short duration of Labour's tax policy advertising campaign, with advertising only running for six days.

"Around half of their spend was on Labour’s tax checker tool. Essentially looking at when the new 38 percent tax would kick in. Another $1500 to $2000 was spent on their tax policy video. Clearly they’re keen to communicate the outline of their tax policy."

The video was an almost three minute clip of Minister of Finance Grant Robertson.

"That’s not that engaging. I wonder how many viewers watched all the way to the end. My guess? Not many. Tax is typically a pretty dry subject so they need to be looking at how to best engage with their audience, and make the subject a little more palatable."

During the same time period, the National Party ran Facebook ads on a number of different topics including an almost six minute video from leader Judith Collins talking about her and the party. Methamphetamine and organised crime featured in one ad, and a promise of air conditioning for Hawke's Bay Hospital in another.

The air conditioning ad shows a similar strategy used in National's ads around roading projects where specific regions are targeted with relevant election promises. 

The only ad that could be described as overtly critical of the Labour Party ceased running on September 11. This ad said: "Labour’s border failure has cost jobs and billons of dollars". The rest of National's advertising relates to its own policy promises and delivery. 

The ACT Party ran one advertisement critical of a Labour election promise last week of a Matariki public holiday. The ad used Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's face and the Labour Party logo and at first glance looks to be a Labour ad. ACT's other advertisements last week included a number of messages about mental health and suicide prevention, and government debt.

Politicians

The National Party has continued to spend money running advertisements encouraging people to like Collins' page. Around 30 percent of the National Party's spending on Facebook advertising between July 14 and September 13 was devoted to these ads.

ACT leader David Seymour is also spending money on this, with most ads promoting a bus tour of New Zealand. His page is also running an ad promoting his Epsom candidacy. All of these ads appear to be targeted to specific regions.

Seymour had the highest percentage growth of his follower numbers on Facebook and Twitter compared to the previous week, gaining over 1000 followers to his Facebook and Twitter accounts. Collins gained 1288 new follows - an increase of 1.55 percent on her follower numbers from the previous week. Ardern, who is not running any Facebook advertising from her page, gained almost 4000 new followers. 

Ardern's clear lead in followers to her page is echoed in followers of party pages, with Labour ahead of others. In the past few weeks, little has changed in the rankings of party pages other than the New Zealand Public Party overtaking New Zealand First for the fifth spot. Since mid-August the New Zealand Public Party page has gained around 6800 followers while New Zealand First has gained 240.

It's not all happening on Facebook

Parties are advertising in digital mediums other than Facebook. Google has also launched a transparency tool which allows people to see what advertisements are being run by parties and how much is being spent. 

The Greens and ACT are the big spenders on Google platforms, with the Greens spending $45,000 since July 12 and ACT spending $21,600. The Labour Party ran Google ads for the first time this election campaign last week, which promoted their income tax policy and the proposed Matariki holiday.

Combining the amount spent on Facebook and Google shows the Greens have spent just $1556 less than the National Party. 

Aro Digital is a Wellington-based digital marketing agency that provides data-driven solutions and results. In the lead-up to the 2020 Election, Aro Digital launched its Election Insights & Digital Transparency Report, in an effort to give all Kiwis information about how social media is being utilised in politics.

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