Labor outspend Liberals as they launch fear campaign

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Glenn Kefford, senior lecturer in political science at the University of Queensland, said Labour’s high advertising spend, particularly on Facebook and Instagram, demonstrated the party was taking the lessons of the 2019 election seriously.

“The ALP review of this campaign was damning for the digital operation and made it clear that they needed to win voice share online if they were to succeed,” he said. “The work appears to have heeded these lessons and so far uses a digital-first operation.”

In the days between April 10, when the election was called, and since the April 10 election was called to April 19, Labor accounted for 45.7% of ad dollars spent on Facebook and Instagram, splashing nearly 260,000 $, according to the UQ election announcement. Data dashboard that analyzes spend data pulled from Meta’s ad library.

The Coalition accounted for 28.33% of total political ad spend, investing $161,721.

University of Sydney associate professor Tom van Laer, who specializes in narratology, said Labour’s initial message involved using facts and reasoned arguments to persuade voters, but the approach had pivoted to fear with lines such as “Australians can’t risk three more years of Morrison’s mistakes”.

The Liberal Party, by contrast, has been focused on disregarding Mr Albanese, Associate Professor van Laer said.

“These are very contemptuous and angry messages, sometimes intertwined, intertwined with confidence in our Prime Minister,” he said.

“It’s really on the attack, on the negative side of the Labor Party.”

Spending on Instagram and Facebook ads was highest in Kooyong, where pediatric neurologist Monquie Ryan (who spent about $10,000) challenges treasurer Josh Frydenberg (who invested nearly $14,500) .

Teal independent candidate from North Sydney, Kylea Tink, is the second biggest spender since the federal election was called, spending $11,704 on ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Victorian Maribyrnong, held by Bill Shorten, also generates a lot of social media ad spend, with Mr Shorten investing more than $10,500 between April 10 and April 19, eclipsing the $59.60 spend of Liberal candidate Mira D’Silva and United Australia Party Darren Besanko’s $293 spending.

Partner van Laer Labor’s shift to fear was unsurprising.

“Most research shows that at the start of a campaign you want to use emotions to hook an audience,” he said.

The change in tone was first noticeable late last week following Mr Albanese’s successful debate against the Prime Minister, Associate Professor van Laer said.

“Using fear is an interesting approach because it can often backfire on us,” he said.

Too much fear might make the public want to ignore the situation and not want to change the status quo.

A successful fear campaign, said Associate Professor van Laer, required a moderate level of fear while making it clear that a solution is possible, which in Labor’s case is to vote the Coalition out of government.

The Greens were the only party focused on positivity, said Associate Professor Mr van Laer. The party spent a total of $19,722 on ads in the first week of the campaign, including $16,616 on digital ads and $2,270 on social media, according to Nielsen data.

The biggest ad spender by far is Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, which shelled out more than $3 million in ads in the first week of the campaign, but with a focus on more traditional advertising than social.

Just over $1 million of spend went to digital ads, $4,022 to social media ads, and the rest went to print, TV, and radio ads. UAP has a significant presence on outdoor billboards across the country, but Nielsen’s data doesn’t account for that spending.

In total, total spending by all political parties on traditional, digital and social media channels, excluding outdoor billboards, was $4.59 million, according to Nielsen Ad Intel.

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