What Labor and Liberals spend on Facebook ads tells us where the campaign is headed

We’ve rounded the last corner, but the campaign marathon is now becoming a sprint to the finish, with political parties of all stripes increasing their campaign pace and advertising spend.

Analysis of social media spending data and movements by leading party leaders suggests that no party vying for government wants anything on the table in its bid to form a government in less than a week.

And the data suggests that if you’re already sick of the campaign, you might want to turn off social media for the next week because the ads are just ramping up.

Data from Facebook’s Ad Library Report shows advertisers in Australia spent more than $3 million on election, political and social issues in the week ended Tuesday.

That’s up from about $2 million the week before.

The numbers include nonprofit groups and other activists running ads on issues not explicitly related to the federal election.

Spending has gone up everywhere, but if you factor in each state’s and territory’s population, we see that Tasmanians get far more attention than any other Australian.

This reflects the fact that a significant portion of the island nation’s population lives in a crucial peripheral location and the increasing attention to key locations as advertising targets.

Spending could well exceed levels recorded during last year’s Tasmanian state election campaign before the end of the campaign.

A party spends more

While everyone is raising the stakes, one faction has escalated faster than the others.

The ABC categorized every Facebook advertiser who spent more than $100 on the platform in a single day this year based on whether they are political in nature and which party or group they belong to.

This gives you a broader view of party spending patterns than looking at individual candidate or party accounts.

The analysis shows that Labor has been ramping up spending on the platform rapidly, while the main parties have been in lockstep until mid-campaign.

Most of Labor’s spending has been accounted for by the national party, which has also voted on its negative messages since the first day of the election campaign.

The ABC examined the messages in all the ads that spent at least $200 on the major party’s main account and found them to be mostly positive or mostly negative.

Exact dollar figures for each ad are not disclosed by Facebook, but the ads represent, very conservatively, at least $1.3 million in spend.

The analysis does not take into account an advertisement on a candidate or party page.

Labor’s account started the campaign purely positive, but that quickly changed.

It turned the dial fully negative in late April with a spate of attack readings via Scott Morrison, but has since moderated to the point where about half of its readings are negative.

Meanwhile, every single ad the Liberal Party has spent more than $200 on since April 26 has been negative, attacking either Labour, Anthony Albanese, Labor candidates or independents.

Those are the big ads, at least, but both major parties also run dozens of smaller edition ads, and the messages in these vary.

Liberals offer different plans to different voters

The Liberals this week launched a series of ads targeting individual voters.

The commercials for Our Plan ran in at least 23 key locations, featuring the party’s candidates and MPs.

But the plan changes from place to place.

While all are told the Liberals will deliver “more jobs,” “lower taxes,” “better health,” and “better roads,” the plan’s fifth plan varies.

‘Stronger defence’ is promised on 16 seats including Corangamite, Pearce and Braddon.

But in other seats, including those like Kooyong and Goldstein, who are being challenged by blue-green independents, voters are being told about the “cleaner environment” plan.

The Facebook posts for the Lyons and Casey candidates contain “Stronger Defence”, but the Goldstein candidate has “Cleaner Environment” instead.(delivered)

The other seats where Liberals clearly think the environment is a key issue are Flinders, Curtin, Sturt, Chisholm and Boothby.

The party is also adapting its message to other parts of the country, as in Canberra, where the local branch of the Liberal Party is vying for advisers’ votes.

A FB post to read
In Canberra, the Liberals’ side is aimed at public service contractors.

“Do you work as a contractor or consultant for the APS,” the ad asks.

“Under a Labor-Green alliance your job is at serious risk.”

It may be the only part of the country where they form a sufficiently significant voting bloc to justify direct targeting.

Labor rekindles fears of cashless direct debits

This week Labor again ran ads targeting older Australians, stoking fears of the cashless debit card.

An advert bought by Queensland Labor appears a pensioner from Bribie Islandwho says “I will not risk my pension for Scott Morrison”.

A FB post with a video where the caption reads
A Queensland Labor Facebook ad featuring an angry pensioner.(delivered)

Bribie Island sits on Longman’s key fringe seat, which is currently held by LNP on a 3.3 percent margin.

Victorian Labor is also running ads on the issue, promising to “abolish the cashless debit card”.

While proving the effectiveness of a single ad is an impossible task, Google Trends data shows a modest increase in search traffic for the term “cashless debit” in these two states over the past week.

The same increase has not occurred in other states for which data are available.

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