Digital campaigning in New Zealand

There are few people who would doubt that digital is becoming an increasingly important component of political campaigns. Sadly I can no longer find the source for this graph, but it’s one that I’ve shown a few times recently to convey that both sides of politics are embracing digital as an increasingly large chunk of their campaign expenditure (in the US at least).

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One of the quaint things about election campaigns in New Zealand is the disclosure of electoral expenses, in order to enforce their spending caps. This allows us to very accurately examine what political parties are spending, and what they are spending it on.

Now that the 2014 election expenses have been released I’ve been able to compile what the various parties spent online, and there are some interesting numbers… (data here if you can’t see the full table)

Social Media Websites Display Ads Misc Digital Total Digital Spend Total Spend % Digital
National $38,214.39 $27,791.44 $393,772.70 $459,778.53 $2,558,211.53 18.0%
Labour $22,353.13  $1,236.30  $85,445.91 $109,033.34 $1,269,298.91 8.6%
Greens $33,099.63 $33,804.42 $52,433.96 $119,338.01 $1,291,419.81 9.2%
NZ First $1,518.00 $1,518.00 $268,530.23 0.6%
Maori $6,621.70 $6,621.70 $202,562.12 3.3%
ACT $30,704.66 $30,704.66 $294,406.09 10.4%
Conservative $5,292.00 $5,292.00 $1,914,072.38 0.3%
Internet Mana $230.00 $40,966.58 $19,237.20 $310.50 $60,744.28 $660,574.07 9.2%

While I wasn’t surprised to see that both the Greens and Internet Mana spent a large proportion of their budget online (at 9.2% it’s a higher proportion than the 2012 Obama campaign) – to be honest I was surprised the Internet Mana party didn’t spend more. The only other minor party that made a substantial investment was ACT – presumably getting David Seymour’s video far and wide.

What is surprising is both the huge proportion of their budget that National spent online (18% is much higher than I’ve seen in any other political campaign). As well as investing reasonably heavily in social media and a rather good looking website, they totally saturated online display advertising. It looks like they totally dominated in this space.

By contrast not only did Labour spend a tiny amount of money, but even the proportion of their total spend on digital was small.

This led me to wonder what this looked like compared to the 2011 election. So I dug out those numbers and compared…

Total Digital Spend 2011 Total Spend 2011 % Digital 2011 Change between 2014 and 2011
National $118,078.73 $2,321,216.06 5.1% +12.9%
Labour $98,790.34 $1,789,151.95 5.5% +3.1%
Greens $95,596.93 $779,618.38 12.3% -3.0%
NZ First $558.90 $155,902.86 0.4% +0.2%
Maori $- $72,172.56 0.0% +3.3%
ACT $41,347.10 $617,035.18 6.7% +3.7%
Conservative $5,300.55 $1,878,337.22 0.3% 0%
Internet Mana $500.00 $60,082.91 0.8% +8.4%

Surprisingly the Greens dropped their digital spend as a proportion of their total campaign budget, but I imagine this is probably because their total campaign budget was so much larger this time, and much of their additional resource was allocated to TV. They still spent almost three times as much online in 2014 as they did in 2011.

While National outspent Labour and the Greens on digital in 2011, they dramatically increased their spend in 2014. To be honest, I’m really taken back by it. You don’t think of the Nats as being on the cutting edge of campaigning, but I’ve never seen a political party invest so heavily in digital media before. Let’s hope the new look Labour team decide to do things a bit differently.


This data has been hand coded from the election expense results. There will be data entry errors on my part.

I’ve broken the 2014 data down into three sub-categories of digital spend: social media, websites and digital display advertising. Apologies for not doing this with the 2011 data.

I’ve compared the 2014 Internet Mana party with the 2011 Mana Party – very different beasts.

If you have trouble viewing this data on my blog, you can see the spreadsheet.


I’ve been contacted by Labour to point out some of the digital spending in their expense that I missed, I have updated accordingly and removed a paragraph from my post that is now inaccurate with the new figures. If anyone else spots mistakes or omissions I’m more than happy to make corrections.