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).
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|
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|
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.
There’s a lot of analysis about “why Labour did not win”. (Short answer: it was heavily overdetermined.) But this is about just one reason that is not why Labour did not win, one thing that almost certainly made no difference to the result: hoardings.
There’s various theories about Labour’s hoardings, ranging from the true – Vote Positive was a weird choice for a message – to the somewhat kooky – apparently we should have plastered David Cunliffe’s face over everything, as if voters might have somehow forgotten he was leader – to the utterly crazy – the claim that Auckland MPs were hiding party vote hoardings on back streets. These theories, of course, are always delivered with complete certainty.
But there’s a fundamental problem with these arguments: hoardings have very little effect on the outcome of elections. Hardboiled American political hacks have a stock phrase for this: “signs don’t vote”. It’s not quite fair to say they don’t do anything – seeing a neighbour’s fence with a candidate’s face on it does matter, because it’s an endorsement from someone in your community, someone who’s part of your broader social milieu. But a large billboard at the roadside? It just doesn’t make much difference. As an Auckland friend of mine sarcastically puts it, “I always make voting decisions based on what corflute on the street tells me”.
There’s some academic research to back this up*, and smart American practice is shifting this way. So, overall, if your theory of Labour’s loss relies on poor hoarding design or display, it is not a load bearing structure.
* Which I’m too lazy to look up right now, sorry.
One of the many quaint things about New Zealand politics, is the odd, round about way they deal with partial state funding of political parties, while mashing it into a spending cap, and leaving a mess of a solution that suits no one.
Basically, the Electoral Commission allocates money to each party based on a huge number of factors, including number of MPs, polling performance and this year they’ve even quietly announced that they are taking Facebook Likes into consideration!
This money can then *only* be used for the production and broadcast of radio and television ads. Not only is it ring fenced, but it also acts as a spending cap – parties can not spend any additional money on TV or radio than what they are allocated by the electoral commission. The one way that parties can somewhat get around this is if they fund the production of the ads themselves, so they can spend the full amount of their allocation on ad placement.
Is it an ideal system? Nope. Is it likely to change anytime? Of course not.
As a campaigner it really bugs me. Additional campaign funds, that you don’t even have to work to fundraise for, is fantastic. Having to spend the money on one of the least effective forms of advertising? Well, that’s just cruel.
Another odd, and very old fashioned aspect of the system is that each party gets a set amount of time to broadcast opening and closing TV statements. These are played together on TV1 about a month out from the election, and then closing statements in the final week. Just like last year, National have gone with something safe and dull, and Labour have tried something new and exciting. It’s cool to see just how good Labour’s offering is. But sadly it will be seen by very very few swing voters.
Anyway, here are this year’s opening statements…
Theirs isn’t online either. And their YouTube channel hasn’t been updated in five years. Suits their brand I guess?
Okay this is getting ridiculous. Theirs isn’t online either, and they haven’t updated their YouTube channel in a year.
And finally, I highly recommend you check out Steph’s reviews at The Standard.
And if you’re in NZ (or can figure out how to use a VPN so TVNZ thinks you’re in NZ), you can watch the full “programme” here.
Sometimes you just have to laugh.
Like at a senior MP sharing a story about how the leader is a liability…
Scary that 26 of Rawiri’s fan’s liked the Party Vote Green message!
Look, I know Labour’s electoral strategy relies heavily on hashtags, but please make that the last time anyone uses #ElectoralAct1993.
#Labour2041? As I said, sometimes you just have to laugh.
Seriously though, from what I’ve been told, an 8 page social media guidebook has been circulated to caucus and candidates. I have no idea if it covers this sort of stuff or not. But regardless, someone needs to be cracking some heads together (that Rawiri post has now been online for three days) and telling candidates that these posts need to come down, and not happen again. Like I said yesterday, when Labour are struggling to get their message out at all, they shouldn’t allow candidates (or the leader) to create distractions.
NZ Labour’s woes are well documented. The latest round of polls – both with Labour sub 25, are frankly, disastrous. On these numbers Labour will be lucky to get deputy leader David Parker re-elected, and the prospect of any new list MPs just looks like a fantasy.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. From my distant perspective, it looks like Labour is running some excellent on the ground campaigns. Some of the MPs look like they’re making great visits (David Shearer and Chris Hipkins seem to have had a really sucessful visit through the regional North Island). Kelvin Davis is getting good media from his work helping flood victims in his electorate. I’ve heard that some electorates are smashing their voter contact targets. The fact that they’ve even managed to agree to targets at all amazes me (I have previously sat in a Labour meeting where the idea of targets was quite literally dismissed as “boss talk”).
And as Phil Quin pointed out on the Q+A panel the other week, Labour do have some very good policy positions. Chris Hipkins really needs to be commended for the work he continues to do with education – their school donation and class size policies are really solid vote winners.
Unfortunately, Labour seems to have since dropped them like a lead balloon.
Using Facebook as a sample of Labour’s external comms*, let’s have a look at what they’ve done with the education announcements…
2 July – Labour announce their school donation policy with a nice graphic on Facebook. Lovely stuff.
3 July – Cunliffe posts a story about how the PPTA back’s their policy. Nice touch.
5 July – Saturday of party congress. Cunliffe announces iPad for every child policy with another nice Facebook graphic.
6 July – Sunday of party congress. Leader’s keynote speech. Presumably in the speech Cunliffe announces their major policy of employing 2000 new teachers to reduce class sizes. But you wouldn’t know that from his Facebook page which stays completely silent on the matter.
7 July – David Cunliffe is awkwardly holding a sausage.
8 July – David Cunliffe meets the Japanese Prime Minister. Does he talk about education? We’ll never know.
10 July – A week after the key note speech a video of it is posted online. Without any mention of the policy. You have to watch the 36 minute video to discover that Labour wants to reduce class sizes.
10 July – Chris Hipkins launches Labour’s excellent education manifesto. It’s a beautiful document that really easily sets out some great policy. Does Cunliffe or the Labour Party mention it? Nope.
Number of mentions of Labour’s education policies after they’re announced: 0. Number of times David Cunliffe has mentioned that they are reducing class sizes on Facebook: 0.
Hell, it’s even depressing to look at a Facebook feed of all Labour candidates and party pages. The last time anyone from Labour talked about education was Grant Robertson three days ago.
Labour candidates should be told to post about it. They should be told to do a visit, then talk about how the education policy is relevant to that visit afterwards. People aren’t going to vote Labour because you have dunked yourself in a pool of icy water. They will vote Labour if they think that improving our kids’ education is worthwhile, and that Labour is the best party to deliver that. You have a good policy. Go out there and sell it!
In a week where Labour committed hundreds of millions of dollars to make worthwhile and significant changes to education, candidates should not be posting videos of ice water challenges. There are enough distractions from Labour’s core messages thanks to donations scandals, Kim Dotcom etc etc, Labour shouldn’t be using Facebook to create even more diversions.
And by totally going to ground and refusing to go out and sell Labour’s policy, David Cunliffe doesn’t even look like he wants Labour to win.
* Facebook certainly isn’t and shouldn’t be Labour’s only communication tool, but given they can easily use it to reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of people, they would be criminally negligent to ignore it. And sadly it doesn’t look like they’re picking up the slack here in any other medium.
An old Labour Party web address has been given a new lease of life on a Hamilton election billboard with a direct link to the Prime Minister’s Facebook page.
Hamilton West candidate Sue Moroney became the unwitting champion for the National Party when the recycled election sign she erected last Friday was altered and tied to the PM’s personal account.
Labour used the web address http://www.labour08.co.nz during the 2008 election campaign and Moroney had it obscured with masking tape for the run to the September 20 general election.
A few days later, the tape was removed from the sign, the domain registered and linked to Key’s Facebook page that showed pictures of last week’s meeting with US President Barack Obama.
Moroney, as chief whip, should know a lot better. Her name is being used to authorise Parliamentary Service funded materials, and if past precedent is anything to go by, she will be one of the senior members of they party’s publications committee, whose job it is to sign off on anything the party puts out.
Now she’s gone and got the party a shoddy newspaper story because she’s been sloppy and used six year old election hoardings (that have already lost her two elections). If I were a campaigner I’d be wondering why on earth she had anything to do with a committee designed to stop crap like this happening.
Her response is also textbook Moroney:
That’s a very bad look for the Prime Minister to be connected with that sort of politicking in Hamilton.
Um. It was probably a bored activist. Hell, Tim Macindoe is so relaxed about his contest in Hamilton West that he’s gone on an overseas holiday. Talk about an over-inflated ego that thinks that John Key is somehow connected to some grand campaign to undermine Sue Moroney. The only one at fault here is her.
A reader has sent me this gem from Colin Craig’s Conservative Party.
Now, I’m no genius, but if my entire political future rested on being gifted a safe seat by the National Party, I’m not sure I’d use my campaign launch as a vehicle to simply attack National:
Had a guts full of National’s abandoning their principles? Had enough of their arrogance? Had enough of them ignoring referendums; like the one on asset sales and the one on anti-smacking? Had enough of Bill English’s borrowing habits? Had enough of the two waka Government?
Come and meet the man who isn’t afraid to say ‘enough is enough’. Come and hear Colin Craig’s antidote to National’s toxic behaviour. Come and meet the man who will give our next Government some backbone.
Now look, I know Colin and his millions are the only asset the Conservatives have. But can they please get photo of him where he doesn’t look like he’s just killed someone?