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State govt advertising bill hits record high

The Marshall and Malinauskas governments spent $41.2 million on advertising last financial year – the highest amount since record-keeping began 13 years ago.

Feb 16, 2023, updated Feb 16, 2023
Photos: Tony Lewis/InDaily. Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Photos: Tony Lewis/InDaily. Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

State government data provided to InDaily shows the cost of taxpayer-funded advertising sharply increased from $29.3 million in 2019-20, to $41.2 million in 2021-22.

Last financial year’s government advertising spend was the highest since record-keeping began in 2009-10.

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet, which oversees government advertising, was unable to break down how much of the $41.2 million was expended under the former Marshall Liberal Government prior to the state election on March 18, 2022, and how much was spent by the Malinauskas Labor Government thereafter.

Graph: Department for Premier and Cabinet

The Government Communications Advisory Committee publishes monthly approval reports evaluating spending on advertising campaigns. However, those reports only evaluate campaigns which cost more than $50,000, with the price of some campaigns redacted for “commercial in confidence” reasons.

The latest monthly approval report – December 2022 – shows the most expensive government advertising campaign for that period was the $1.7 million “Jobs for You” campaign to encourage young people to pursue a career in South Australia.

According to the report, the $1.7 million spend generated 109,184 page views on the Jobs for You website, with a total of 53,871 users and a return user rate of 10 per cent.

“This is a strong result considering it was a brand new website, which was facilitated through strategic media spend that was instrumental in driving on-platform traffic,” the report states.

The report also reveals previously hidden details of a longstanding arrangement with News Corp, showing the Malinauskas Government paid the media company just under $1.5 million in December 2022 to run year three of its “Future Adelaide” campaign.

Future Adelaide launched in 2019, but the Marshall Government previously refused to reveal how much years one and two of the campaign cost, citing commercial confidentiality.

A story published in News Corp’s The Advertiser in 2019 states Future Adelaide involved “stories and advertising shared interstate across a wide range of communications channels including print, digital, social media and video.”

“We will highlight initiatives from across the state, revealing insights into our wonderful state to a huge national audience,” the story stated.

“Future Adelaide will inspire and energise, enabling our state to project an exciting image of itself to three to four million targeted Australians nationally every quarter.”

The government’s campaign approval report states year three of the Future Adelaide campaign generated 134,107 page views and 99,225 unique visitors on the website.

It states that across the News Corp network there were 428,423 page views, of which 368,848 were unique views.

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“It (Future Adelaide) was successful in engaging local and interstate audiences with content that consistently positioned South Australia as an attractive place to live, work, study, visit and invest, as well as maintaining and heightening perceptions of South Australia being a leader in the Growth State industry sectors to interstate and local audiences,” the report states.

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet spokesperson declined to tell InDaily why the government had released details about year three of the Future Adelaide campaign when it refused to release information in previous years.

They also declined to tell InDaily whether the Future Adelaide partnership had ended.

“As a matter of course, the government does not enter into running commentary on the effectiveness of past, current or future partnerships with media partners,” they said.

Solstice Media, the publisher of InDaily, also receives state government advertising in its titles, including in the period covered by this article.

The campaign approval report shows the government spent a further $1.2 million in December on the “Building What Matters Phase 2” campaign to “elevate the importance of infrastructure projects to our state post COVID-19”.

Building What Matters was an initiative of the former Marshall Government to promote its spending on hospitals, schools, roads and parks.

According to the campaign approval report, “the website targets were overachieved”, with 20,000 clicks.

Other advertising campaigns mentioned in the December report include the $1.3 million COVID-19 booster vaccination campaign and $883,853 on a “2020-21 New Zealand marketing approach”.

InDaily previously reported that the Malinauskas Government spent about $750,000 promoting its first state budget handed down in June – triple the amount spent by the former Marshall Government on its last budget in 2021.

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