How Liberal and Labor spent their money in the NSW election

NSW election 2023

The NSW Liberal party spent more than $1.6 million on ads trying to convince voters to give it a fourth term in government, hundreds of thousands of dollars more than NSW Labor and six times more than the Nationals.

Advertising across television and radio networks and newspapers ramped up in the final fortnight of the March 25 election race, but it did not do enough to secure another four years for the Perrottet government. The election advertising push cost $280,000 more for the Liberals than NSW Labor, which spent about $1.4 million. The National Party, which has secured 11 seats for the next term, spent about $270,000.

NSW Labor paid for advertising on Chinese social media platform WeChat before the state election.

The data is from Nielsen Ad Intel, which tracks spending across metropolitan TV and radio networks, newspapers, and digital advertising on online publications (not social media). A total of $3.6 million was spent between the major parties during the campaign, the majority of which ($2.2 million) was spent on metropolitan television networks such as the Nine Network, whose parent company owns this masthead, Channel Seven, and Channel 10.

The Liberals’ ads typically featured former premier Dominic Perrottet and frequently emphasised the party’s track record with economic management and delivering infrastructure to NSW. Minns’ advertising focused on giving NSW a fresh start, with promises for teachers in schools, more healthcare workers, and affordable housing.

Nearly $800,000 went to regional television, which was more than what was spent on radio ads ($383,000) or ads on online news websites. Advertisements on TV, radio and in newspapers typically focus on candidates and key policy issues, but online ads give parties the ability to target voters based on demographics such gender, age and location.

Chris Minns’ Labor and Dominic Perrottet’s Liberals had very different tactics for online ads.Credit:Janie Barrett, James Brickwood

Nielsen does not break down how much is spent on social media platforms such as TikTok, WeChat, YouTube and Meta’s sites Facebook and Instagram. But Meta’s and Google’s advertising transparency libraries, which are publicly accessible, give some insight into the scale of the election advertising push.

Meta says 837 ads ran across its platforms including Instagram and Facebook with the disclaimer “paid for by NSW Labor”, with a total spend of $186,910 from February 25 to March 25. Nearly 30 per cent of the money Labor spent on Meta was directed at women.

That search revealed the NSW Liberals paid for just 200 ads across Facebook and Instagram during the same period. Meta’s library says the NSW Liberal Party spent almost $133,000 between February 25 and March 25, with the majority of ads targeted to all users. Just 8.6 per cent were directed solely at women, much less than Labor.

Google’s advertising transparency tool, which is similarly used for elections, showed about 120 ads ran thousands of times across its platforms including YouTube. It says NSW Labor spent $414,300 on its platform between March 6 and March 25, a figure that increased weekly as election day drew close. All the money spent by Labor was on video advertising.

The Liberals spent $419,550 on 99 ads in the same period. But just 40 per cent of this was on video advertising, while 60 per cent was spent on text advertisements that appear in search.

The data comes as The Sydney Morning Herald called the Southern Tablelands seat of Goulburn for the Liberals. Liberal incumbent Wendy Tuckerman leads Labor challenger Michael Pilbrow by more than 400 votes, with 76 per cent of votes counted.

The win takes the Coalition to 33 seats in the lower house. Labor needs just one more seat to form a majority government, but trails the Liberals in the two remaining contested seats that are still too close to call.

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