Vote for me! Election Advertising in NZ
Election advertising is an interesting discipline given it’s extremely prominent for a few months every three years, can be subject to intense public scrutiny, and is regulated by a specific set of rules that aim to create transparency. With the New Zealand general election coming up on the 20th of September we’ve now entered the regulated period (20 June to 19 September). Within this period, there are limits as to how much candidates and parties can spend on ‘election expenses’ such as advertising.
Here’s a few interesting things that I’ve seen so far during the 2014 election lead up:
1. Climate Voter website taking on Electoral Commission
Lobbying groups will be watching with interest the outcome of a high court ruling on The Climate Voter website. To be decided is whether the site constitutes election advertising and is under the same regulations as political parties. The site is is jointly organised by Greenpeace, Forest and Bird and Oxfam. It aims to get voters to register their intention to vote in support of climate change policy.
The Electoral Commission’s opinion was that the campaign may encourage people to vote in a certain way and classified it as an election advertisement.
If the commission’s decision is upheld in the High Court, Climate Voter material would be treated as electoral advertising. If the group spent more than $12,300 on advertising they would then be required to register with the Electoral Commission as a ‘third party promoter’. As it is not a candidate or party advertisement it won’t go to any specific party’s election expenses (which are capped). A promoter statement would need to be included in all advertising also.
2. Social media playing a bigger role
Earlier this month Facebook sent Washington-based manager for policy Katie Harbath to run a New Zealand Election Media Bootcamp. Meetings were held with political parties to deliver a message on how Facebook has been used abroad during campaigns and on how these tactics can be employed in New Zealand as well.
Facebook use has increased significantly among those 18+ since the last election in 2011. It will be interesting to watch how (and if) social media influences voting in the 2014 Election.
Social media 2010 v 2014: % of NZers aged 18 or over who have used Facebook in the last month:
May 2011: 38.56%
May 2014: 59.88%
Stoppress recently published an interesting article on the Facebook popularity of political parties and candidates – noting that popularity doesn’t always translate into votes. If the NZ Government was split in the same way as party Facebook likes the Green party would be the majority and the Internet Party would have more MPs than both Labour and National!
3. ElectionAds.org.nz creates database of election advertising
If you’re interested in a trip down memory lane or delving into how political parties have advertised in the past then check out ElectionAds.org.nz. The database stretches all the way back to 1925 but includes more recent examples. The periodic nature of election advertising means you can see trends and similarities between the advertising from the same election year.
Here were a couple of my favourites from the 1946 election comparing National and Labour’s advertising campaigns:
These archives are a fascinating record of our advertising history and styles of the times. This Muldoon ad from 197 is very reminisce of David Ogilvy’s long form print ads for VW and Hathaway Shirts.
With the major party advertising yet to begin it will be interesting to see how they are used to sway voters this year. Hopefully we see more like my personal favorite – the emotional and elegant billboards for the Green Party’s 2008 election campaign.