The Age: Ad blitz on Napthine transport plan cost Victorians $15 million January 6, 2015 Clay Lucas City Editor, The Age
The Napthine government’s unprecedented advertising blitz to promote its transport plans cost Victorians more than $15 million.
The cost of the ad campaign has been revealed after a drawn-out freedom-of-information request begun by Fairfax Media last February, and only released after the election of a new state government.
The documents released under freedom of information show that, at the height of the former government’s “Moving Victoria” campaign, more than $1 million a month was being spent telling Victorians about improvements to their road and public transport networks.
The campaign involved thousands of adsrunning across television, radio, online, billboards and in more than 60 local, regional and foreign language newspapers.
But many of the projects being advertised, including the now dumped East West Link, were years from completion.
Among the ads was one promoting a proposed airport rail line with services every 10 minutes. The rail link was not scheduled to open until 2026.
“Governments shouldn’t be splurging public money on ads like this because it just doesn’t work – we now have empirical evidence from two elections it doesn’t,” said Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton.
“Governments like to spin their way out of trouble, in transport more than any other area, and people are just sick of it.”
Under questioning throughout 2014, former premier Denis Napthine repeatedly refused to detail the cost of the transport ad campaign, saying only that his government’s ad spending was less than his Labor predecessors.
But the released documents show spending on the ads was at a rate far above the Brumby government’s $6.8 million campaign to promote its “Victorian Transport Plan”.
The Andrews government on Monday also gave fresh detail on the extent of the Moving Victoria ad campaign, launched in 2013 after Dr Napthine replaced Ted Baillieu as leader.
The campaign was seen as a bid to lift the government’s electoral fortunes and change the perception of the government as mired in inertia.
It was a marked departure from promises made by Mr Baillieu in opposition to abandon such highly-politicised, publicly-funded advertising.
In the 2014/15 financial year, the Napthine government spent $5.5 million on the Moving Victoria campaign. This was on top of $9.8 million spent in the previous financial year, bringing the total cost to $15.3 million.
At the height of the campaign, tens of thousands of dollars were being paid each month to marketing, digital strategy and research companies.
Tens of thousands of dollars were also paid to translation companies so that ads could be run in multiple languages.
The documents also include details of more than $2 million paid in the final two months of 2013 to Mitchell and Partners ad agency.
This money was to pay television, radio, newspaper and web companies – including Fairfax Media, owner of The Age – for thousands of ads aired in late 2013.
The freedom-of-information request submitted by Fairfax Media last February covered only the ad campaign to that date, but the campaign continued to run for much of 2014.
Labor MP Gavin Jennings said the former government had wasted more than $15 million “advertising projects that aren’t a priority for our state”.
But Coalition MP John Pesutto said the former government had delivered transport projects that improved punctuality, increased services and enhanced community safety.
He said the campaign had been undertaken “to inform Victorians about details that were personally relevant to transport users” about large planned infrastructure investments.
By contrast, he said, “Daniel Andrews will have no major road or rail projects to inform Victorians about”.