Here, for your view­ing plea­sure, po­lit­i­cal ads

Sunday Mail - - OPINION -

SOME­WHERE in the TV twi­light zone be­tween The In­spec­tor Lyn­ley Mys­ter­ies and Texas Flip ’Em, we’ve lost the plot. Hardly any­body is just watch­ing tele­vi­sion any more.

While “watch­ing” the big screen in the fam­ily room, we are now also scan­ning our small screens – our tablets and smart phones.

And quite a few of us are not just multi-screen­ing, but triple-screen­ing. Yes, that means watch­ing three screens more or less si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

So, while around 86 per cent of Aus­tralians still watch broad­cast TV, around 76 per cent of on­line Aus­tralians multi-screen, with an in­cred­i­ble 33 per cent now ac­cess­ing con­tent on two or more de­vices – all while watch­ing TV.

The fig­ures – drawn from last year’s Aus­tralian Mul­ti­Screen Re­port – are mind­bog­gling. Which is how I al­most com­pletely missed the ALP’s first TV at­tack ad of the phantom elec­tion cam­paign.

While Chip and Joanna were mirac­u­lously ren­o­vat­ing an­other dump in Waco, Texas, on the reno show Fixer Up­per, I was brows­ing Twit­ter, al­ter­nat­ing be­tween my iPhone and a creak­ing iPad 4, and no­ticed the ad get­ting a men­tion on var­i­ous news feeds.

With the radar now ac­ti­vated, I kept an eye out for it on the big screen. Lo and be­hold, it soon bobbed up.

A neg­a­tive elec­tion ad on the tele­vi­sion set. How quaint. How very ’70s. Slap the peanut paste on the Weet-Bix and grab a glass of Milo, it’s time for F Troop.

The ad was rolled out on what La­bor has dubbed Manic Mon­day; the first of six prom- ised over six Mon­days in a row at­tack­ing Lib­eral Leader Steven Mar­shall. Some­thing to look for­ward to, if that rings your bells.

It had all the trade­mark cliches of your bog-stan­dard pol- it­i­cal at­tack ad – omi­nous mu­sic, scary voice-over, slomo shots of Mar­shall with his head in his hands. Oh, and they switched him into grainy, black and white be­cause that makes ev­ery­one look like a bank rob­ber. So funny.

The Lib­er­als have used the same clichéd style in pre­vi­ous ads tar­get­ing Pre­mier Jay Weather­ill.

What was as­tound­ing about the Manic Mon­day ad, how­ever, was not its con­tent, but who paid for it. The ALP ac­tu­ally paid for it out of their own pock­ets, rather than dip­ping into yours, as they have been do­ing for months now.

All year, the Weather­ill Gov­ern­ment has been on a tax­payer-funded, party-politi- cal ad­ver­tis­ing binge, the likes of which we have never seen be­fore in this state.

It has spent mil­lions – no­body knows ex­actly how many mil­lions – on ad­ver­tis­ing pro­mot­ing the new Royal Ade­laide Hos­pi­tal, the jobs ac- cel­er­a­tor grants and La­bor’s en­ergy plan.

The lat­est is a se­ries ex­pound­ing the mer­its of pub­lic schools, sort of Munno Para Pri­mary meets Dead Po­ets So- ci­ety, so warm and fuzzy I ini­tially thought they were flog­ging in­fant for­mula.

When the banks ran full­page ads in this pa­per at­tack­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s stalled state bank tax, the Pre­mier called it a “sub­ver­sion of democ­racy”. His ads, how­ever, are just about pub­lic in­for­ma­tion.

For the first time in the lead-up to a state elec­tion, all po­lit­i­cal par­ties are now op­er­at­ing un­der a strict, AFL-style cap on cam­paign spend­ing.

In a trade-off for pub­lic fund­ing of their cam­paigns, from July 1 to polling day on March 17, no party can spend more than $100,000 run­ning in any in­di­vid­ual seat, with an over­all cap of $4 mil­lion on the en­tire cam­paign.

One Lib­eral MP said other states with shorter re­stric­tion zones were “laugh­ing their tits off” at SA’s nine-month clam­p­down which ex­tended be­yond ad­ver­tis­ing to “ev­ery ca­ble tie, ev­ery cor­flute”, any­thing and ev­ery­thing spent run­ning a cam­paign. It will be fun watch­ing pub­lic ser­vice bean-coun­ters sort that out.

Much like the su­per­mar­ket gi­ants, po­lit­i­cal par­ties now rely on gold mines of meta­data to tar­get in­di­vid­ual vot­ers in key seats, on sin­gle is­sues they know may sway that one per­son’s vote. They tickle that voter di­rectly by email, SMS or their favoured so­cial me­dia plat­form.

The politi­cians are a wake up to our lit­tle screens, too.

The new cam­paign spend­ing rules mean a gov­ern­ment that runs a tax­payer-funded ad­ver­tis­ing blitz pro­mot­ing its pol­icy achieve­ments and plans – on mul­ti­ple plat­forms – has an un­fair ad­van­tage.

If it were an AFL club, it would be ac­cused of rort­ing the salary cap.

Pic­ture: MARK BRAKE/AAP

KNIVES ARE OUT: Pre­mier Jay Weather­ill and Op­po­si­tion Leader Steven Mar­shall take ques­tions at the AMA Po­lit­i­cal Lead­ers Break­fast, at The Play­ford Ade­laide ho­tel, ear­lier this month.

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