Marriage equality opponents have spent five times more on TV ads, analyst says
Opponents of marriage equality have so far outspent the yes campaign by about five-to-one in television ads in the Australian same-sex marriage postal survey campaign, according to research by an advertising analytics firm.
Ebiquity found the no campaign’s $312,000 and yes campaign’s $64,000 of TV ad spending is dwarfed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which has spent $1.7m on the campaign so far.
Both the Coalition for Marriage and Equality campaigns claim their opponent has more cash, but the new figures draw into question the claim that the no side faces a “David and Goliath battle”, as Australian Christian Lobby director, Lyle Shelton, put it at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
Ebiquity analysed free-to-air television ads in the five major metro markets (Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide) from the start of the postal survey process on 8 August until Tuesday, 12 September, when the ABS mailed out postal survey forms.
The first partisan ad in the campaign was the no campaign’s ad linking same-sex marriage to gender education, on 29 August.
The Coalition for Marriage spent $312,000 on the You Can So No campaign which warned that genderdiversity education programs would become “widespread and compulsory”.
The Equality Campaign spent $64,000 on the Let’s Get it Done ads, featuring Ian Thorpe and other Australians walking to a post box to cast their vote, a campaign that began on 9 September.
The figures do not capture the yes campaign response ad featuring doctor and same-sex marriage advocate Kerryn Phelps rebutting no campaign claims, because it ran only on Foxtel.
The majority of the ABS’s $1.7m spend was on ads in August encouraging electoral enrolment to take part in the survey ($1.4m).
Ebiquity director of client service for advertising, Aaron Rigby, said it was understandable the yes campaign was behind because its ads had started more recently but on total spending so far “it’s still a victory for the no [side]”.
“We haven’t seen anything yet: I think we will start to see a spike in activity, now the postal votes are arriving in people’s post boxes ... and then a continuous flatline of spending throughout the [survey] period, with a final spike towards the end to convince those who haven’t voted,” he said.
Rigby said the total ad spend could run into the millions of dollars, like a federal election campaign, but the postal survey campaigns will have fewer types of ads because they each try to convey a few, simple messages.
Rigby described the Thorpe ad as “the best ad to date” because it “was bringing voters back to what the survey is about – marriage”. By comparison, he said the Coalition for Marriage was “a bit full-on” for making unrelated claims about gender education in schools.
On Wednesday, Shelton said the Coalition for Marriage has “not taken money from evangelical churches in the [United States]” but it did not intend to disclose its donations.
He referred to the Australian Financial Review’s report that the Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, will make a personal donation to the yes side of $1m. “This is a David and Goliath battle,” Shelton said, and appealed for donations.
Despite Joyce’s personal donation and the support of 600 corporations, those corporations have so far not made major donations to the Equality Campaign.
Asked which campaign had more cash at the National Press Club last Wednesday, Australian Marriage Equality co-chair Janine Middleton said: “I know that our opponents try to paint us as Goliath but it is a bit more loaves and fishes if you want to stick to Bible stories.”
Middleton said she may not know how much the opponents of marriage equality had to spend, but as chief operating officer she knew “how much is in our kitty”.
Asked why corporations had not donated, Middleton said that corporations had a limited pool of funds for diversity and inclusion measures, making it “difficult for them to write a cheque”.
Middleton said corporate fundraising was happening among LGBTI support groups and their straight allies. “I think that’s where the money will come as well as obviously from individual donors.”
A television ad from the Coalition for Marriage urging a no vote in the same-sex marriage postal vote. Advertising experts say the total ad spend could run into millions of dollars.