Mar­riage equal­ity op­po­nents have spent five times more on TV ads, an­a­lyst says

The Guardian Australia - - News - Paul Karp

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.”

Pho­to­graph: Coali­tion for Mar­riage

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.

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