Revealed: The Facebook post that cost the Govt $88,000

The Government has almost tripled the amount spent on online advertising as the nation shifted into lockdown.

Data from research firm Pathmatics shows that the Government spent only $184,000 on online advertising between July 1 and August 17.

This shot up as soon as the nation shifted alert levels.

In the roughly 10 days between August 18 and 28, the Government spent $552,700 on raising awareness about the alert level change and giving Kiwis tips on how to stay safe.

Pathmatics’ ANZ regional director Eugene Du Plessis says there has been a significant shift in the type of messaging the Government is publishing on social media sites.

“Prior to the alert levels shifting on August 18, we noticed that the Government was spending on encouraging Kiwis to get a Covid test if they’re feeling unwell,” he says.

“Since the shift to alert level 4, the government is now educating the public on what the current status is in relation to Covid, why certain measures have been taken, clearly articulating the correct protocols for indoor and outdoor activities and giving a timeline.”

The Government’s biggest spend on a single post was $26,600 towards a Facebook ad encouraging unwell Kiwis to get a Covid test.

Once the alert levels changed, this was well exceeded by the $88,000 towards a post reminding Kiwis to take a face covering when heading out.

Comparing the approaches on either side of the Tasman, Du Plessis says New Zealand has adopted a much friendlier communications strategy to that seen in Australia.

“When looking at NZ vs AU Covid-related digital marketing activity, the New Zealand approach is more transparent and engaging when it comes to educating the public on the need to do the right thing,” he says.

“In Australia, certain states have been focusing a lot more on creating fear and uncertainty to do the right thing, coupled with conflicting messaging on timelines.”

In contrast to the fear-based messaging, Du Plessis says that most of the advertising spend in New Zealand has gone toward informing the public on what the Covid alert levels mean to individuals and businesses.

With parts of the country moving into different alert levels, the pressure will only grow on the Government to ensure there is no confusion between what Kiwis and their businesses can and can’t do.

Asked whether this investment in social media advertising was money well spent, Du Plessis said it was important to have a mixed media approach across numerous platforms.

“Messaging across all media types to reach different audiences is definitely the right approach and worth the money,” he told the Herald.

“Calculating the ROI in terms of the health of a nation will be difficult of course, but one could say New Zealand is performing incredibly well on that level.

“The only critique on spend would be the large amount going towards Facebook, and not quite as much to [smaller] local publishers, who will no doubt reach unique audiences and also re-invest tax dollars back into the local economy.”

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