Putrajaya blew over RM500m on pre-polls ad offensive


File photo of a 1 Malaysia billboard on the Sprint Highway in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Choo Choy May

(The Malay Mail) – Putrajaya spent over RM500 million in its advertising blitz ahead of Election 2013 ― as much as the next four advertiser categories combined ― to dominate the list of top spenders for the first half of the year.

According to a report on local advertising growth by Vizeum Media, an international media-buying agency, the next closest contender was women’s beauty products, which laid out RM163 million or less than a third of the RM530 million spent by the government.

“[The General Election] drove government spending to a historical high of RM531 million, accounting for 9 per cent share of the advertising market or one-third of ADEX within the top 10 spending categories in 1H 2013,” Vizeum said in its July report.

The amount was a 160 per cent increase over the same period last year.

Of the over half-billion spent, the Prime Minister’s Department took up the lion’s share with an outlay of RM264 million for the first six months of the year or five times more than it did in 2012.

“Jabatan Perdana Menteri accounted for 50 per cent share of all government spending during the same period,” the report continued.

The sum was enough the make the PM’s Department the country’s second-largest single advertiser, losing out to multinational consumer goods firm Unilever Malaysia which spent RM286 million.

Ahead of Election 2013 in May, Putrajaya and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) set out to conquer advertising space both in the traditional outlets such as print, television and radio as well as in the so-called new media on the Internet.

It participated in paid-for promotions such as social network Twitter’s “Promoted Accounts” and “Promoted Tweets” programmes, and delved heavily into adverting with online news portals.

On the Internet, it adopted “Better Nation” as its rallying theme, a play on its BN initials. These included a standalone website as well as linked advertisement on others.

Beyond advertising, the coalition also invested extensively in premiums such as an “Action Kit” containing 1 Malaysia-themed memorabilia such as caps, pens, stickers and more that were freely distributed to supporters and any who showed interest.

Billboards promoting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1 Malaysia theme as well as the “Janji Ditepati” (Promises Fulfilled) slogan that was the platform for the BN campaign also sprouted along the major highways in the country.

Despite the extensive advertising campaign, BN continued its slide from Election 2008 to hit its latest low in the May 5 general election.

It lost another seven seats from the 140 it had won five years ago, allowing the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to gain further ground by taking 89 of the Parliament’s total of 222 seats.

BN also lost the popular vote for the first time since 1969, when it had last contested as the Alliance Party.

PR had shunned traditional media outlets ahead of the election and again concentrated its resources on social networks and websites that had been credited with its unexpected gains in 2008.