Political Pundits Don’t Get Palmer Advertising

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
April 26, 2019 Updated: May 26, 2020

News Analysis

Love it or hate it, the recent polls have been conclusive—the advertising campaign for Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) has had success among the voting Australian public over the last few months.

This has now helped catapult the UAP into the news headlines, with political pundits stunned that the $30 million spent to date on advertising has gained so much traction with voters.

It likely hasn’t surprised Palmer, who was the campaign director for former Queensland State Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen in the 1980s.

The UAP campaign war chest is estimated to be over $50 million, outstripping the $16 million spent by all political parties combined in the 2016 federal election.

Palmer’s campaign is ubiquitous, covering television, billboards, radio, newspaper, flyer drops, social media, YouTube, and even mobile gaming apps.

It gives the UAP an ability that most minor political parties do not have—direct communication with the voter without relying on the big media outlets.

Political analysts were initially sceptical of how effective Palmer’s campaign would be. Some commentators, including those from Sky News, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian, outright ridiculed it.

However, in the advertising world, there is a simple and oft-repeated mantra: advertising works. They hold that if your target market sees the ad repeatedly, and they understand it, then it has achieved its goal.

The UAP has adopted an approach to advertising that is not unlike Coles and Woolworths—advertise all year round to keep ‘front of mind’ with your target consumer.

Their messaging on billboards is simple, their soundbites on YouTube ads are short, and average voters can understand their message with ease.

The designs and colour schemes may not win any awards, but they are bright and catch the eye.

The jingles are even being remembered by voters.

With political discourse nowadays being increasingly difficult to decipher, perhaps it is the simplicity of the UAP campaign that is being welcomed.

Further, the ad campaign covers a range of issues voters may feel the major parties have been slow to resolve.

Palmer has consistently campaigned on issues such as national security, the cost of living, and “draining the swamp” in Canberra.

His approach appears to be resonating with its intended audience as a Nielson AdIntel survey in March found that 69 percent of voters had a positive sentiment toward the campaign.

A recent Newspoll, which revealed that the UAP may have a significant portion of the primary vote in four electorates, has sent media commentators scrambling.

Commentators have thus far, framed Palmer as a “kingmaker” with the power to direct significant preference votes to the party he chooses. However, discussion stops short of suggesting the UAP could win the seats.

In a recent Facebook post, Palmer criticised the media’s coverage of his campaign as “fake news” as he claims they initially reported the UAP would have no impact, although Palmer admits that three weeks later, the media’s tone has changed.

“Our polling shows that as well as the 15 percent of Australians who over a month from polling day decided to vote for the United Australia Party, more than 28 percent are at this stage undecided,” he said.

“I believe that one thing those 28 percent of Australians have decided is they are not going to vote Labor, Liberal or Green.

“Our research shows that the majority of them will vote for the United Australia Party and bring real change in Australia.”

As a wave of support for those outside the political establishment continues to sweep the world—with Ukraine being the latest country to elect an outsider to the top political job—the lead up to May 18 will be closely watched as the two major parties play their preferences in a bid to avoid a hung parliament.

The UAP has reportedly locked-in a $6 million advertising spree for the final week of campaigning, with prime positions in all major News Corp titles. Under these circumstances, the UAP could still gain ground and make an impression on the overall primary vote.