Report highlights: Government advertising 2020-21

What the report is about

The Government Advertising Act 2011 requires the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit on government advertising activities each financial year.

This audit looked at whether three campaigns run by Destination NSW (DNSW) during 2020–21 were carried out in an effective, economical and efficient manner:

  • Love Sydney (comprising two sub campaigns being ‘Sydney - Love It Like You Mean It’ and ‘Get Your Sydney On’)
  • Love NSW
  • Road Trips. 

What we found

DNSW complied with section 6 of the Government Advertising Act 2011 (the Act), prohibiting political content.

The Act requires the head of an agency to sign a compliance certificate that certifies that the campaign complies with the Act and is an efficient and cost effective means of achieving its public purpose. 

When the Acting Chief Executive of DNSW signed DNSW’s compliance certificate, evidence to support this certification was not available.

The Act requires a peer review and cost benefit analysis for campaigns over $1.0 million. DNSW did not complete the peer review or cost-benefit analysis for the audited advertising campaigns before they had concluded. 

The Department of Customer Service (DCS), which manages the peer review process, did not escalate the issue of the outstanding peer review documentation to senior DNSW staff. 

DNSW did not set targets for all measures established for the campaigns. This limits the ability to assess their effectiveness.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic likely contributed to the campaigns not meeting a substantial proportion of established outcome and impact targets.

None of the audited campaigns met the minimum requirement of 7.5 per cent for the allocation of the media budget for communications with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse and Aboriginal audiences.

What we recommended

DNSW should:

  • implement processes for planning and delivering advertising campaigns delivered in urgent circumstances to bring them in line with NSW Government practice
  • ensure that it establishes measurements and targets for outcomes and impacts of its advertising campaigns consistent with NSW Government evaluation frameworks and guidance.

The Department of Customer Service should:

  • establish a policy and procedure for ensuring that campaign documentation is completed in a timely manner in the case of urgent campaigns, including establishing expectations around timeframes for the completion of peer review
  • establish a procedure for escalating issues of outstanding documentation to ensure that the peer review is completed in line with reasonable expectations and timeframes.

Fast Facts

  • $9.6m is the total money spent on the three audited campaigns
  • $91.2m is the total amount of money spent by the NSW Government on advertising in 2020–21.

Further information

Please contact Ian Goodwin, Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or by email.