The government has spent almost HK$550,000 on online advertisements to promote Chief Executive Leung chun-ying’s latest policy address. The amount has risen fivefold since last year’s address, according to figures provided to HKFP. This year’s speech, delivered two weeks ago, was widely reported by local media with promotional TV and radio slots broadcast at no cost to taxpayers. The government also distributed leaflets in public places and paid for print advertisements.

The focal points of Leung’s address included Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative and the development of Hong Kong’s high-tech industry. Public satisfaction over the annual policy address is at a record low since the handover in 1997, according to the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme.

An online ad for policy address.
An online ad for the policy address embedded in a Next Media animation parodying the missing bookseller controversy. Photo: HKFP.

When asked why the government was buying online banner ads, the Information Services Department (ISD) said: “The objective of buying advertising space is to publicise the 2016 Policy Address.”

The ISD confirmed that it has used online advertising to publicise policy addresses since 2009. Until 2014, it was buying advertising space from Yahoo and MSN. Yahoo and Facebook advertising slots were purchased in 2014 and 2015.

In data disclosed by the ISD, the amounts spent on online advertisements since 2013, when Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying delivered his first policy address, were:

  • 2013: HK$124,900
  • 2014: HK$113,600
  • 2015: HK$117,750
  • 2016: HK$548,750

This year, the ISD opted for four online outlets, namely Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Openrice – an online guide for restaurants. The display period of the ads varied between 1-2 weeks:

  • Facebook: January 13 – 27;
  • Google: January 14 – 28;
  • Yahoo: January 13 – 19;
  • Openrice: January 13 – 19.

“Using more online advertising is inevitable given the shift of importance of online media. Possibly the government wants to use this to try to target more online media users to note the policy address in a more positive way,” IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok told HKFP.

“But it takes a good policy address to generate positive response, not by more advertising.” Mok added.

An online ad for policy address. Photo: HKFP.
An online ad for the policy address. Photo: HKFP.

Other promotional means

The ISD also told HKFP that newspaper supplements have been arranged to publicise the policy address, since 2013 at least. On January 15 this year, newspaper supplements were placed in Headline Daily and Sky Post. The breakdown of spending is:

  • 2013: HK$193,052
  • 2014: HK$290,452
  • 2015: HK$240,452
  • 2016: HK$190,452

Each year, printed copies and a leaflet about the policy address are distributed to the public at the Central Government Offices in Admiralty, MTR stations, major shopping centres, housing estates and District Offices.

YouTube video

A number of different publicity videos have also been produced. One of them takes the form of an Announcement in the Public Interest, which is currently being aired by free-to-air and pay-TV stations and radio stations in Hong Kong free of charge, in line with their licensing obligations.

Key points of the policy address are also displayed on the MTR’s in-train scrolling text system.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.