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Here's how much the main political parties are spending on Facebook ads

Targeted Facebook ads allow political parties to select who they want to see the advert by age group, gender and where they live.

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FINE GAEL IS significantly outspending its rivals in the general election campaign when it comes to advertising on Facebook.

Figures made available through the Facebook Ad Library have shown the party spent more than €15,000 between promoting adverts from its own page and from Leo Varadkar’s account in the first week of campaigning. 

In comparison, Fianna Fáil spent over €2,300 while Sinn Féin spent around €1,100 from 13 to 19 January.
https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/1265760/

The Facebook Ad Library was created by the social media platform as part of efforts to improve transparency over who is funding online political advertisements.

This came following the criticism over the spread of disinformation online during the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election, both in 2016.

Currently there are no spending limits for political parties using digital ad campaigns. Through targeted Facebook ads, political parties buying ads on Facebook platforms can select an age group, gender or particular area they would like to target.

However, there are limits for how much a candidate can spend on their campaign. This doesn’t apply to just digital campaigns, it applies to the candidate’s whole overall campaign. 

For a five-seat constituency, the spending limit is €45,200. For a four-seater, the spending limit is €37,650 and for a three-seater it’s €30,150.

Within those limits, there are no rules covering what proportion of a candidate’s outlay can be spent on online ads. 

Fine Gael

ad library fg

The party in government is taking a wide-ranging approach to its Facebook ads, hitting on a number of different topics all bearing the message “#LookForward”.

In keeping with the hashtag, most of the adverts focus on what the party says it will do if it returns to government. 

At the time of writing, the party currently has six adverts running on Facebook and Instagram.

One of them – which Facebook says has cost between €200 and €299 and has been seen between 25,000 to 30,000 times – centres on public transport. “Fine Gael is investing in public transport to reduce congestion and help tackle climate change,” the advert says.

According to Facebook figures, between 13 January and 19 January, Fine Gael spent €11,402 on the ads appearing from its page.

From March 2019 to 19 January 2020, it spent a total of €24,982.

However, the party has also significantly funded adverts that have appeared from the page of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Between 13 January and 19 January, Fine Gael paid €5,779 for adverts from Leo Varadkar’s page.

From March 2019 to 19 January 2020, ads paid for by Fine Gael on Leo Varadkar’s page totalled €13,153.

None of the other main parties have significantly funded campaigns from their leaders’ accounts so far.

Fianna Fáil

ad library ff

Fianna Fáil has spent a significant amount in the past 10 months, but has spent far less than Fine Gael so far in the campaign.

From 13 January to 19 January, Fianna Fáil paid €2,340 for ads appearing from its page.

From March 2019 to 19 January 2020, the party spent €16,242 for adverts on Facebook and Instagram.

Adverts currently running on its page feature videos promoting specific candidates, as well as a pitch from Micheál Martin on how the party promises an “Ireland for all” if elected into government. 

Sinn Féin

sinn fein ad library

Sinn Féin’s spend on Facebook is lower again.

From 13 January to 19 January, Sinn Féin paid €1,141 for ads appearing from its page. 

From March 2019 to 19 January 2020, the party spent €8,875 for such adverts.

One such active advert says that a Sinn Féin Minister for Housing will “immediately introduce a rent reduction and a three-year rent freeze”. 

The spend on this advert was under €100, but was seen between 3,000 and 4,000 times. It was aimed specifically at Donegal and was seen mostly by men in their 20s and 30s.

Others

In the first week of campaigning, Labour spent €0 on advertising from its Facebook page. Since March, it has spent €5,676.

Similarly, the Green Party spent €0 from 13 January to 19 January. Since March, it has spent €1,062.

The Social Democrats has spent €100 or less on the campaign on Facebook and Instagram so far, with €2,032 spent overall since March. 

Solidarity paid €396 and €208 respectively for adverts from the pages of Ruth Coppinger and Mick Barry, respectively, in the first week of campaigning.

ruth coppinger ad library

Numerous candidates have paid money for advertising on the social media platform in the first week of electioneering, as it allows candidates to target a specific area and pay relatively small amounts to have their advert appear for Facebook and Instagram users in that area. 

For example, an advert running since Friday from Shane Ross shows him meeting constituents at Leopardstown Shopping Centre. For a spend of €100 or less, this advert has been seen between 2,000 and 3,000 times. 

Similarly, an advert paid for by Fine Gael TD Michael D’Arcy featuring an endorsement from former Liverpool player John Aldridge was viewed between 5,000 and 6,000 times in his Wexford constituency for a spend of €100 or less.

In many cases, individual candidates are running adverts for small amounts that are €100 or less, and outside the figure included for the main party advert spend. 

TheJournal.ie will be monitoring party spend on Facebook all the way up to election day on Saturday 8 February

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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