These MPs Spend the Most Money on Facebook Advertising


Which federal MP spends the most on Facebook advertising?

If you guessed Prime Minister Scott Morrison or Labor leader Anthony Albanese – or even the backbenchers who made the headlines Craig Kelly or Andrew Laming – you would be wrong. Far, in fact.

No, the biggest consumer of Facebook advertising – for the 90-day period between June 20 and September 17, 2021 – was Deputy Labor Party leader Richard Marles.

As the recent scandals surrounding the 2016 US presidential elections and the Brexit vote show, knowing how politicians spend their advertising dollars is key to maintaining trust and integrity in our political system.

This has never been more important in an age when political messages can be targeted at particular audiences with laser-like precision.

Facebook’s advertising library

I obtained the data for my study from the Facebook Ad Library, a publicly accessible database of ads served on Facebook, Instagram owned by Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and the Facebook Audience Network, which is used to serve. ads in games and apps beyond Facebook. platforms.

The database is searchable by advertiser, location and keywords and can be filtered by issue, election or policy.

Unless you specify otherwise, Facebook ads are automatically placed where its algorithm “decides” they should be placed.

Facebook launched its ad library in 2019. This came after the 2016 US presidential election, where social media ads were used to influence the outcome.

The advertising library was launched in Australia in March 2020.

By making ads accessible on Facebook’s platforms, especially those related to elections and politics, the social media giant is trying to improve transparency about who spends how much and on what issues.

Hey, big spender

My analysis of the data reveals that Mr. Marles spent $ 45,056 advertising on the social media site in the three months leading up to September 17, 2021.

That’s more than double the next highest advertisement by Members of the Lower House on Facebook, according to Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Hastie.

Mr. Hastie spent $ 17,251 during the same period.

Ads aired by Mr Marles focused on campaigning against proposed changes to the national disability insurance plan, campaigning against the mayor of Geelong and local Liberal candidate Stephanie Asher, and advocating for a federal fighting commission. against corruption.

Mr. Morrison doesn’t even rank in the top 10 Facebook advertisers in the Federal Parliament, ranking 15th, while Mr. Albanese is ranked 12th.

The relatively low ranking of leaders is perhaps not surprising. If you are a leader, you have a better platform to get your point across without spending a lot of money on Facebook ads.

It is impossible to say exactly what you are getting for the money because your ads are effectively bidding against other advertisers looking for the same audience.

The cost per 1000 impressions varies constantly. During an election campaign, costs are likely to increase, but remain much cheaper than traditional advertising in newspapers and on television.

What about senators and provincial premiers?

Data from the past three months shows that House of Representatives MPs spend more than their Senate colleagues.

In the upper house, Liberal Senators Zed Seselja and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells spent $ 18,280 and $ 17,192 respectively on Facebook ads. Labor Senator Kristina Keneally was the third biggest ad spend, losing $ 16,667 on Facebook ads.

And the prime ministers of states? Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews spent $ 13,897, well behind his South Australian counterpart Steven Marshall, who spent $ 34,471.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian does not appear in Facebook’s ad library, suggesting that her Facebook page is not being used to purchase ads on the platform.

What information can you get?

When you search the Ads Library, users can see summaries of how much has been spent, where it has been spent, as well as the ad copy and images that have been displayed to Facebook users.

Facebook also gives an indication of the potential reach of each ad and how many screens it has appeared on.

Mr. Marles’ ads, for example, reached a potential audience of 100,000 to 500,000 people. In practice, however, its best performing ad in the past three months has been viewed by 20,000 to 25,000 people, while its worst performing ad has been viewed by 1,000 to 2,000.

You can also search and view advertisements by political parties and organizations.

Here, the PLA dominates, spending $ 173,067 in the past three months, compared to the Liberal Party, which has spent $ 23,167.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation comes in third, with a Facebook ad spend of $ 10,118.

The expenses of political parties are modest compared to some non-governmental organizations.

For example, Greenpeace Australia Pacific spent $ 327,117, ahead of Amnesty International Australia ($ 255,052) and the Australian Conservation Foundation ($ 253,260).

How the ad library could be improved

Will Facebook’s measures to improve transparency in public discussions and debates make things better?

Maybe, but at the moment it’s not the easiest tool to use, especially for the average user.

To find out who spent the most among the MPs, you have to enter the names manually.

For a business that’s otherwise obsessed with user experience, the design of the ad library seems like an afterthought.

And while you can link to the data, it doesn’t seem to update in real time.

The results are a snapshot of ad spend, frozen in time. This means that the data is always slightly behind and users have to re-enter the data to create a more up-to-date comparison.

Facebook has the ability to provide real-time access to specific numbers if it wants to.

A bigger problem is that Facebook’s system relies on individuals and organizations to self-report whether an advertisement is related to social or political issues.

This is required by Australian law, but those seeking to influence the outcome of an election may simply take the risk of avoiding such scrutiny.

For example, last October, Clive Palmer ran a border closure ad titled Down with the wall !!! without disclaimer.

It was eventually deleted by Facebook, but not before it was featured in 10,000 to 15,000 Facebook feeds.

Still, Facebook’s efforts to improve transparency of ad spend and reach are arguably more open and democratic than traditional advertising.

The ad spending of Mr. Marles and other advertisers may raise eyebrows, but at the very least, they’re upfront about what they’re spending.

Maybe it’s time we insisted that all social and political advertising, both online and offline, achieve similar levels of transparency.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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