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5-min read

Political Parties Using Google, Facebook to Influence Voters, Spend Rs 15 Crore on Ads Ahead of LS Polls

Four parties that have advertised through Google in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are BJP, YSR Congress, TDP and Indian National Congress.

Akash Gulankar | News18.com

Updated:April 9, 2019, 2:27 PM IST
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Representative photo (Image: Reuters)

New Delhi: Google recently released its Advertising Transparency Report, giving out details of the political ads it has published between February 20 and April 6, 2019. The analysis of the report has drawn some interesting facts about the use of online platforms for political campaigning.

While crores of rupees being spent on online ads by the political parties have raised many an eyebrow, these numbers highlight the increasing importance of online platforms during elections.

The Google report states that 11 advertisers in India have spent Rs 3,76,16,400 for advertising, which consists of multiple formats such as text, images and videos. These advertisers have published 831 ads during this period.

Among these, four parties that have advertised through Google in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), YSR Congress (YSRCP), Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Indian National Congress. Most of their ads have directly come from their official office bearers. However, eight other advertisers are those firms that are dealing with the tech giant on behalf of various political parties.

Surprisingly, the BJP has lagged behind TDP in terms of expenditure. The latter is not putting advertisements online, it is buying ads through two digital agencies, Pramanya Strategy Consultancy and Digitant Consulting Private Limited.

While the TDP has spent about Rs.1.4 crore on Google ads, the BJP is on the second spot with 1.21 crore expenditure. The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in Telangana has secured third spot in the list with expenditure worth Rs 1.04 crore.

In terms of quantity, the BJP has published a maximum of 554 ads, while the YSRCP has published 104 ads. The average amount spent per ad by the BJP is Rs.21,928, whereas the YSRCP has spent an average of Rs 10 lakh for every ad published. The TDP, with 89 ads to its credit, has spent an average of Rs 1.6 lakh for each ad.

Interestingly, the Congress seems to be reluctant to invest in the online platform as it has spent only Rs 54,100 on these ads till date.

In terms of demographics, the southern states have contributed more than 70.21 per cent of the total money spend on online ads, the Google report states. The top five states in terms of expenditure include Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar. Andhra topped the list with almost Rs1.7 crore expenditure (45 per cent). Other three states—UP, Maharashtra and Bihar—have spent Rs 72.7 lakh, Rs 18.4 lakh, Rs 17.1 lakh and Rs 10.5 lakh, respectively.

The total share of these five states is 77.65 per cent—almost two-thirds—of the total money spend on advertisements.

On the contrary, all the Union Territories except Delhi and Chandigarh have barely managed to cross the figure of even Rs 5,000 that were spent for Google ads. The national capital secured the sixth position in the expenditure chart with Rs 9.96 lakh. Lakshadweep is last on the list with a mere Rs 300 to its account.

When it comes to usage of various ad formats, videos seem to have more impact. The video ads are the biggest contributor to the category with maximum impressions. A News18.com analysis shows that a total of 17 of these political ads have crossed 10 million impressions, while 36 have recorded more than 2.5 lakh impressions. This suggests these ads have managed to penetrate through the masses and have already reached out to crores of voters in the respective areas.

The YSR Congress has 8 of its ads in the list of maximum impressions and BJP and TDP have 5 and 4 ads in the list, respectively.

Facebook Feats

The largest social media platform Facebook is also keen on keeping transparency in advertising, especially in this time of political discourse. The social media giant is far ahead of Google with 51,810 ads to its credit till date. As per the Facebook Ad Library report, the company has received Rs 10.32 crore through these ads. It has recorded the ads and transactions from February 19 to March 30, 2019 in its report. A total of 4,910 Facebook pages have spent money on ads on the site.

The two pages with the same name —Bharat ke Mann ki Baat are the highest payers in the list. Together, they have spent Rs 2.23 crore (Rs 1.15 and Rs 1.08 crore) which amounts to 21.60 per cent of the total money spent by the advertisers. The other three pages in the top list are ‘My First Vote for Modi’ and ‘Nation with NaMo’ (there are two pages with the same name as Nation With NaMo). Together, these three pages have spent Rs 1.05 crore, 59.89 lakh and 59.15 lakh on the ads. All top five spenders are Facebook pages related to either the BJP or Narendra Modi.

Between February 19 and March 30, the average spending per ad by two pages ‘Bharat ke Mann ki Baat’ shot up to Rs 4,628 and Rs 8,821 with 2,498 and 1,228 ads, respectively. The FB page ‘My First Vote for Modi’ has published a maximum of 7,194 ads as per the report. The page was created on January 17, 2019, and appears to be specifically targeting the youth and first-time voters.

The expenditure-wise categorisation reveals that 84 pages have spent an amount of more than one lakh rupees on advertisements. They contribute the maximum -- 81.49 per cent of the total expenditure on Facebook ads.

A total of 14 FB pages spent more than Rs 10 lakh. These pages share 64.43 per cent of the total expenditure. Of these 14, three pages have managed to cross the figure of Rs 1 crore and share almost one-third of the total money spent on the social networking site by all the advertisers.

Privacy Violations

A lot of ads were even taken down for breaching the privacy policies of Google. However, on most occasions, these ads had already crossed 100 thousand impressions before being taken down.

The ad policy of the company has a special clause related to political advertising. It says, “We support responsible political advertising and expect all political ads and destinations to comply with the local campaign and election laws for any areas they target.” This policy includes a legally mandated election “silence periods.” Thus, according to that policy, these ads were removed later.

Facebook has also taken action against the pages or ads that did not fit into their policies. There were about 3,510 ads which were run without disclaimers on the site. The tech giant has a dedicated computerised system to identify and remove objectionable pages or content.

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