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Liberals spent more on Facebook advertising in the first week of the campaign than other parties combined

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Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is holding a campaign rally on August 16, 2021 in Longueuil, Que.

Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press

In the first week of the Bundestag election campaign, the Liberals spent more on advertising on Facebook and Instagram than the other four major parties combined.

Many of the Liberals’ ads on Facebook highlight important aspects of the party’s campaign pitches, such as “10 days of sick leave.” The conservative ads attack the liberals on economic issues and call for early elections or show that the leader Erin O’Toole is working. The NDP advertisements prominently show the leader Jagmeet Singh.

A law passed at the end of 2018 requires online platforms to create a publicly accessible register of all advertisements paid for by political parties before an election and during an election campaign. In response, Facebook set up its ad library, a collection of spending information that enables the company to continue serving political ads.

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In contrast to radio and television, where advertisements are aimed at a broad audience and seen by many people, social media platforms allow political parties to target which population group and which adverts. This means that different people will see different party pitches and the ad library that contains them all offers a glimpse of everything that is out there. It also allows an immediate view of the ad spend while the campaign is still running.

From August 16-22, the Liberals spent $ 289,133 on advertising on Facebook and Instagram, according to Ad Library, which is more than the total for the other four major federal parties. During the same period, the Conservatives spent $ 145,101, the NDP $ 85,813, and the Bloc Québécois $ 7,781. During this time, the Greens did not spend any money on Facebook and Instagram advertising.

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“Reaching out to more Canadians online about their ideas and priorities is a critical way of attracting thousands of new volunteers and supporters and moving Canada forward,” said Adrienne Vaupshas, ​​a Liberal Party spokeswoman.

Lauren McDonald, director of digital and campaign strategy at advertising agency Creative Currency, said the Liberals’ high initial spending would likely help them identify their constituents.

“The Liberals are really focused on finding their voters online in the early days of the campaign,” she said, adding that many of their ads include a call to action that people can click if they agree to the message. “Just like knocking on a door asking for assistance,” said Ms. McDonald.

The Conservatives, she added, appear to be geared towards convincing voters as Mr O’Toole is new to many Canadians.

The ad library also tracks spending over time. In the past two years, from June 25, 2019 to August 22, 2021, the Conservative Party spent the most money at $ 2,354,588. This compares with $ 2,020,004 for the Liberals, $ 779,265 for the NDP, $ 51,711 for the bloc and $ 63,080 for the Greens.

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These numbers are the total spending on each party’s official page on social, election, or political ads, according to the ad library. Ads on Facebook must state who is paying for it, and those who don’t are flagged by the platform and are also publicly available.

“The ad library was designed to give people maximum visibility,” said Kevin Chan, Facebook’s head of public policy in Canada.

It was created in response to Bill C-76, the 2018 law requiring online platforms to keep a register of digital advertising by political parties. This bill was introduced to mitigate the ways in which social media can be used by almost anyone to exacerbate social divisions and manipulate voter opinion, as was the case in the 2016 US presidential election.

While Facebook created the ad library to comply with Canada’s new rules, other social media companies chose not to run political ads during the election campaign.

Google platforms, which include YouTube, have opted out.

“In accordance with Google’s existing policy, we do not accept or post advertising campaigns on our platforms during a federal election period regulated by the Canada Elections Act,” Molly Morgan, a Google Canada spokeswoman, said in an email. “We implemented this policy following the amendments to Bill C-76.”

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Twitter also doesn’t allow ads with political content. According to the company’s online policy, this includes calling for elections, soliciting financial support, and advocating for or against many types of political content, such as references to political parties or elections. Twitter also does not allow advertising of any kind from candidates, parties, or government officials.

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