Hungary: Europe’s most advertised elections

Politicians battling on Facebook to get your vote is nothing new. At AdLens, we can usually track election campaigns by the amount of money being invested on political ads in a certain country. Afterwards, we can delve into the numbers and create overviews per party, like we did here with the Netherlands for example.

Usually though, the election campaigns on social media are “the last push” and quite slow to start, usually resulting in a big push on spending during the last 30 days. In Hungary, we have been noting increased spending since August 2021, with the elections are planned for March or April 2022. The country has always known a higher quantity of political ads than others, ranking number 8 in August in our European overview with about 42 euro spend on political advertising per 1000 inhabitants. Total worth of political advertising in Hungary in August 2021: €416.520. This amount has almost tripled in size by December: €1.162.261 is being spend per month, pushing Hungary to second spot in our European ranking.

Those who regularly follow our publications will know: not every ad that Facebook marks as a political ad is actually a political ad. We have many false positives, plus the simple fact that some pages are more political than others: “Save the Children” is a social cause but also marked as political. So in order to understand which politician / party is actually advertising, we need to create an overview of the Facebook pages who are posting political ads. And here, the dominance of Hungary becomes obvious, with 9 listings in the top 100, of which 8 clearly political: 6 political influencers (more on that below), politician Victor Orban, a Budapest action group and the Facebook page of the Hungarian government. As we consider government pages a category aside, we will focus hereunder on the 8 others. In other European countries, we have identified only 4 other clearly political actors: 3 Belgian political parties (NVA, PVDA and Vlaams Belang) and Sadiq Khan, mayor of London.

As reported by Euractiv, Hungary has a network of political influencers called Megafon, circumventing campaign ad rules. This fund, created in February 2021, trains personalities topose as “opinion leaders” and spread messages to support Victor Orban and to denounce his challenger. Ten of them had been reported by Telex and Euractiv. However, also the Aktualis Media network, seems to be a part of the same network. Not only is Aktualis managing director Filep David a known member of the Megafon network, the sudden spending since August 2021, combined with the very similar messaging raise questions if this entity can really be seen as independent from the Megafon initiative.

A full list of Hungary’s top pages can be found below. Stefi Déri, Daniel Bohar, Philip Rakay, Daniel Deak, Kristof Trombitas, Tamas Kotter are all known members of the Megafon network. Filep David is publishing on both the Aktualis network and on his personal page a kopasz oszt.

Herein it becomes clear that if one should add all the expenses of the Megafon network together, an investment of €513.604 was made in December. Pages ranked by Fidesz made up for another €137.410, making up half of all the political advertising in the country for the month of December.

For comparison: Euronews repored earlier that the 7 German political parties have spent about 1.5 million on Facebook ads alltogether. In the Netherlands, €557.172 was spent during election month. With a near equal spending in the month of December 2021, at least 3 months before the elections, the Hungarian elections are well on their way to become the most advertised election in Europe.

We are AdLens, a collective of activists, journalists, researchers and data analysts. We investigate political ads on social media. To subscribe to our newsletter, click here, to discover the AdLens project and its members, click here.

This data is taken from the Facebook political ad library. This data is collected and archived by us, please contact us for more info: adlens.be@gmail.com

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AdLens is a team of activists, journalists, researchers, data analysts. We work together for more transparency of political ads on Facebook.