The AdLens report on political ads on Facebook, January 2021

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The following data was captured from the Facebook Library, from January 1 to January 30th.

Ads by Belgian political parties (in descending order)

Disclaimer: ads of a value lower than €100, are not given an exact number in the Facebook Library. Therefore, we gave them an average value of €50. In the following analysis, we observed the number of campaigns, the pages used to publish these campaigns, and the advertisers (those who paid for the ads). Al this data was collected and archived, don’t hesitate to contact us for more info on adlens.be@gmail.com

N-VA

N-VA published 402 ads on 58 pages, for a total amount of €163.048. Over 99% of these ads were paid directly by the national advertising account. As you will see later in this report, this is not always the case.

The Facebook page “N-VA” spent €78.568 for 99 campaigns, on average €793,6 per campaign. The most put forward politician, is party leader Bart de Wever with €35.049 for 26 campaigns (an average €1.348,04 per campaign). Jan Jambon, minister-president of the Flemish region, is second with €6.348 spent on 9 campaigns, an average of €705,3 per campaign.

Vlaams Belang

Vlaams Belang published 246 ads from 35 pages, for a total amount of €125.523. Main politician put forward is Tom van Grieken, party chairperson, with €16.907 for 12 campaigns (an average €1.408,91 per campaign).

Note: while the Vlaams Belang remains the prime advertising account, over 10% was paid by advertiser Tom Vandendriessche, MEP in the European Parliament for the party. While using several advertising accounts, it amounted to a total of €15.130 for 66 campaigns, an average of €229,2 per campaign.

PVDA-PTB

PVDA-PTB published 404 ads, from 30 pages for a total of €82.721. Main advertisers are PVDA (€56.348), PTB (€12.659) and the student and youth wings: Comac (€8.443), RedfoxFR (€2.105) and Redfox België (€1.999).

As with other parties, party leader Peter Mertens (20.054 €), was advertised much more than Raoul Hedebouw, parliamentary group leader in the federal Parliament (€1.185).

Groen

Groen published 447 ads over 25 pages, for a total of €17.476. Main politician put forward here is not party chairperson Meyrem Almaci, but federal vice-prime minister Petra de Sutter.

Open VLD

Open VLD published 257 ads over 36 pages, for a total of €17.356. The page with the largest amount spent on is that of prime minister Alexander de Croo, followed by the national party page. Prime advertiser is Open VLD, while a few politicians indicate they pay for the ads themselves, like Maurits Vande Reyde (€571).

sp.a

Sp.a published 73 ads from 17 pages, for a total of €16.596. Prime advertiser is party leader Conner Rousseau, with €15.505.

MR

MR published 64 ads, from 15 pages for a total amount of €15.376. Party chairperson Georges-Louis Bouchez took the lion’s share with €13.888 on 19 campaigns, an average of €731 per campaign. It is also indicated he himself is the advertiser (and not the party).

CD&V

CD&V published 413 ads on 38 pages for a total of €15.239. The advertisers all correspond with the Facebook pages. Politician put forward is party leader Joachim Coens, with €1.668 on 20 campaigns (an average of €83,4 per campaign).

PS

The PS published 85 ads from 5 pages, for a total of €1.605 (an average of €18,9 per campaign). Main advertiser is the PS national party account.

Ecolo

Ecolo published 49 ads over 16 pages, for a total amount of €1.463 (an average of €29,9 per campaign). Main advertiser is the national party account, but MEP Philippe Lamberts is paying for about 21% of his ads. This makes him the largest spender of Ecolo, followed by Georges Gilkinet.

DéFi

DéFi published 57 ads from 3 pages, for a total amount of €1.382 (an average of €24 per campaign). Main advertiser is the DéFi national party account.

Top 6 of politicians Facebook pages by invested budgets

1. Bart De Wever (N-VA), 26 ads, 35.049 €

2. Peter Mertens (PTB-PVDA), 57 ads, 20.054 €

3. Tom Van Grieken (Vlaams Belang),12 ads, 16.907 €

4. Conner Rousseau (s.pa), 25 ads, 15.505 €

5. Tom Vandendriessche (Vlaams Belang), 66 ads, 15.130 €

6. Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR), 19 ads, 13.888 €

Differences between Dutch-speaking and French-speaking parties

The French-speaking parties (DéFi, MR, PS, Ecolo, CDH) spent altogether €26.541 during the month of January on Facebook ads. The Dutch-speaking parties (Groen, s.pa, Open VLD, CD&V, N-VA, Vlaams Belang) over €355.238. The same difference is distinguishable at unitary party PTB-PVDA, where €82.721 was spent, largely for the Dutch-speaking electorate.

Political advertisement in Europe

In January, €566.547 was spent for political advertisement on Facebook in Belgium. This number represents all the advertising which Facebook considers political, including (but not limited to): political candidates, parties, voting initiatives, social campaigns, NGO’s, government agencies and media. After Germany, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands and France, Belgium is thus the sixth country in Europe in terms of absolute spending on political affairs (table below).

In the second table, we calculated the total budgets per inhabitant.

This means that, still for the case of Belgium, for every 1000 inhabitants, €49 was invested in Facebook ads, putting Belgium on the third place in our European ranking, just above The Netherlands (€46). However, as you will see in the upcoming analysis, there are big differences between these two countries in who is advertising these political ads.

Who are these political advertisers?

In Belgium and The Netherlands, every advertiser who paid over €1000 during the month of January, was given a category: candidate/political party, NGO, Government Agency, company, trade union, media or others. In Belgium, we categorised 79 advertisers, in The Netherlands 78. In the table below, you will find in which categories these entities belonged.

In the below analysis, we compared the budget invested, per category who was paying for them. As visible in the table above, Belgium counts more political candidates/parties (48 vs 20), and below we can see that the invested budget for this category is 3 times as large as in The Netherlands. Of note, is that The Netherlands will have elections on March 17th of this year, while in Belgium the next elections are foreseen for 2024.

Political parties in The Netherlands

For comparison, hereunder are listed the Dutch political parties and what they spent, during the month of January.

Disclaimer: all the data represented here was downloaded manually. It is possible there is a light discrepancy between the numbers here, and those spent by the parties.

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