The AdLens report on political ads on Facebook, May 2021

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This data is taken from the Facebook political ad library. Ads costing less than €100 were counted at an average of €50. In this report, you will find data from 1 to 31 May 2021. All data is collected and archived by us, please contact us for more info: adlens.be@gmail.com

Analysis of Belgian political parties’ advertising

Parties spent €376,949 in May. This is about 61% of the total of Facebook ads marked by Facebook as political. In the Netherlands, political parties spent €16,801 during the same period, about 2% of all the ads marked by Facebook as political.

Comparing the relative spending on political ads in Europe (total budget on ads marked by Facebook as political spent / population), we notice a high spending in Finland and Cyprus, where elections were ongoing. Sweden, Denmark and the UK are traditionally well-represented in this list, followed by Belgium and Malta.

With the exception of Vooruit and Open VLD, most parties invested similar budgets as in April to their Facebook & Instagram advertising. The top spenders remain the same, with NVA slightly increasing its spent with 6.000 euro.

Vooruit increased its spent visibly, with an inrease of almost €10.000, while Open VLD decreased its spent with €6.000, approximately 25% of their budget in April.

Another notable evolution is that, while PTB and MR spent more or less the same on social media, the PTB has overtaken MR as biggest spender in May.

In the above graph, we have represented how parties spend their advertisements. In our database, where we keep track of not only the national party page, we also include local and affiliated pages (like for example, the We are One campaign of PVDA) and the pages of Ministers, party presidents, etc.

Most parties spend the majority of their budget (+50%) on candidates, ministers and party chairmen. This is the case for N-VA, Vlaams Belang, Vooruit, Groen, MR, CdH, Ecolo, PS. Exceptions to this “rule” are PVDA and PTB, CD&V and Open VLD.

Analysis of the most highlighted political figures

N-VA has 4 politicians in the top 10 of most advertised politicians, Vlaams Belang 2. Vooruit, PVDA, MR and Groen complete our ranking. While de investment of Bart de Wever is slightly lower than in April (-€2.037), the biggest changes are just below him. Tom van Grieken invested €10.241 more than in April, and Conner Rousseau increased his spending with far more even: €18.179 more than in April, resulting in a total spent of €20.019 in May. Peter Mertens, Tom Vandendriessche and Jan Jambon remained on the same spending as in April. Ben Weyts and Zuhal Demir increased slightly, while Bouchez invested less. Petra de Sutter returned to our top spenders, she and Zuhal Demir remain the only non-males in this overview.

Special thanks to Geert for the data collection and to Thomas for the visualisation!

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