Monitoring of Facebook's political advertising in August confirms that elections are very close. The unofficial election campaign of 2020 local elections has already started on social networks. For example, pages of six political parties at once are in the top ten largest advertisers of the month for the first time in 2020.

Civil Network OPORA has been monitoring advertising on Facebook and Instagram public pages of politicians and parties since the beginning of 2020. Since March 18, 2019, all policy-related advertisements are stored in the Facebook Ad Library. To place it, a person needs to undergo the identification procedure. Besides that, each advertiser must indicate the source of funding for advertising. If the customer of the promotional service has failed to do so, artificial intelligence algorithms will block the advertising.

Online advertising, particularly on social networks, cannot be considered election campaigning until the election process starts officially and parties and candidates become electoral subjects. However, the advertising placed by parties on the internet today can be classified as political advertising under Article 1 of the Law of Ukraine on Advertising. Expenses on such advertising should be included in the financial statements of political parties, which they send quarterly to the NAPC.

"August leap": the number of political advertisements has significantly increased on the eve of the election campaign

In August *, Ukrainian politicians and parties have almost doubled the amount of political advertisement on Facebook and Instagram compared to the previous month, reaching 20,930 posts. Over the month before the official start of 2020 local election campaign, Ukrainian political players invested between $425,469 and $576,345 in the Facebook promotional service **. The number of pages that broadcast political advertising has also increased, but not in another proportion - in August, 2139 pages advertised political context. In addition,  939 posts from the Open Advertising Library rwere not properly marked by advertisers (435 pages).

While political advertising was targeted mostly at users from Kyiv  in the beginning of the year, this trend has gradually changed. Thus, Kyiv citizens (11.5%) are still desirable recipients of the advertising content, but Dnipropetrovsk oblast is now the fist by coverage (16.7%). Besides that, advertisers preferred Lviv (8.7%), Vinnytsia (5.3%), Poltava (5.2%), and Ternopil (5%) oblasts when choosing the geographical settings of political advertising. The lowest number of advertisements (0.7%) as usual was targeted at users from Luhansk oblast.

When setting up the political advertising, most of its customers chose a female audience (60%). The male audience of political ads was only 40%. However, the choice of age groups has changed in August. The ads were targeted at users aged 35-44 for both men and women.

Most of the ads were targeted at large audiences this month. Only 642 posts had very specific settings (audiences from 100 to 5000 persons).

* Monitoring of political advertising on Facebook, carried out by OPORA, includes data for 1 - 30 August 2020. The reason is, the Facebook Ad Library offers a 30-day date range for retrieving and downloading the data stored in repository.
** As long as the Facebook Ad Library report does not give precise cost of political advertising, we actually have two amounts for ads costing below $100, the minimum and the maximum (providing their value is between $0 and $100).
What do Ukrainian political players promote and how much invest in the promotion of political content on Facebook before the election

Customers of political advertising on ten pages with the largest expenses on advertising of content in August have paid a total of $98,406 for the broadcast of 1,356 political posts. In August, parties that were created in summer 2020 entered the rating of top advertisers, as well as those staying below the top ten based on OPORA's monitoring, which has been realized since January 2020.

The page belonging to political party "For the Future" created on 20 May 2020, has made the largest investment in political advertising in August. Thus, the page posted 190 political advertisements in August, costing $22,520. Political Party "FOR THE FUTURE" pays for the advertising by itself. We should mention that the amount spent on advertising since the creation of the page is $25,886. Most of the posts are about speeches of party members at the All-Ukrainian Party Congress, held on 27 August (when the participation on 2020 local elections was announced). The earlier posts are short motivational appeals to subscribe to the page, congratulations on the Independence Day and Flag Day, as well as more bigger posts criticizing the decisions and activities of the current government. Posts about the participation of party leaders in political TV shows on nation channels make a separate group. Greeting posts and calls to subscribe have over a million of impressions and, respectively, investments under $2,000. Advertisements on the page were targeted at users from all regions of Ukraine, expecting the most impressions from Lviv (8.2%), Dnipropetrovsk (6.5%), Ivano-Frankivsk (5.5%) oblasts and Kyiv city (5.2%).

We should also mention that the top ten of pages with the biggest political ad investments is followed by page of Ihor Palytsia, who is the leader of the For the Future political party and current MP of Ukraine (Ihor Palytsia is the advertiser). This page was created on 16 July 2020 has the branded image of the For the Future party. Major expenses on political advertising have been also made in the second half of August. All posts on the page are about activities of the politician as a party leader. Their design is similar to those used on the page "For the Future". The page spent almost 6,000 US dollars on content advertising (30 ads) from 1 to 30 August, but this number has significantly increased on 31 August

The second place in top advertisers goes to the parliamentary party Servant of the People, which invested USD 11,641 in advertising of 342 posts in August. The cost of each ad is usually under $100, and the maximum coverage is 450-500 thousand users. The customer of ad services is the Servant of the People. The usual advertising content on the page, i.e. information about political decisions made by the authorities and about initiatives of party members, was accompanied by posts presenting regional development strategies and potential candidates for local elections from the party. The location of advertising messages are covers users from all regions of Ukraine.

Page belonging to the Nash Krai political party has entered the list of top ad investments for the first time.Thus, customers paid $10,481 for Facebook's promotional service in August. The page broadcast 40 political posts, targeted at residents of Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, Poltava, Kharkiv, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi and Chernivtsi oblasts. Users from Kyiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil and Lviv oblasts gave less than 1% of ad views. Most of the posts advertise the newspaper "NASH KRAY" and a telegram channel with news from the party. It was also broadcasts some posts and campaign video about the intention to participate in fall elections. In particular, customers invested from 8,000 to 9,000 dollars in two ads promoting the newspaper's issue of 25 August. More than 1 million Facebook users viewed these advertisements. Advertising for six posts with campaign video costed 2,500-3,000 dollars, and viewed by 1 million users, mostly from Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, and Kharkiv oblasts.

The page of the Palchevsky's Victory party, created on 2 July 2020, is among the biggest advertisers for the first time this month. In August, the ad customer spent $ 10,431 to promote 69 ads. The Palchevsky's Victory NGO is mentioned in the disclaimers as an advertiser, and the site address links to online resource of the political party. Most messages are targeted at residents of the capital - almost 20%, and Kyiv oblast - 10%. However, the page was also advertised for residents of other oblasts of Ukraine. Posts contained political business cards of Andrii Palchevskyi as a potential candidate for Kyiv mayor and information about local party cells. The customer invested the most in the post calling to join the Palchevskyi's Victory ($1500-2000), which had been broadcast from 16 to 21 of August, and was viewed more than a million times.

The page of online newspaper "LITSA" from Dnipropetrovsk also entered the top ten in August. Thus, the customer of advertising political posts "Litsa Edition" paid USD 8,026  199 ads, targeted exclusively at residents of Dnipropetrovsk oblast. The page advertised publications from its media resource, harshly criticizing the activities, close people and political force of the current mayor Borys Filatov.

A quite new page of the Propozytsia party, created on 22 May 2020 opens the second part of top ten advertisers this month. In August, the customer of political advertising ProPozytsia spent USD 7,779 on the promotion of 114 ads. Promotional posts called to support and like the page; greeted on state holidays and aired news from various cities where mayors have announced their entry into this political force. Two ads containing party invitations received the biggest amount of impressions (600,000-700,000) in August. They were aired on 18-21 August and cost from USD 300 to 400. Advertisement from this political force received the biggest number of impressions from Dnipropetrovsk (8.4%) and Lviv (8.2%) oblasts.

Page  Polit Online, created only on 26 June 2020 spent USD 7,300 to promote only 10 ads. All these advertising posts contain information from several identical publications about the video address of the Ukrainian woman to President Volodymyr Zelenskyi on the clickbait media Hyser and The disclaimer about advertiser states that advertising costs are paid by Polit Online, the link leads to an empty web page.

In August, the page of a potential candidate for Kyiv mayor has started to actively use promotional service from Facebook Iryna Vereshchuk. The advertiser, which is the Servant of the People party, according to the disclaimer, targets the ads at Kyiv citizens. The page has paid USD 7,273 for 298 advertisements this month. Its content usually contained videos with the participation of Iryna Vereshchuk or her opinion on activities of current authorities of the capital. 4 ads with only a picture of Iryna Vereshchuk and the inscription "Mrs. Mayor" received almost a million of impressions. These ads have been aired since mid-August and several are still active. Investments in such advertising amounted 1,500 - 2,000 dollars.

The Holos political party's page invested $ 6,604 in political advertising. The page has launched 31 political advertisements in August. These were mostly motivational posters with features of political advertising, as well as several posts announcing that Serhii Prytula will probably participate in Kyiv's mayoral race. Maximum amounts of $1,500 - $ 2,000 were invested in two such slogan posts. At the same time, the Ad Library received 2 messages of 4 and 7 August, which didn't have the disclaimer. Advertising of the political force was targeted the most at 3 regions: Lviv oblast (8.6%), Kyiv (7.1%), and Dnipropetrovsk oblast (6.9%).

The page of Volodymyr Hroisman closes the ranking of the most generous advertisers. Thus, it invested USD 6,351 in political advertising in the promotion of 63 posts. Some political publications on the page have been broadcast since May, but were stopped at the end of August. These are posts that aim to increase the number of subscribers ("tap like!"). Some of them are for the certain cities - Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipro, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Odesa, Zaporizhia, Kharkiv - and targeted for impressions in an oblast, which has the corresponding city as its center. Publications from this very group have the greatest coverage. Other posts contain videos about initiatives of Hroisman's government and describe their positive consequences. Ads are targeted at audiences from Lviv (9.5%) and Ivano-Frankivsk (6.4%) oblasts.

In addition, page PolitPost, which was removed from Facebook, was among the pages that made the largest investment in political ads in August. The page continued advertising July posts in August, containing publications on clickbait resources and These publications are about ratings of candidates for political positions in the city of Kyiv (city mayor and parties to the city council), as well as one post about the situation with the National Bank of Ukraine.

Useful links:
  • Explore political advertising and visualize the results using the analyzer -
  • What to do when you notice unmarked announcement of political content, we tell in this video.
  • The latest materials and interesting findings about political advertising on Facebook and Instagram are here:
  • Our film on the use of social networks in election campaigns in Ukraine and worldwide.