January, a moth of traditional season greetings, was also marked in 2021 with a lockdown and containment of Covid pandemic, a series of local elections, and the adoption of several politically important decisions in the Parliament. You can learn it all from the promoted posts on Facebook and Instagram that Ukrainian politicians, parties, and pages posting about politics shared on the newsfeeds of their fellow citizens.
OPORA analyzed the political ads in the Ukrainian segment of Facebook in January* 2021 and concluded that in this month the content was promoted by 1,054 pages that invested into 7,938 posts from USD 151,076 to 231,563**.
As to the targeting of political ads, most of the promoted posts were offered to users from Dnipropetrovsk and Lviv Oblasts (according to the Facebook audience size). At the same time, the parameters of political ads show that the campaigning for interim elections of people’s deputies has already started on social media, particularly, in Ivano-Frankivsk region. Besides, there is an active communication with voters in Kyiv region (in January, Boryspil and Brovary hosted the second rounds of local elections).
Most Generous Advertisers of the Month
The top 10 largest advertisers of the month, according to the Facebook Ad Library Report , included the pages of four Ukrainian politicians, two political parties, one national media and several pages posting political content. Some political actors on this ranking have been rather actively investing into political ads on Facebook and Instagram since June, 2019 (when the Ad Library Report started covering Ukraine) and have been leaders on the general list. For example, Petro Poroshenko is on the fourth position (spent 176,725 $), the Servant of the People party — position six (135,461 $), Oleksandr Shevchenko — position ten (89,733 $), Obozrevatel outlet — thirteenth (61,074 $), Volodymyr Groysman — seventeenth (54,678 $), and the Female Movement “For the Future” — position nineteen (51,914 $).
It is notable that the total spending of most pages from the top-10 also includes the costs for ads launched in the previous year, in addition to those from January, 2021.
The highest amounts spent for political ads in the early 2021 were incurred by Arseniy Yatseniuk — USD 9,724 to promote 309 posts. The politician has largely activated his communications on the social media since the late 2020 but it was in January that his page advertised 115 posts. The posts were set to target viewers from almost all Ukraine’s regions. However, the politician avoided Facebook and Instagram users from Luhansk region, while focusing on people from Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk Oblasts. The politician’s promoted posts criticized economic and foreign policies of the current authorities and political opponents, promoted the Kyiv Security Forum, and his Telegram channel.
The second biggest spender over the month is Oleksandr Shevchenko. The politician invested USD 9,280 into the promotion of 225 posts. It is notable that the page is leading in the number of new posts — 209. The targeting data of the political ads on Oleksandr Shevchenko’s page implies that he has started his active election campaign for the interim elections of people’s deputies in constituency №87 (Nadvirna, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast) due on March, 28, 2021. In fact, the ads are set to target users from Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, mostly women. In his promoted posts, the politician largely focuses on church and religion; local citizens, such as children and the initiatives of his charity; as well as the development of transport communications such as roads, bridges, etc.
The top-3 pages also include Volodymyr Groysman. In January, it promoted 63 posts (of them, as little as 18 new posts) with the total investments of USD 8,810. In fact, in January, the politician’s page posted three ads: Christmas greetings and two videos with Volodymyr Groysman’s TV appearances. The posts were shared for all citizens of Ukraine but most views were set to target users from Western regions. The bulk of his political ads included the promo posts of his page posted in the previous year, they contained a brief slogan and an invitation to like the page - “press like”.
Compared to the above mentioned politicians, a smaller amount was invested into political ads by the page of the nationwide outlet Obozrevatel — USD 3,928. In January, the outlet advertised their own posts about the pertinent social, political, and economic aspects targeting the Facebook audiences from all over Ukraine.
The USD 3,568 was invested to promote posts on his page by Petro Poroshenko. The page was rather active also in 2020 to use the paid promotion tool from Facebook. Most promoted posts of Petro Poroshenko were added in January (22 to 25). As in the last year, the administrators of the page of the fifth President of Ukraine did not target the ads at users of social media residing in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. The content at Petro Poroshenko’s page is as usual. The politician tells about the initiaves of his foundation, criticizes the government’s policy, and shares about the plans for the parliament’s session.
The top-10 largest advertisers also includes a page of the parliamentary political party Servant of the People. To promote over a hundred ads, the page spent USD 3,481. They told to their users about the initiatives and decisions of the fellow party members in Verkhovna Rada; their positions on important political and economic issues and activities of the President and state authorities. The “servants” communicated on the social media with their users from all over Ukraine.
Other top spenders include a page of a Kharkiv businessman Dmytro Nikonov who posted in the month 17 promoted ads that got to the Facebook Political Ad Library. They spent USD 3,316 to share them. The posts were mostly about the activities of a deputy of Kharkiv city council from the “Servant of the People” party Alina Mustafayeva. Other posts criticize a city council’s secretary Ihor Terekhov and offer a post-survey on electoral affiliations of Kharkiv citizens in case the mayoral elections take place in March. The disclaimer stated that the ad is paid personally by Dmytro Nikonov. The advertiser’s contacts list the website of the electric cars show room, co-owned and founded by Dmytro Nikonov, and his work email.
The following two positions in spendings have been taken by two pages identified by social media monitoring experts from OPORA as a part of the coordinated network — Про Україну (lit. – About Ukraine) (spent 2,773 $ to promote 49 posts) and the Новини України (lit. – News of Ukraine) (spent 2,639 $ to promote 48 posts). In their study, OPORA established that the pages administrators (also of the pages Старі Політики and Ньюз Тайм) followed the same plan — there are peaks in activity of all the pages that coincide on the same days, and the peaks in the highest engagement of users with their content overlap, too. In addition, the pages have the same telephone numbers in the advertiser’s contacts section. The highest amount of 400-499 $ was invested by the “About Ukraine” page into the promotion of a post with a video report of Volodymyr Zelensky that was promoted from January, 29 to February, 1 targeting the audience of over 1 mln Facebook users from all over Ukraine. The promotion of the same video was also financed the highest from the “News of Ukraine” page — 200-299 $.
It shall be added that two lines bewlow in the ranking of top spenders for political ads there is another page from the network — Ньюз Тайм (2,286 $).
The top-10 ad spenders list in January is closed by the page Female Movement "FOR the Future" that spent for the promotion of 80 posts the USD 2,417. The ads on the page are paid by the “For the Future” political party. The content on the page is mostly about activities of the party representative in local self-government and about other initiatives of the movement activists. Although the ads from the page are set to target female audiences of the network in all regions of Ukraine, the targeting has certain differences. The advertisers planned to get most views in Sumy, Khmelnytskyi, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kirovohrad Oblasts.
The USD 1,727 was spent for promotion of the page Ланцюг Соборності Київ — Сімферополь (lit. – The Unity Chain Kyiv – Simferopol). It was created on December, 16, 2020. To promote the initiative the page prepared 62 promoted posts. To remind, it was a campaign to collect personal data of users because when registering to participate in the flash mob via Facebook accounts users thereby transferred their personal data to a vodka company.
Non-Stop Elections: Who Campaigns on the Social Media
In addition to the aforementioned activities of Oleksandr Shevchenko, OPORA also detected political ads shared from the page of an ex-head of the State Service of Ukraine on Transport Safety Mykhaylo Noniak who mentioned his participation in the by-election in constituency 87 in several posts. There, he informed that he had submitted the documents to the CEC to register as a candidate. The costs of a potential electoral runner in Nadvirna incurred in January, before the start of the formal campaign, amounted up to 100 $ per each post. The disclaimer lists Andriy Koval as an advertiser. On February, 3, the politician became an official candidate in the constituency.
Of the seven candidates for the mayoral position in Konotop (Sumy Oblast), hosting elections on January, 24, there were four most active Facebook political ads users: Natalia Hubenko (12 ads on her personal page, advertiser — Dmitriy Yefimenko), Inna Pashchenko (2 ads on the page of Об'єднання "Самопоміч" — Конотоп), Oksana Ulyanchenko (7 ads on the page of Оксана Ульянченко — кандидат на посаду міського голови Конотопа), and Serhiy Zavhorodniy (17 ads on the page of План розвитку — Конотопу and 3 on his personal page). The spendings of mayoral candidates ranged from USD 11 to 663.
In Novhorod-Siverskyi (Chernihiv Oblast), hosting the by-election on January, 17, there was only one of seven candidates for the head of hromada who shared political ads — it was Viktor Kropot nominated by the “Servant of the People” party. The party is stated as the advertiser in disclaimers for three promoted posts with a quote, a candidate’s portrait and a tick at his number on the election roll that were posted on the Сівер News page. The cost of the ad was under USD 100.
At elections on January, 17 in Boryspil, there wqere 16 candidates for the mayoral seat. Some of them campaigned on social media Facebook and Instagram. Thus, during the monthly monitoring for political ads, OPORA detected ads on the pages of candidates from the parties - Volodymyr Kondratenko (“UDAR”) and Oleh Veres (“Svoboda” AU) and self-nominated Oleksandr Denysov, Vladyslav Baychas, Viktoria Shevts, Anna Skorokhod.
Massive campaign on Facebook was launched by candidates at elections to the Brovary hromada, taking place on January, 17, too. It engaged pages of individual candidates and of political parties. There is also a promoted campaigning post on the page of the political party leader of “European Solidarity” Petro Poroshenko. The video addres encouraging to support the ES and its candidate Oleh Ivanenko was viewed by 45,000 — 50,000 Facebook users. The disclaimer states that the ads were paid by the Election Fund of Kyiv TO of the European Solidarity PP Ivanenko O.V., and the amounts were USD 300-399. If you wish to research into the campaigning at this election and learn more about the spendings incurred by candidates, use the Facebook Ad Library and the political ads analyzer developed by OPORA.
The most popular content in political ads
Most political actors communicated with citizens on social media on a series of important social and political issues. Thus, the referendum (on January, 26, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed in the second reading and in whole the “Draft Law on the Popular Rule Through the All-Ukrainian Referendum”) was mentioned in political Facebook ads in 46 promoted posts on 24 pages. Most often it was mentioned on the page of the "Servant of the People", specifically in 11 posts. The quarantine was mentioned in 56 posts on 44 pages; the vaccine — in 22 texts on 21 pages; the lockdown — in 91 posts on 54 pages. Elections were mentioned in 175 promoted posts on 68 pages, tariffs — 198 posts on 111 pages.
However, the political ads do not always imply elections or laws. Since the month started with the holiday season, the politicians were actively using it to greet Ukrainians with the holidays. In January, OPORA counted over 400 posts with greetings. In particular, the following greeting patterns have been identified:
- “з новим роком” (Happy New Year in Ukrainian) — mentioned in 171 posts on 78 pages; the highest number — as many as 30 — on the page of a people’s deputy Valentyn Nalyvaychenko;
- “с новым годом” (Happy New Year in Russian) — 24 posts on 20 pages;
- “З Різдвом”(Merry Christmas in Ukrainian) — 138 posts on 55 pages, leader – the same Valentyn Nalyvaychenko;
- “с Рождеством” (Merry Christmas in Russian) — 15 posts on 11 pages;
- “святами” (Happy Holidays in Ukrainian) — 93 posts on 25 pages, the largest number found on the page of Oleksandr Shevchenko.
The most costly posts of Ukrainian politicians on the Political Ads Library in January
Most promoted posts published in January cost up to USD 100 to advertisers. The most expensive publication was posted by a page of the construction hypermarket Epicenter. It included the address to the government on behalf of businesses on lifting the quarantine restrictions — 1000-1500 $ to promote the post for two days (January, 16-17) and reaching over a million of users.
Other “high cost” ads were bought by the page of the fifth President of Ukraine and a people’s deputy Petro Poroshenko: 500 — 599 $ and 300 — 399 $ for the New Year’s greetings, 300 — 399 $ for the video of a speech at the Approval Council, 300 — 399 $ for the Christmas greetings from the Poroshenkos family . The posts were viewed most of times by Facebook and Instagram users in Ukraine. Other promoted posts that were viewed most often include posts on the page of Volodymyr Groysman where he greeted everyone with the New Year (over 70,000 views) and Christmas (over 60,000 views), but they cost under USD 200, each, for advertisers.
* Monitoring of political ads on Facebook undertaken by OPORA includes the data over January, 1 – 30, 2021, since the Facebook Ad Library offers a span of 30 days to obtain and download the data from the storage.
** Because Facebook Ad Library report does not offer accurate information on the cost of political ads if they go under 100 $, we obtain two amounts in the analysis of advertisers’ costs – the minimum and the maximum.