According to OPORA, in February, * 2021, the amounts spent for promotion of political ads on Facebook ranged from USD 168,780 to 265,980**. Paid ads of the social media were used by 1,205 pages, having promoted 9,913 posts. Over 6.5% of them were posted against the rules of the social media (they did not include the marking). Setting the results against the monitoring of Facebook political ads from last February, we can see all parameters growing. Back in that period, Facebook and Instagram shared 6,417 ads, which cost the 997 pages from USD 102,682 to 178,516.
The campaign for interim elections of people’s deputies in two constituencies in Ivano-Frankivsk and Donetsk Oblasts can be reflected in percentages of political ad views in Ukraine’s regions. Thus, in February, the users from Ivano-Frankivsk claimed the highest share of paid posts — 7.2%. The notable increase has been observed in communications via political ads targeting people in Donetsk region — 2.7% of views. Traditionally, many views of ads were offered in Dnipropetrovsk (7.8%) and Lviv (6.3%) Oblasts, and in the Kyiv city (5.3%).
The highest number of ads in February targeted female audiences, mostly of 55 – 64 years of age (17.5% views) and 35 – 44 (12.4%).
Who spent the most for Facebook ads
The largest advertisers of the month, according to Facebook Ad Library Report, were the pages of two Ukrainian politicians and two political parties; three television channels falling under sanctions following the NSDC decision and the Presidential Decree in the beginning of February; an all-Ukrainian outlet, and a civic initiative.
Similar to January, the highest amounts were invested into ads by a former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk and a candidate at the interim parliamentary elections Oleksandr Shevchenko. However, this month, both politicians cut short the investments into promotion.
In February, Arseniy Yatseniuk’s page shared 390 ads, their cost was USD 8,570. A large share of ads was followed by brief calls to like or to follow the page (subscribe) and had emotional statements (“Glory to Ukraine!”, “Thank you to Ukraine’s defenders”). They intended to motivate the users to follow the politician’s account. Other posts published in February concerned the sanctions against the “Medvedchuk’s channels.” In the end of the month, the posts promoted a 30-minute interview film on Espresso channel that included Arseniy Yatseniuk who stated in the last minutes he was staying in “big politics” and was going to run for the next parliamentary elections (the next regular parliamentary campaign will start on October, 29, 2023). Similar to January, advertising content on the politician’s page was oriented at views to users from almost all Ukraine’s regions, with significant predominance of citizens from Lviv Oblast (14.1% views). Moreover, Arseniy Yatseniuk keeps leaving behind the Facebook and Instagram users from Luhansk region. The largest share of the audience targeted by the political ads from the page includes women, the target group is aged 55 – 64 (26.4%).
Oleksandr Shevchenko is the second biggest spender for political ads on Facebook. Promotion of 287 posts (238 of them were posted in February) launched on the Facebook page of the candidate for people’s deputies in constituency No 87 from the “For the Future” party (registered by the CEC on February, 9) was worth USD 8,416. All promoted posts were about the candidate’s activity in the constituency: visits to various places, churches; charity campaigns (e.g., it told about the donation of oxygen concentrators to health care facilities located within the constituency); repairs of transport communications (roads, bridges, etc.). Ad views were set to specifically target the users from Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, mostly women.
The third top spender in February was the page 112.ua. In fact, on February, 2, 2021, the website of the Presidential Office posted a Decree to enforce the decision of the National Security and Defense Council imposing sanctions against Taras Kozak, a deputy from the “Opposition Platform – For Life” party. One of the restrictive measures applied against the deputy was to close several television channels he owned. The highest-ranking channels among them were channel 112, ZIK, and NEWSONE. In 2020, they were ranked in the top five most popular news channels in Ukraine. As registered by OPORA shortly upon the enforcement of the ban, all the three channels have largely increased their activity in social media, specifically on Facebook.
In February, the 112 channel’s page shared 30 promoted posts, with the total investment of USD 6,561. Content-wise, the promoted posts were accusing of censoring the channels, criticized central authorities, such as the President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, and included regular invitations to follow the television channels on social media. The target audience on Facebook includes women aged 45+.
The Servant of the People page invested into political ads the USD 6,170. In their 184 posts, “Servants of the People” were telling users about party members decisions in the Verkhovna Rada. They explained the positions on critical political and economic issues, and informed about the initiatives and activities of the President. One such promoted post was dedicated to Vasyl Virastiuk, a candidate from the party in constituency 87 at the interim elections of people’s deputies. It described how he submitted the registration documents to the CEC. The ad was shared during February, 19-21, targeted users from Ivano-Frankivsk region (92.6% views), and cost under 100 $. The CEC registered Mr. Virastiuk a candidate on February, 22. Overall, the promoted posts of the “servants” in the social media targeted Facebook users from all Ukraine’s regions.
The last but not least in the top five of highest costs for political ads is a public profile of the “For the Future” political party — USD 5,911 for the promotion of 98 posts. Similar to the “Servant of the People,” most ads were about the party members’ positions on important social, economic, and political issues. There is also some promotion of the party pages in social media — “Do you agree? Press like!,” “Subscribe to the page of “For the Future” on Instagram” a.o. Another rubric of advertising content on the page is entitled “FOR THE FUTURE” in the regions.” One such post of February, 18, mentions Oleksandr Shevchenko as a candidate, they wish him to win (the target audience of the promoted post covers 100% of Ivano-Frankivsk region, worth under 100 $). The fact that the political party hopes to have their candidate win at the interim elections to the Verkhovna Rada in constituency 87 is also confirmed by the targeting of political ads on Facebook.
The following two positions in terms of spending are taken by two other television channels affected by the sanctions — NEWSONE and ZIK. In February, their investment into political ads reached USD 4,976 (to promote 22 posts) and USD 4,489 (for 19 posts), respectively. In addition to criticizing the ban on broadcasting and the government vaccination policy in the Donbass, some ads on the pages of the channels covered the initiatives of Viktor Medvedchuk, a member of the Political Council of the “Opposition Platform – For Life” party, and his wife Oksana Marchenko who declared her membership in the party. As previously informed by OPORA, since the day the TV channels were banned the traction of their Facebook pages has largely grown (the number of followers has increased, as have their engagement levels with the posts, such as likes, comments, and shares). The most wanted target audience for the channels on Facebook were users 45+. The category is covered by ab. 70% of targeting in the promoted posts, mostly at women.
The page Women’s Movement “FOR the Future” invested into the Facebook promotion of 155 posts the amount of USD 4,141. The ads have been paid by the “For the Future” political party. The page content is mostly dedicated to social initiatives of the movement and to activities of the party female representatives in local self-governments. The ads from the page have been set to target female audiences in all regions of Ukraine, with higher preferences for users from West of Ukraine and Mykolayiv Oblast (8.1%).
The top-10 list of largest advertisers includes a page of another “women’s initiative” — Жінки ВОЛІ — Я МОЖУ [lit. – WOMEN OF WILL – I CAN]. It promotes a series of webinars for local councilors, public activists, and participants of local elections on “Local Politics from A to Z.” The costs incurred in February to promote 39 same-type posts was USD 2,380. The page description stated that it was the “movement of proactive women, deputies, and politicians” that “creates new opportunities for women in society.” The ad commissioner is Olha Sytnyk, the organization head. Last year, the page was also active in using political ads in February.
The top biggest advertisers in February also include a page of a media resource Obozrevatel (created on July, 21, 2010). The advertiser spent 2,352 $ to publish 55 ads. The Facebook Political Ads Library also caught the posts promoted on the website of the online outlet about relevant social, political, and economic aspects; they were shared to the audience from entire Ukraine. The page focused on Facebook users from the capital city (14.5%).
In February, high amounts (ab. USD 1,500) were spent for political ads by the pages that OPORA social media monitoring experts identified as part of the coordinated network : Про Україну, Новини України and Ньюз Тайм. The pages operated under the same plan — activity peaks of all the pages fell onto the same dates. Furthermore, they had the same telephone number stated in the advertiser’s contacts. However, in the middle of the month, the Facebook administration deleted them.
The most expensive posts in the Political Ads Library in February
The cost of most promoted posts shown to newsfeeds of Facebook users from Ukraine in February was under USD 100. The most expensive ads were shared from the page of the head of Executive Committee of the National Reform Council of Ukraine Mikheil Saakashvili. The politicians paid from 700 to 799 $ for views targeting the citizens of Kyiv city and Kyiv Oblast, as well as Odesa and Kharkiv Oblasts, specifically sharing a fragment from his speech at the Savik Shuster live show “Freedom of Speech.”
The USD 500 was paid for the promoted post with the catch phrase at the tribune in Verkhovna Rada expressed by Petro Poroshenko about the annexation of Crimea. It targeted the social media users almost from all Ukraine’s regions, except for Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. According to targeting settings, the ad specifically focused on users from Lviv Oblast (9.8% views). With account for the fact that the page of the fifth President of Ukraine published as little as 7 posts in February, his spending for promotion on Facebook amounted to USD 1,589, much lower than in January.
Election Commission completed the registration of candidates at the by-election to the Verkhovna Rada. In constituency No 50, 19 candidates will be competing for the mandate; in constituency No 87 there are 15. In addition to the above-mentioned Oleksandr Shevchenko, OPORA also registered political ads on Facebook coming from 6 more official electoral participants.
As to candidates in Ivano-Frankivsk region, in February, the Facebook promoted posts were used by a self-nominated Mykhailo Noniak — 10 ads, worth a total of 363 $. Seven promoted posts worth under USD 100 were published by the page of a self-nominated Serhiy Syvanchuk registered by the CEC on March, 2. They did not concern his prospective candidacy but rather described the activities of the “National Corps” party that he is a member of. Two posts were promoted on the page of Marusia Zvirobiy-Bilenka, a candidate from the “European Solidarity.” Their promotion cost USD 207. The ads concerning Ruslan Koshulynskyi, a candidate from “Svoboda,” were posted on two pages: Прикарпаття за Кошулинського (2 posts, 140 $ each) and on the page of an ex-candidate in the same constituency at the 2019 elections, a deputy of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast council Sviatoslav Nykorovych (2 posts, worth under 100 $ each).
Of the 29 candidates in Donetsk region, there were only two people who ran the PR campaign on Facebook: a candidate from the “Opposition Platform — For Life” Artem Marchevskyi, and a candidate from the “Poriadok” party Andriy Aksionov. The OPFL candidate was registered by the CEC on February, 19. However, his political ads had been shared on the social media during the entire month — there were 89 promoted posts from the page Артём Марчевский and 3 posts on the page of Правда Марчевського (created on February, 17, 2021), with the total worth of USD 1,370. According to the disclaimer data, the ads were paid for by Olena Kovalova. It may imply the campaign had been funded other than from the election fund. In addition, according to the analyzer, she also paid for the ads on the page of Mykhaylo Dobkin. A candidate Andriy Aksionov, registered by the CEC on March, 1, was promoted on the page of the political party nominating him. In February, 31 promoted posts on the page of the “Порядок” party only concerned their representative in the election campaign, and was worth USD 483.
* Because Facebook Ad Library offers the 30 days range for obtaining and analyzing the data in the storage the monitoring of political ads on Facebook administered by OPORA includes the data from 30.01.2021 to 28.02.2021.
** Because Facebook Ad Library report does not offer the accurate information on the cost of political ads in case the ad cost is under 100 $, we get two amounts in the analysis of advertisers – the minimum and the maximum.