Technology & Science

Liberals lead in Facebook ad spending - but Conservatives close behind

The Liberal Party is outspending other parties on Facebook election ads, according to new data released by Facebook Thursday. But the Conservatives are close behind — and are spending more per ad than any other party.

Third parties keeping up with political parts on Facebook ad spending

Facebook has released new data showing how much political parties and third parties have been spending on ads on the platform to date. (Canadian Press)

The Liberals are outspending other parties on Facebook election ads, according to new data released by the social media site. But the Conservatives are close behind — and are spending more per ad than any other party.

The Facebook pages for the Liberal Party of Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have spent a total of $92,307 on ads on the social media platform since the beginning of June, according to estimates offered by Facebook's ad library, a searchable tool that tracks advertising spending by page.

The Conservative party's page and party leader Andrew Scheer's own page have spent a total of $87,441, while the NDP has spent only $392 via leader Jagmeet Singh's page. The Green Party has spent a total of $1,036, and the Bloc Quebecois has shelled out $384.

A look at the total number of ads each party has run on the platform also reveals the Conservative Party is investing more per ad. Combined with the page for Trudeau, the Liberals have run 1,218 ads since June 1, 2019, according to data pulled from the Facebook ad library API. That works out to an average of $75 per ad.

The Conservatives have run 284 ads, including ads for Scheer's page — at an average of $307 per ad. Ad prices vary depending on a number of factors, including how long the ad runs and the number of users it reaches.

A screengrab of Facebook's Ad Library shows the Liberal Party spent $66,909 in advertising between the beginning of June and July 24, 2019. (Screengrab/Facebook)

Election ads on Facebook require a disclaimer indicating who paid for the ad. If an advertiser forgets to include the disclaimer, Facebook will remove the ad and note the lack of a disclaimer in its library.

According to Facebook's ad library, $55,825 of the Liberal Party's ad spending — which includes ads posted to Trudeau's page — went to ads that did not include a disclaimer. The Conservatives spent $39,993 on ads that did not have a disclaimer, and all of the NDP's spending went to ads without a disclaimer. All of the Green Party's Facebook ads included the necessary disclaimer.

Under Bill C-76, passed in December, new rules require websites with a large number of visitors to create databases of all political ads run from June 30 through the election. Facebook's ad library is the site's way of complying with the new regulations.

Third parties and partisan groups

New data released by Facebook also offer a picture of what registered third parties and other partisan groups have been spending on advertising.

Bill C-76 set new spending limits for the pre-writ or pre-election period and the election period itself. 

Starting June 30, any group that isn't a registered political party, and which spends $500 or more on political advertising that names a party or candidate during the pre-writ period, must register as a third party.

Canada Proud, a registered conservative-leaning third-party group, has spent $20,466 on Facebook ads since the beginning of June. Of that total, $3,336 was spent on ads that ran without a disclaimer.

Meanwhile, data from Facebook show that some groups spent thousands of dollars before the pre-writ period began — but don't appear to have been registered as third parties with Elections Canada.

For example, Engage Canada, which ran ads targeting Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, spent $72,552 on ads in June. According to Facebook, all of those ads ran without a disclaimer.

True North, a conservative group that bills itself as an independent research organization, spent $8,658 on advertising during that same time period. Facebook took down ads worth $5,573 that ran without a disclaimer.

Engage Canada spent $72,552 on Facebook advertising, but all of the ads were removed by Facebook because they ran without a disclaimer. (Screengrab/Facebook)

Facebook's Ad Library reveals that neither Engage Canada nor True North have purchased any advertising in the past week.

Ads that mention issues but do not explicitly mention a political party or candidate do not count toward the spending limits during the pre-election period, according to Elections Canada.

A group can run ads about pipelines or climate change, for example — but as long as they don't mention a party, they don't count toward a spending total.

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