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Political advertising on social media – who invests the most and what is in these ads?

(August 4, 2020)


The rhetoric of political content remains the same, criticizing opponents and praising their own initiatives, especially on the eve of elections. Politicians have actively used promotional services from Facebook in July. Mykola Tyshchenko, Volodymyr Hroisman, Petro Poroshenko, as well as the European Solidarity, Servant of the People, and Party of Sharii invested in political advertising the most.

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 Library of political advertising (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.

10,800 posts is the portion of political content for Ukrainians in July

This summer is quite hot with active political players and development of political processes in Ukraine. Thus, in July, as the start of 2020 local election campaign was getting closer, Ukrainian politicians, parties and political communities on Facebook and Instagram have become more active. Over the second month of summer, they invested from 212,007 to 328,134 US dollars* in political advertising, placed in Ukrainian segment of Facebook and Instagram. This promotional tool has been used on 1,539 pages, and 10,800 advertising posts have got to the Open Library of Political Advertising. There are also posts among them, which were not labeled as political advertising (any posts that mention a politician or party). There were 814 such ads in July, placed on 429 pages.

When choosing geographical settings for political ads, most advertisers preferred three regions: Dnipropetrovsk oblast (17.6%), Kyiv (14.6%), and Lviv oblast (9.1%). Most of the promotional campaigns were focused on all oblasts of Ukraine, but some had a narrow geography. We should mention that the ten largest customers of political advertising have many posts, focused on a certain region. Besides the top three regions, a significant part of political ads was showed to residents of Vinnytsia (5.8%), Odesa (5.5%), and Ivano-Frankivsk (4.8%) oblasts. The lowest number of advertisements (0.6%) was targeted at users from Luhansk oblast.

Women on Facebook and Instagram as usually watch more political ads. Thus, female audience of political promotional content was 57.2% in July, and male, according to advertiser settings, 42.7%. As for the age groups, political advertising customers were focused on women aged 55-64, 45-54 and 34-44, while men groups are younger, 35-44 and 25-34. At the same time, some posts can targeted exclusively at women (160 publications in July) or men (159 publications in July).

Most advertisements in July were targeted at large audiences of users – more than 100 thousand. Thus, advertisers chose the most often an audience of 100-500 thousand users (2,419 ads), and more than 1 million users (2,383 ads).

* 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).

The biggest advertisers of the month: who invests, what is being advertised

Ten pages that invested the most in promotional tools on Facebook have spent USD 52,678 on political advertising in July. These pages belong to MPs, politicians, parliamentary and non-parliamentary political parties, mass media and public political pages.

Thus, Head of Kyiv city cell of the Servant of the People, MP Mykola Tishchenko  was the most generous in terms of advertising in July (Servant of the People – Mykola Tyshchenko – District 219). This page broadcasted 72 political advertisements in July, costing $ 15,310. This is the largest investment in advertising per month over the whole period OPORA has been monitoring political ads. The warning states that Facebook page of the Servant of the People – Mykola Tyshchenko – District 219 pays for the advertising, and includes contact number, e-mail, website, and address. Advertising publications can be divided into several groups based on their content: short posts criticizing Kyiv’s infrastructure, calling to like the page; similar by content, but slightly bigger posts suggesting to join the Kyiv development strategy; and several posts inviting to join the team and stand as a candidate in fall. Most of publications on the page are duplicated in Ukrainian and in Russian. Many ads costed under 100 dollars, although Ukrainian version is sometimes much more expensive. The post advertising an intention to develop a development strategy for Kyiv and suggesting to leave proposals on the improvement of hometown was the largest investment. Thus, it cost USD 2-2.5 thousand (broadcast on July 3, in several versions with different age and gender settings of the target audience). The publication demanding that Kyiv authorities reconsider their decision on the constraints for working hours of catering establishments, had the biggest number of impressions (350-400 thousand), and was broadcast from 3 to 8 July, costing $ 200-300. Political advertising of the page was targeted at residents of the capital.

The page of Volodymyr Hroisman is the second by investment amounts. According to the warning, the politician himself (Volodymyr Groysman) has paid USD 8,268 for the broadcast of 99 ads this month. There are several types of political posts on the page. Some aim to increase the number of subscribers. They do not have any content, only call “click 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). The rest of the posts are videos from broadcasts on the Ukraina.24 and programs Shuster LIVE, Vikna STB, Voice of the people on important state issues (decentralization reform, economic crisis). Several paid ads have been broadcast online since May. For the most part, the politician invested up to $ 100 in advertising for each post. The most expensive ones among those have been broadcast since May (USD 1-1.5 thousand). One of several negative publications targeted mainly at women (“Hospitals should be financed by the state, not volunteers! Do you agree? Click like!”) was financed the most in July – $ 300-400. All advertising posts on the page were shared only on Facebook this month.

Page of the Ratyof Sharii invests large amounts in political advertising each month. Thus, it invested USD 6,745 in advertising of 75 posts in July. Promotional service customers follow a usual tactic of advertising campaigns – they spend less than $ 100 on each ad. In terms of content, these are short messages, based on negative associations with the authorities and crisis in the country, calling to like the party’s page. All the content on page is published in Russian. It is targeted at users from all regions of Ukraine, but users from Zaporizhia, Lviv and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts receive a higher percentage of advertising.

The page PolitPost published only 6 ads, but paid $ 5,402 for them. According to the warning, the PolitPost pays for advertising, indicating asingle-page websitesitecontaining only the name and postal address in Kyiv (21 Khreschatyk St.); contact phone number; e-mail address and the same address as on the site. The page advertises 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. In comparison with other polls, these ratings present higher figures for two candidates and one political party (candidates Andrii Palchevskyi and Mykola Tomenko, and Palchevsky’s Victory Party). It should be mentioned that the poll mentioned in publications is realized by the Center for Social Development “Inter-Action”. The reliability of polls has repeatedly been put in question, as well as professionalism of the  “Inter-Action”. Each publication has a significant number of comments (2 or more thousand), and some of them are probably written by bots, and cost also quite a lot – 1-2.5 thousand US dollars. The page advertises political content for residents of Kyiv (77.9%) and Kyiv oblast (22.2%).

The page of the political TV show Shuster LIVE is on the fifth place. Each month it is among leaders of political ad investments. In July, representatives of the program invested $ 5,208 in the promotion of video clips featuring speeches of Ukrainian politicians, high officials, public figures, and experts. 42 ads were broadcast over this time. For the most part, July posts cost up to $ 200. The program announcement “Why did the National Bank lose its head?”, which was published on July 2, had the biggest number of impressions (700-800 thousand). The page also continues to broadcast publications posted in previous months, which are the most expensive. These are three ads of the show itself, posted on: April 29 – 6-7 thousand dollars, May 6 – 2-2.5 thousand dollars, June 17 – 3-3.5 thousand dollars. However, for the first time during OPORA’s monitoring period, the page invested this month a significant amount ($ 1,500-2,000) in a post urging to like the page.

Online newspaper “Litsa” from Dnipropetrovsk was also one of the biggest advertisers this month. Thus, the customer of ad promotion “Izdanie Litsa” paid USD 5,111 for the broadcast of 136 ads costing under $ 200 each with the maximum coverage of 150-175 thousand users. The page advertised publications from the resource’s website. Many of them concerned social and economic life of the city of Dnipro, but there were also revealing materials about the City Mayor Borys Filatov and the ex-Chairman of the Apparatus of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast State Administration Hennadii Korban, as well as materials criticizing activities of local politicians. All advertisements of the page were targeted only at the residents of Dnipropetrovsk oblast.

The page of MP and the fifth President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko was among the leaders as usual. The politician invested $ 3,927 in the promotion of 13 advertisements. In July, Poroshenko advertised volunteer initiatives of the Poroshenko Foundation on assistance in combating the coronavirus pandemic and criticized the policy of government officials (1 post, costing – $ 200-300); statement of the  European Solidarity party and faction calling on the President Zelenskyi to withdraw the resignation of the Head of the National Bank Yakov Smolii (1 post, costing 1.5-2 thousand $); video and photo materials of the march and rally in support of the politician near the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv, where Poroshenko’s case was considered. Besides that, a certain part of advertising content, paid during the previous few month, has also been promoted. It should be mentioned that advertising publications of the page were rarely broadcast for users from Luhansk, Donetsk, Mykolaiv, Sumy, Odesa, Kherson, Kharkiv, and Chernivtsi oblasts.

Page of the parliamentary party European Solidarity in Kyiv, European Solidarity – Kyiv has been actively using the promotional service from Facebook since July. The customer of political ads on the page – European Solidarity – invested $ 3,236 in 44 posts. There are some topics of advertising content: the call to join the local cell of political party; the decision of Kyiv City Council to appeal to Volodymyr Zelenskyi concerning the inadmissibility of political repressions and the involvement of Volodymyr Prokopiv, the council secretary and party leader in Kyiv; an all-Ukrainian rally on the protection of the language space of Ukraine, which took place in the capital; and electoral rating in Kyiv with the European Solidarity on the first place (without data source). The political party invested quite small amounts in each ad – up to $ 200. Despite this page belongs to a regional cell of the political party, its advertising posts were targeted at users from all regions, with an accent on the capital (18.3%) and Kyiv oblast (9.4%).

The page “Horodok” invested $ 3,210 in political advertising, with Mariia Moskaliova being a customer of promotional content. In July, the page posted 17 ads, costing up to $ 300. Some advertising publications on the page covered activities of the Mayor of Dnipro Borys Filatov; some quoted Hennadii Korban, ex-Head of the Apparatus of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast State Administration; two posts leading to a newly-created Youtube channel (July 20, 2020) with only two sarcastic videos. Several posts advertise third-party publications with a rating of Dmytro Filatov: citizens supporting his policies and as a candidate for mayor of Dnipro.

The page of parliamentary political party Servant of the People is in the top 10 of political ad investments for the third month in a row. In July, the page published 80 advertising posts costing USD 3,133. The cost of each ad is usually under $ 100, and the maximum coverage is 100-125 thousand users. The advertising content informs about political decisions made by the authorities, initiatives of party representatives, the opening of regional receptions. According to the geography of broadcasts, advertising messages are shared to users from all regions of Ukraine.

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