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Parties go big on Facebook ads as state polls near

BJP and its affiliates collectively spent Rs 21.6 lakh in 3 states, according to FB data.

Oct 03, 2019, 07.29 AM IST
The spends include those by its candidates, several ticket aspirants, senior leaders, and official and unofficial affiliates, such as fan clubs of specific leaders.
BENGALURU: Political parties have started aggressively advertising on Facebook in the run-up to the Assembly polls in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana this month, data revealed by the social network in its political ad library, show. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates lead, with a collective spending of Rs 21.6 lakh in the three states.

The spends include those by its candidates, several ticket aspirants, senior leaders, and official and unofficial affiliates, such as fan clubs of specific leaders.

The BJP, according to ET’s calculations based on Facebook ad library data, spent Rs 18.5 lakh in Maharashtra, Rs 2.65 lakh in Haryana, and Rs 43,125 in Jharkhand.

BJP’s rivals, including the Indian National Congress, spent a mere Rs 1.3 lakh, with nearly all of it coming in Maharashtra (Rs 1.04 lakh). The Congress’ main ally in the state, the Nationalist Congress Party, spent just over Rs 46,000 in Facebook ads.

The spending on the Assembly polls overall pale in comparison to those during the general elections, where the BJP spent more than Rs 10 crore on Facebook advertisements.

That is to be expected, however, as candidates and parties choose to target a specific, concentrated radius — in and around their constituency — to woo potential voters in Assembly elections.

“All our candidates have been asked to treat social media like appeal letters or pamphlets (used to make initial contact with voters),” said Varun Sardesai, who is leading the Shiv Sena’s campaign on social media. “Besides, we also conducted a workshop for all our candidates, encouraging them to have an active social media presence.”

Buoyed by the success of its use of official affiliates like “My First Vote for Modi” or “Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar” in May’s general elections, the BJP has also taken this strategy to the poll-bound states. For instance, BJP’s “official” affiliates in Maharashtra include Distoy Farak Shivashahi Parat (Change can be seen, now time to return Shivaji’s rule), Aghadi Bighadi (Front in trouble), while in Haryana, its affiliate page is called Chor Machaye Shor, a veiled reference to its opponents in the state, and Ghar Ghar Raghubar in Jharkhand. Since the past 90 days, Facebook data says that the Distoy Farak Shivshahi Parat page has spent nearly Rs 11 lakh.

The Congress-NCP has also used affiliates in Maharashtra, with pages like Mahayuti Adhogati (Alliance in decline), and Congressach Bhari Hoti Rao (Only Congress was strong).

In Maharashtra — according to Facebook Ad Manager, which is used by political (and digital) advertisers to measure potential — Facebook has 32 million users above the age of 18, while parties could potentially reach 4.7 million Facebook users in Jharkhand, and 6.8 million users in Haryana.

However, with two of Haryana’s largest cities coming under the National Capital Region in Delhi, besides cities like Chandigarh and Panchkula bordering Punjab, the potential user base in the state could exceed Facebook’s estimate.

During general elections, political parties splurged on social media and digital advertisements.

Political parties spent Rs 54.8 crore overall for political advertising on Google and Facebook and its sister platforms across the country during general elections, as per factchecking website BoomLive.

(Disclaimer: For the purpose of convenience, ET has only considered spends of Rs 5,000 or more)

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