Facebook and Google close in on political advertising spends in India

A BJP supporter with painted body sports the party symbol, lotus, head gear during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address at an election campaign for Lok Sabha polls, at Taherpur city of Ranaghat in Nadia, Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Photo: PTI
The world’s largest search engine and the world’s biggest social media platform have been drawing closer in terms of political advertising spends in India. Both have seen over Rs 17 crore in spending each since February on account of the Union elections.

Google has seen Rs 17.9 crore in political advertising compared to Rs 17.2 crore for Facebook. Both are based on the latest available data. While the date ranges for both are not exactly the same. (Facebook, for example, provided weekly data till April 20). But the trend does show that spends on Google have picked up.

Facebook’s spends are Rs 14.8 crore as of April 13. Google’s latest available spends at the time was Rs 13.9 crore (based on April 17 data).

Granular data from Facebook shows that the latest week saw Rs 2.3 crore spent on advertisements. There were 11,384 advertisements in all during the week. The top page remained the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This is similar to the trend of previous weeks. Kerala’s Left Democratic Front (LDF Keralam) was second. Twenty seats from Kerala went to the polls on April 23. The Indian National Congress was third. 

Google and Facebook have begun to put out advertising data on issues of political or national importance. The initiative comes on the heels of criticism about how digital platforms were used to influence the 2016 United States Presidential elections. There were similar allegations of influencing public opinion in the United Kingdom, which led to the decision to leave the European Union, also in 2016.

The top search terms on Facebook for the week were related to national parties. Three of the top five were about the ruling party. The top three search terms were “BJP”, “Congress” and “Narendra Modi”. The Indian National Congress and “Modi” were the fourth and fifth on the list.

The biggest spender on Google is also the Bharatiya Janata Party. This is followed by Tamil Nadu’s Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. The Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party, which is active in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, was at the third spot. These three parties alone account for nearly 70 per cent of the total political advertising spends on Google.

There have been a total of 12,667 advertisements on Google since February. The total number of advertisements on Facebook as of April 20 is 84,368.

An analysis of week-by-week data also shows that there has been a pick-up in spending as elections have been underway.

Cumulative spends for Twitter were not immediately clear from its website. A spokesperson had earlier told Business Standard that it follows different disclosure policies in response to a query on cumulative spends.

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