Political parties spend a small fortune to deliver their message online

Data provided by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, shows that political advertisement spending peaked in February, following PM Abela’s election announcement for 26 March

As soon as the election date for 26 March was announced by Prime Minister Robert Abela, billboards and streamers with Abela’s name and the PL slogan erupted all across Malta and Gozo.

The internet is however now more than ever the political arena in 2022, and political parties are battling it out online to spread out their message to the maximum number of people.

Data provided by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, shows that political advertisement spending peaked in February, following PM Abela’s election announcement for 26 March.

Over the week between 23 February and 1 March 2022, the PN’s Facebook page topped the spending list with €18,700, followed by PN leader Bernard Grech with €14,400, Robert Abela with €4,300 and PL with €3,700. From within the individual candidates, minister Clyde Caruana spent €990), Labour candidate Ray Abela spent €960, and Aaron Farrugia €830.

Over the past month the PN also came in first for spending with over €19,800, followed again by Bernard Grech with €16,600, and the PL and Robert Abela with around €4,500.

Over three months, PN spent a total of €19,900, Bernard Grech €17,400, Robert Abela €6,700 and PL over €5,000. Interestingly a new face, Ray Abela, Labour candidate for the first and third districts spent €4,200, almost as much as his party. After the PM, Minister Aaron Farrugia was first from the cabinet members, spending around €2,700.

The data provided by Meta goes back to April 2019, during which the PN spent a massive €59,300, in comparison to PL’s €20,700.

Robert Abela spent €19,400 within the same time period while Bernard Grech spent €28,200 since August 2020. Grech spent a considerable amount on ads in the run-up to the PN leadership campaign in 2020. Former PN leader Adrian Delia spent €21,100 and Labour candidate Ray Abela tags along with a €12,600 spent since October 2020.

The smaller parties did also invest some money into Facebook ads, with ADPD – The Green Party spending a total of €1,500, Volt Malta just over €400 and €300 for Partit Popolari. Independent candidate Arnold Cassola spent less than €100.

The Labour Party’s English language online portal, theJournal.mt spent is also in the game, spending €8,600 in total, €1,800 of which in between 23 February and 1 March.

Former PN MP Clyde Puli – who declared he was not contesting the general election in the first day of the campaign – seems to have had other plans in the run-up. He spent a significant €8,100 since April 2019 and in February alone he put out a total of eight adverts. The last one was active until 19 February and the election was announced just a day later.

Adverts by district

The ad spending on both sides of the aisle is concentrated in the Central and South Eastern regions. Both the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader are contesting the southern fifth district.

In total since 2019, €340,400 were spent on the central region, €206,000 on the south-eastern region, €66,000 on the northern region and €53,500 on Gozo. The amount for the southern region was negligible.

Both the Labour Party and PN increased their ad spend significantly in September and October 2021, at the time that the PN was speculating about a possible early election in November 2021. The Labour Party had 20 ads, whilst PN had 44 in September and 25 in October.

Advertisements came to a halt during November and December, with the Labour Party gearing up in January with 14 ads and 32 up till now in February. The PN sent out one ad in January, before shooting up to 64 in February.

When it comes to Google adverts, the PN spent €52,400 in total while PL spent €26,100. Similar to the trend for Facebook, PN adverts saw a spike in October. No historical data, prior to February 2022 is available for the Labour Party.