Labour candidates spent €7,000 on Facebook ads during election week

In the week running up to the election Labour leadership candidates, Robert Abela and Chris Fearne spent upwards of €7,000 in sponsored posts and social media adverts on Facebook

Prime Minister Robert Abela and Health Minister Chris Fearne
Prime Minister Robert Abela and Health Minister Chris Fearne

Labour leadership candidates Robert Abela and Chris Fearne spent upwards of €7,000 in sponsored posts and social media adverts on Facebook, in the week leading up to the election.

The data emerges from Facebook transparency information provided on adverts taken out by paying entities.

The data shows that between the 3 January through to 9 January, Malta’s new Prime Minister Robert Abela spent €2,394.

But deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, touted as heir apparent for the support he garnered from ministers, spent more than double his rival in the same period, with €4,873 spent on sponsored content.

Further analysis into Fearne’s online spending shows that between the 5-9 January, the deputy PM spent between €300 to €399 in an effort to push his video biography which his team uploaded at the end of the campaign. The video was seen over 150,000 times.

The same amount was spent on a video snippet of the debate between the two candidates held on the Labour Party’s television station. The video racked up the same number of views according to Facebook data.

The data shows that between the 3 January through to 9 January, Malta’s new Prime Minister Robert Abela spent €2,394
The data shows that between the 3 January through to 9 January, Malta’s new Prime Minister Robert Abela spent €2,394

Fearne also advertised a number of posts on Facebook’s sister portal, Instagram, which included his Christmas message, and an interview he gave to Lovin Malta.

Robert Abela, who came out on top in the election, chose to direct his finances towards a different style of video, opting to advertise an interview with his wife Lydia and their daughter Giorgia Mae. The video was viewed over 50,000 times.

A Christmas message featuring his wife was also given more prominence, with Abela spending upwards of €100, racking up more than 60,000 views.

While Abela spent less on Facebook advertisements, he did use the social media platform for a longer period of time.

Since announcing that he would be contesting the leadership election, Abela made constant use of the platform, with regular sponsored posts.

On the other hand, Fearne started to make use of paid advertisements very late in the leadership race, with his first sponsored post going up on the 27 December.

Despite the leadership race starting in December and in different circumstances than he might have expected, former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had long been considering an exit after the summer months. Following revelations in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case, Muscat announced that he would be stepping down from his position.

But Fearne’s own ambition to lead the party following Muscat’s exit was an open secret. In August and September, Fearne took out front page covers on The Sunday Times magazine Circle and The Malta Independent on Sunday’s magazine First, signaling a more visible start to his campaign build-up.

A series of paid newspaper wrap-arounds were also bought by Fearne in the week running up to the election, including on the Saturday of the election; while Robert Abela had two full page adverts on the General Workers Union newspaper l-Orizzont on the Saturday when members were going to vote.

During the leadership campaign, Fearne also published a part-biography entitled ‘Vizjoni Ta’ Nazzjon’, in which he expounded on his plan to be prime minister.

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