header
Political Economy

For Campaign Ads on Facebook, BJP Almost Always Gets Better Bang for the Buck: Report

"In nine of the 10 elections, including the national parliamentary elections of 2019 that BJP won, the party was charged a lower rate for advertisements than its opponents."

Listen to this article:

New Delhi: Facebook’s internal algorithms offered cheaper advertisement deals for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when compared to opposition political parties, according to an analysis on spending conducted by the Reporters’ Collective and ad.watch.

These cheaper rates were on electoral campaign ads that saw similar reach, although it’s unclear by how much the target audiences differed.

“In nine of the 10 elections, including the national parliamentary elections of 2019 that BJP won, the party was charged a lower rate for advertisements than its opponents. The favourable pricing allows the BJP, Facebook’s largest political client in India, to reach more voters for less money, giving it a leg up in the election campaigns,” the report said.

“On average, Facebook charged the BJP, its candidates and affiliated organisations 41,844 rupees ($546) to show an ad one million times. But the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, its candidates and affiliated organisations had to pay 53,776 rupees ($702)— nearly 29 percent more—for the same number of views.”

The analysis notes that TRC and ad.watch primarily compared the BJP with the Congress because they were the largest spenders on political advertisements. In nine out of 10 elections that they reviewed, the result was the same: a better deal for the BJP.

In the 22-month period for which data is available, the BJP and its affiliates spent in total more than 104.1 million rupees ($1.36m) to place advertisements on Facebook through their official pages. In contrast, Congress and its affiliates spent 64.4 million rupees ($841,000).

But going by the higher rate Facebook charged the Congress, it has paid at least 11.7 million rupees ($153,000) more than what it would have paid for the same number of views had its advertisements been priced at the rate given to the BJP.

“In the three-month campaign leading up to national elections in 2019, which coincided with state polls in Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh, Facebook’s algorithm charged the BJP and its candidates 61,584 rupees ($804) on average for 1 million views of an advertisement, but Congress had to pay 66,250 rupees ($865) for the same number of views,” the investigation noted.

“State elections in Haryana and Jharkhand later that year saw a similar trend in price differences. In the 2020 Delhi assembly elections campaign, Congress and its candidates paid Facebook 39,909 rupees ($521) on average per million views, but the BJP paid only 35,596 rupees ($465). The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the winner of the Delhi elections and another contender to the BJP, was charged the highest at 64,173 rupees ($838) per million views, 80 percent more than what the BJP paid.”