It will be impossible to watch the events of this fall’s political season without considering how the country’s major political parties are positioning themselves for the next general election, slated for Oct. 21, 2019.
One of the byproducts of fixed election dates is that parties are starting earlier and earlier in the election cycle to nominate candidates, organize volunteers, identify potential voters and raise money. So far as identifying voters and raising money, Facebook has become the go-to platform for all political parties.
So, from time to time, we’ll be checking in on the roster of paid advertising each party is running off of their Facebook party pages and their leaders’ pages. Now, no party will disclose how much it plans to spend buying ads on Facebook but political insiders say the two biggest parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, will likely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the year ahead.
Through this periodic check-in on the roster of Facebook ads, we hope we might learn something about the issues that each party is using to find so-called “persuadable” voters and get a sense of how each party is approaching the give and thrust of party politics.
Each political party, like all advertisers on Facebook, can pretty easily put up new ads, take some down, and test new concepts. Facebook, to its great credit, now allows you to view all ads a given party is running at any given time. This is new for the 2019 federal election. Facebook does not have an archive of discontinued ads but we — and many other actors — will be screen-capping them when we can.
For today’s notebook, we looked at the roster of ads running as of Sept. 1 as displayed on the following pages:
The Liberal Party of Canada was running a roster of 21 ads on the weekend and every one of them featured an image of Justin Trudeau and every one had a generally positive theme. There were no negative ads criticizing any other party or leader. Notably, there were no ads which promoted the party’s view on any particular issue.
Five ads in the 21-ad roster were in French. The rest were in English. The party was looking for both new potential voters or volunteers as well as cash: 14 of the ads asked the viewer to “sign up” or “add your name” and the rest had a button to “donate” or “chip in.”
Takeaway: The leader continues to be the best marketing tool the party has.
The Conservatives had a roster of just 12 ads running on Facebook over Labour Day, not one of which was in French. This just may have been an anomaly as the party was moving old ad inventory out and new ad inventory in. Some French-language ads were being run off the leader’s Facebook page (see the note below).
Unlike the Liberals which avoided advertising on any particular issue, the Conservatives were pressing several different hot-button issues as the party tried to persuade viewers of these ads to donate or to sign up and join the movement.
WATCH: Liberals slam Conservatives for 240 Facebook ads to attack 16 MPs
There were two ads attacking the Liberal carbon tax; two related to the decision by the city of Victoria to remove a John A. Macdonald statue; two demanding that Ottawa cease repatriating ISIS fighters and two (falsely) claiming the Trudeau government will be bringing back the long-gun registry. Ads also touched on justice (too many judicial vacancies) and on the values test to qualify for summer job grants.
The party’s leader, Andrew Scheer, was featured in just one ad while Trudeau made an appearance in four different ads.
Takeaway: Getting their base angry, even if they’re stretching the truth a bit, is what works best for this group.
The NDP is the poor cousin of the big three, finishing 2017 deeply in debt versus the other two which were flush with millions. As a result, their advertising ambitions are a little on the light side.
Over Labour Day, the party had a roster of 10 ads in rotation. Like the Liberals, there were no attack ads criticizing another party but the party was hammering home an issue it clearly hopes to be associated with in the year ahead: a national pharmacare strategy.
The Liberals appeared to try to take the legs out from under the NDP on that issue earlier this year when, in the federal budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that the government would study and implement pharmacare. In any event, of the 10 ads running from the NDP, eight were pumping up the NDP’s leadership on pharmacare.
All but one of the ads asked viewers to click to “Learn More” which is where the NDP hopes to harvest names and contact info of potential new supporters and donors. Just two ads — the only ones featuring leader Jagmeet Singh — were asking for money. Just one ad was in French.
Takeaway: The NDP needs to get its base excited with one big, simple idea — and it looks like they’ve picked pharmacare to do it.
For this notebook, we did not look at the pages for each leader. Checking in on those pages today, though, we see that the ad roster on the page for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (which has a staggering 6.4 million likes versus just 310,000 likes of his party’s page) is very similar to the roster of ads we found on Sept. 1 at the party’s page.
The ad roster on the page for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer contains four ads, two each in our official languages, all of which focus on Scheer’s “back story” — an indication that the party knows that boosting Scheer’s name recognition is going to be one of its marketing tasks in the months ahead. These four ads are not being run off the party’s page.
And even though NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s Facebook page has a much bigger audience than the party’s page (185,000 likes versus 115,000 ) there were no ads being run off Singh’s page when we checked in.