The Facebook page of Bharatiya Janata Party's Uttar Pradesh is the highest spender among political party pages on Facebook ads between December 11 and January 13. More than Rs. 66 lakh was spent on this page between during this time.
Social media app Koo also featured as one of the top spenders on Facebook ads last month. Reaching the third spot, the app had spent Rs. 58 lakh on the Meta-owned platform. These ads frequently promoted BJP leaders and cabinet ministers, who currently populate the app.
All Eyes On Uttar Pradesh
The first quarter of 2022 sees five poll-bound states, namely Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, will also see one of the most anticipated elections this year, with BJP's Yogi Adityanath aiming to secure his second term, while facing anti-incumbency.
Looking through Facebook's ad library report, the anticipation is clear - most of the ads, by political parties, non-political organisations, and commercial advertisers, have been targetted towards users in Uttar Pradesh. The figure, of expenses between December 13, 2021 and January 11, 2022, goes up to Rs. 3.11 crore.
Ads targetting UP users far outweigh the rest; the second highest spending on a state is Rs. 98.5 lakh targetting Punjab users. The third is Maharashtra with Rs. 81.8 lakh spent on targetting the state's users.
Top Spending Political Pages
Among the top spending political parties, we have BJP, Indian National Congress (INC), and Trinamool Congress (TMC), with all three of them having high stakes in the upcoming election.
Looking through the political pages in Facebook's ad library, we found BJP Uttar Pradesh's page to be the highest spender in the past month, with over Rs. 66 lakh spent on ads during this time.
Yet another BJP page, Modi 11, featured in this list, with an expenditure of Rs. 18.4 lakh. This page was created in the run up to the 2019 general elections to promote Modi and the BJP, and has been revived time and again ahead of legislative elections.
INC has also been catching up to the BJP in terms of expenditure. We found three Congress pages in the list of top spending political pages.
The page most spent on by Congress was 'लड़की हूं लड़ सकती हूं' (I'm a woman, I can fight), which promotes INC leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Uttar Pradesh. The page uses Gandhi's leadership to promise women's development in UP.
Another Congress page in the list is the official page of the party's Punjab unit, spending a total of Rs. 22.9 lakh in the past month. Currently in power in Punjab, Congress will face off against the BJP, and the Aam Aadmi Party in the northern state.
Yet another Congress page was आ रही है कांग्रेस, which featured ads targetted at UP users. Rs. 7.33 lakh was spent on ads through this page, with posts promising a wide range of benefits, from loan waivers for farmers, to added government jobs, lower electricity costs, free grains and rice for the needy etc.
Trinamool Congress also had two of its pages in the list of the top spending political pages from last month. One of the pages, Goenchi Navi Sakal, had an expenditure of Rs. 14.9 to promote TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and her party in Goa, where the part intends to make inroads. The second page was TMC's Goa unit's official Facebook page, which saw an expenditure of Rs. 10.2 lakh.
Overall, BJP was the highest spender, with an expenditure of Rs. 85 lakh through two of its pages in the list. This was followed by INC, who spent over Rs. 58 lakh through three pages.
TMC came third, spending over Rs. 25 lakh on two of its pages targetting Goa users.
Few Slander Pages
We found two pages in the list of top political pages, which did not have any clear link to a political party. Both these pages were targetting specific parties through a slander campaign.
One of the pages, named Bua Babua - बुआ बबुआ, saw an expenditure of Rs. 10.9 lakh. The posts in this page negatively targetted Bahujan Smaj Party supremo Mayawati, along with Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav.
Yet another such page, Punjab Bolda, saw an expenditure of over Rs. 5 lakh, with posts targetting BJP and AAP leaders. Certain posts also promoted INC leader Navjot Singh Sidhu.
The Koo d'Etat
While earlier Facebook only provided the details of ads that were related to politics, or issues of national interest, it now provides the ad details of other organisations and companies as well, in its ad library report.
Looking through the overall expenditure, Facebook's parent organisation Meta turned out to be the biggest spender - with Rs. 4.80 crore spent on 3 separate ads. These ads were diffused around the country, to promote an event called Fuel For India.
In the past, most of the top spenders on Facebook have been political parties, with the inclusion of some big names like Facebook and Gates Foundation featuring in the list.
Recently, however, a newly found social media app called Koo, stylised as a native alternative to Twitter, and a competitor to both Twitter and Facebook, has risen in the ranks in terms of shelling out cash on Facebook ads.
Last month, it spent Rs. 58 lakh on its page, outspending most Facebook pages in India, with the exception of Facebook's own page, and that of BJP Uttar Pradesh.
Launched early 2020, Koo rose to popularity during the tussle between the Indian government and microblogging platform Twitter on the sovereignty of content on the platform.
The app was further promoted by several members of the BJP, including cabinet ministers in the Modi government, under India's Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign, aimed at making India self-reliant.
Currently, most of those who populate the app are members of the current government, along with their supporters. Looking through their advertisements, we found the platform use this their advantage and promote the app as a way to connect to these leaders and politicians.
As a result, these ads frequently featured top level BJP leaders, including cabinet ministers.
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