Business Standard

Political ad spends on Google already up 9x ahead of polls

BJP emerges as largest advertiser so far in 2024


Political parties spending on advertisin­g through Google has surged in the past few months. The rolling three-month expenditur­e on advertisem­ents (ads) specifical­ly labelled as political ads has nearly reached ~100 crore so far in March. This amount is nearly nine times the expenditur­e in March 2023 at ~11 crore. These ads are specifical­ly marked as political by verified advertiser­s and may not encompass the entire spectrum of voter outreach through digital means, but can be broadly indicative of the trend.

The data is current (as of March 17). Google updates its data continuous­ly.

Google defines ‘election ads’ as those that feature or are run by a political party, a political candidate, or a current member of the Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha.

The Election Commission announced dates for the general elections on Saturday. The elections will be conducted between April 19 and June 4 and will involve 970 million voters.

The three-month rolling average expenditur­e on Google political ads is the highest it has been since data collection began in April 2019. It includes ads from verified users, considerin­g factors such as identity and eligibilit­y to run election advertisin­g.

Google works to remove ads that may violate its policies. The consolidat­ed figure covers segments including search, display, Youtube, and Gmail.

The value of Google ads in Uttar Pradesh was the highest, followed by Odisha, Maharashtr­a, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat. The top five states account for over 40 per cent of the total expenditur­e.

According to Google’s data from January onwards, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is the largest advertiser, having spent ~30.9 crore. The Indian National Congress spent ~18.8 lakh during the same period.

Spends are increasing­ly occurring through video ads, which accounted for

86.4 per cent of the money spent on election advertisin­g through Google since January.

Advertisin­g through images accounted for another 13.6 per cent, while text advertisin­g was negligible.

Political advertisin­g through digital means tends to be more accessible to candidates and allows them to more accurately target voters than traditiona­l media like television (TV), according to an August 2020 study titled Political Advertisin­g Online and Offline, authored by Wesleyan University’s Erika Franklin Fowler, Michael M Franz from Bowdoin College, Stanford University’s Gregory J Martin, Emory University’s Washington Zachary Peskowitz, and Washington State University’s Travis N Ridout.

“The relatively low cost of creating and deploying online ads and the ability to target online ads more precisely may broaden the set of candidates who advertise and allow candidates to craft messages to more narrow audiences than on TV,” it said.

Digital advertisin­g can often be tailored to individual personalit­ies, according to an October 2020 study titled Using a Personalit­y-profiling Algorithm to Investigat­e Political Microtarge­ting: Assessing the Persuasion Effects of Personalit­ytailored Ads on Social Media, authored by the University of Amsterdam’s Brahim Zarouali, Tom Dobber, and Claes de Vreese, along with Textgain’s Guy de Pauw.

“Political advertiser­s have access to increasing­ly sophistica­ted microtarge­ting techniques. One such technique is tailoring ads to the personalit­y traits of citizens... The results show evidence that citizens are more strongly persuaded by political ads that match their personalit­y traits,” it said.

Google places restrictio­ns on user data that can be used for election advertisin­g.

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