After two weeks of campaigning, political parties have probably already tried to guess on Facebook who you plan to vote for on September 20 and are about to bombard you with ads if you live in a strategic constituency.

The various parties collectively sent almost a million dollars a week to California to the multinational Facebook for their online campaign. The lion’s share of spending goes to Liberal Party of Canada, which offered itself for almost $ 600,000 in ads on Facebook and Instagram during the first week of the campaign, and for $ 521,000 during the second. This is more than all the other parties combined.

“It’s a very, very big budget. It doesn’t cost very much to advertise on Facebook, ”says Thierry Giasson, professor of political science at Laval University and specialist in political communication. The advertising consisted, in most cases, of showing on your Facebook feed the face of Justin trudeau in short videos.

The Conservative Party, second in spending on Facebook during the first week of the campaign ($ 164,000), slipped to third place for the second week ($ 106,000). He was overtaken by the New Democratic Party, which doubled its digital ad spend between campaign week one and week two (from $ 149,000 to $ 274,000). the Bloc Quebecois spent less than $ 10,000 per week on Facebook, and the Green Party of Canada are negligible.

Since a change to the Election Law adopted in 2018, the advertising expenditure of parties on online platforms must be recorded in a register, in order to counter foreign interference. YouTube, owned by Google, Twitter and TikTok then decided to abandon the partisan advertising market. Only the social media Facebook, and its subsidiary Instagram, allow party advertising.

What are the parties doing?

“The fact that the Liberals spent a lot at the start of the campaign is a sign that they are establishing benchmarks [points de référence] national across all constituencies, ”explains Sébastien Fassier, vice-president of the public relations firm TACT and former liberal digital strategist for the 2015 and 2019 campaigns. According to him, advertising on social networks was used so far by parties to target their supporters and strategic constituencies. Their use is about to go into second gear.

The expert remembers the 2015 election well, as he worked to promote Justin Trudeau’s campaign on the web and the Liberal Party entered the race third in the polls. The use of social media ads in the final weeks leading up to the vote tipped the scales toward victory over the Tories, he believes.

“Two weeks before the election, we identified in the War Room [quartier général du parti] 40 constituencies that were necessary to gain a majority, 40 constituencies where it was tight, but in which we were in good shape. There was a way to concentrate efforts on those ridings, particularly in terms of digital advertising. And we won 39 of the 40 ridings identified. “

Examining the ads that have been running on digital media for the past two weeks, the former strategist notes that the Liberals “are clearly doing voter identification online.” Their opponents, conservatives and New Democrats, adopt a more classic strategy of “persuasion and notoriety”, in particular to make their leader known.

Facebook recipe

Interviewed at To have to, Sébastien Fassier opens up on his recipe for a successful campaign on social networks. Even before the election campaign, Internet users normally begin to be targeted anonymously by parties, such as when they add a “like” to a post or advertisement or when they watch a full partisan video. They are listed in a pool of “potential sympathizers”.

“It’s like digital scoring,” he says. As a Facebook user, we will identify potential supporters. […] Facebook does not let us know who they are by name. “

Then start the campaign ads, running on Facebook feeds from coast to coast to coast, to establish where, geographically, they have the most success, such as the most clicks. It is this costly step that would have taken place over the past two weeks. This part is eminently useful for the parties since Facebook gives an idea in real time of the number of people receptive to their message in a given region, and therefore likely to vote for them.

“Politics is a local sport,” says Sébastien Fassier. The purpose of a party is to encourage its supporters to travel to vote in the constituencies where their vote will be the most determining. “We may have very high voting intentions across the country, if they are all concentrated in the same place, we are no further ahead in terms of the number of seats. “

According to him, the electoral campaign is now entering this phase where parties will have to change their approach on social networks to target the specific constituencies they want to wrest from their opponents, or those where they want to save the furniture. Districts won or lost in advance will be ignored. “Where digital really comes to play a role is in close battles. It is really an objective of local, surgical efficiency. “

We can then expect party advertisements after the debates to praise the performance of their leader, then on the day of the vote among Internet users identified as sympathizers.

From TikTok on TV

“The climate crisis is a race against time, not a health march. »In front of a monochrome decor, Jagmeet Singh presents its platform in a fun way in an advertisement unveiled last Wednesday. The production is intended for television, in addition to social media.

Even though the leader of the NDP is a fan of web platforms, being for example the only leader active on the TikTok platform, his party also uses more traditional methods of advertising. Professor Thierry Giasson explains that, although Mr. Singh is very popular on TikTok, the users of his platform are not necessarily of voting age. “There are a number of very, very young people who don’t vote. But to prepare an electoral ground [pour l’avenir], it’s not a bad idea. “

Quebec NDP campaign manager Jonathan Gauvin says the approach includes both new and old media. “We have to try to find the voters where they are. Not everyone listens to TV the same way as before. From now on, we have to diversify our approaches, and that is what we are doing in this campaign. “

The Conservative Party has also designed a whole series of television messages to promote its leader, Erin O’Toole, to Quebecers. These videos are relayed on digital platforms in a targeted manner, illustrates Thierry Giasson. “TV advertising still costs a lot more than digital advertising. It is still used extensively because not everyone uses the social media for information on politics. […] TV is still watched a lot by the elderly, and the elderly go to vote. “

The Bloc Québécois told the To have to do not abandon social networks. “It is indeed very important for us to be present in the traditional Quebec media, in particular regional newspapers and radio stations,” explains its spokesperson, Julien Coulombe-Bonnafous. The Bloc Québécois advertising strategy must be revealed in the days to come.

No party has specified how much of its advertising budget is spent on Facebook. According to Sébastien Fassier’s estimate, the Liberal Party should allocate more than half of its advertising spending to social networks, given its need to locally target its voters who are most reluctant to travel to vote. However, this does not mean the end of political advertising in the traditional media, which are still very useful for reaching a wider electorate.

With Jasmine Legendre

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