Déi Gréng, ADR and Pirate party biggest spenders on Facebook

To give visibility to their ideas, politicians, parties and NGOs no longer hesitate to advertise, especially on Facebook, the king of networks (Photo: Shutterstock)

To give visibility to their ideas, politicians, parties and NGOs no longer hesitate to advertise, especially on Facebook, the king of networks (Photo: Shutterstock)

Buying advertising on social networks to reach new voters or as many voters as possible has become an almost commonplace strategy, including in Luxembourg, according to the first results of the transparency tools of technology giants like Facebook.

Pirate MP and local councillor for Petange, Marc Goergen has spent €14,565 on 490 advertisements since 15 April 2019. The date is not insignificant. Shaken by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mark Zuckerberg's social network decided to put an "ad library” online. In theory it allows you to find out everything about the use of Facebook advertising purchased by politicians. The initiative was launched before the European elections that year.

Since then, out of 24,150 political ads of Luxembourg (and European) origin, at a cost of €361,993, the Greens have spent the most as a political organisation, with €27,945 in 251 ads. That puts them far ahead of the ADR (€19,958 and 163 ads) and the Pirate Party (€14,928 and 244 ads). The coalition party even spent 50% more than its two government partners combined, the LSAP (€10,424 and 180 ads) and the DP (€8,835 and 31 ads).

Marc Goergen is fourth in this ranking. "I'm not often on RTL!" he replies to explain his strategy. "I advance the money, and the party then pays it back", he says, explaining that he is not looking to address a particular audience, but wants a "push on several audiences" five to ten times a month. He is certainly not the only politicians doing this. Other Luxembourg political figures such as Marc Spautz (LSAP), Charles Goerens (DP) or Roy Reding (ADR) have also reached out to potential voters on the social network.

And sometimes they don’t respect the rules set by Facebook. When a politician does not indicate that their post has a political connotation, the ad is immediately removed. This happened seven times out of seven to Roy Reding's ads, probably a problem with the ad's configuration. The same thing happened to Martine Hansen (CSV) and Marc Spautz (LSAP), for example.

The system is not infallible, however, notes the European Regulators' Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA). The advisory body regrets firstly that the results of searches in the library are not the same depending on whether one searches directly or via the API (rather intended for researchers and journalists) and that not all advertisements are included. ERGA calls for the implementation of European rules to improve the situation regarding political communication.

Up to 50 million euros in Germany

Facebook is not the only one to try transparency. Since 2019, in Europe at least, Google has also set up a dedicated site, which is less user-friendly, but on which we learn that Luxembourg politicians have spent a total of €1,550 over the same period of time. Most recently, from 6 to 8 July, the DP paid for the last of its six ads (for a total of €350) to promote the ninth episode of Corinne Cahen 's "Kaffispaus" with Andy Maar, and hoped to reach up to one million people. The Pride Week video was, in fact, viewed fewer than 3,000 times.

Snapchat is the third player to publish statistics, a unique annual file in which only the European Commission and the Fondation Centre pour une éducation politique, headed by Marc Schoentgen, are listed as Luxembourg customers. Political advertising is not limited to politicians or parties.

In the top 50 biggest spenders since April 2019, besides the European Parliament and the European Commission, there are also:

- seven ministries (Housing for €14,023, Gender Equality for €8,835, Home Affairs for €5,466, Health for €4,643, Consumer Protection for €1,459, Labour for €1,281, and Foreign and European Affairs for €1,000);

-  NGOs, such as Greenpeace (€11,938, and €2,832 for Greenpeace Luxembourg), Médecins du Monde (€7,980), Amnesty International (€5,764), the Ecological Movement (€4,342), Handicap International (€4,069), and Médecins sans Frontières (€1,615),

- movements, organisations and trade unions, such as Luxembourg - Let's make it happen, Wee2050/Nee2015, Give Us A Voice Luxembourg, and the CGFP.

Where political advertisements in Luxembourg accounted for €362,000 over two years, €15.91m were spent in Belgium (139,163 ads), €25.97m in France (274,746) and €49.9m in Germany (612,145), although Germany has fewer active users than France.