Shuttershock: Ad spend roundup, plus last minute shenanigans

Happy Voting Eve. A last pre-election round up, bringing together as best anyone can spend data from the Meta and Google ad archives. Plus, a collection of election news covered by other people

Shuttershock: Ad spend roundup, plus last minute shenanigans

Welcome, and Happy Voting Eve. I'm doing a last pre-election round up, bringing together as best anyone can spend data from the Meta and Google ad archives.

I also wanted to share a collection of election related shenanigans covered by other people.

As always - I really do love feedback, and don't get very much. If there is stuff you love, or hate, or want - email or DM me.

Money, Money, Money

Parties have spent / are right now spending lots of it. Over half a million euro and counting.

Here is a table of the latest figures of ad spend in Ireland in the locals and Europeans. It goes back to March 11th, the Monday after the Referendums, and 90 days before the vote.

Analysis of the Meta and Google ad archives, including WhoTargetsMe's trends data base for Irish political ad spend from Mar 11 - June 2nd / 6th 2024

I won't give all the caveats (many Strongly Worded Letters to follow), except to say:

A) Meta data is up to last Sunday, so misses this week

B) "No ads in the archive" means we can't tell if there was money spent or not. I've evidence of at least one party running Google ads that aren't in the archive - the platform tells us they're investigating - more anon

C) I have evidence of ads on both Twitter and TikTok, but neither make spend data available, or make ads discoverable in any manageable way

Big spenders

The striking figure here is Sinn Féin's €160k, which adds up to about a third of all currently known party expenditure.

As a reminder, in 2019 they spent a little over €300k in total for their entire EP campaign - posters, digital, staff, leaflets etc. Some of this cycle's spend will be attributed to the locals, we'll have to wait until the autumn to know how much.

You can hear me talk more about patterns within this data on last Sunday's RTE This Week.

Knee deep in hockey sticks

The lag in the data matters, as we are in the high spend period. Parties ramp up spending in last few days when research shows most people start paying attention, when candidates know how much money they have left, and when ads get more expensive (surge pricing ain't just for Uber).

A screen shot of the analytics page of the Google Ad Library for political ads for Ireland from Mar 11th - June 6th, when the screenshot was taken at 6pm. Note the library has a few hours delay. Source: Google ad library

Above is a graph of all spending on Google political ads in the last few days, up until probably midday today (screenshot taken at 6pm, there's a delay; source Google ad library). You can see €10.8k was spent just yesterday.

This show the difference in scale of spending between the last Euros and this one - in 2019 the total amount spent by all parties in the 90 days before voting was just €11,700. That record may be beaten in one day, today (I'll update this post in the morning when the data comes through).

{Update June 7th 9am - the total spend for June 6th on Google was€12,700, beating the 2019 whole campaign total. €9,250 of it was Sinn Fein}

With this in mind you can see why Labour are so upset their Meta ad account was disabled last night for about 2 hours - The Irish Times are reporting they're considering legal action.


TikTok are at it again - after our investigation last week, Global Witness found that the company approved some really appalling ads in Ireland with both electoral process disinformation, and incitement to violence against non-white and non-Irish voters.

It was picked up by RTE, who got a comment from the company saying their systems didn't fail - the same moderator approved all 16 shocking examples. Nothing to do with the fact that the DSA only covers systemic problems then...

The Dublin Inquirer have a brilliant piece looking at food in the local election campaign. Come for the explanation of rules (spoiler alert: its vague, depending on how you interpret "valuable consideration"), stay for the immortal line:

“You can’t really brand yourself on a sausage.”

DCU's FuJo have looked into the aparent use of AI by "The Irish People" party's images in its posters & online posts - here is a quote:

The images all have the uncanny quality that is for now almost unavoidable when it comes to AI generated images of human beings. The use of non-existent people is ironic, given that The Irish People purport to be representing the “real” people of Ireland.

That green eyed woman staring down at you from posters and screens?

Notably, the face of The Irish People campaign is not the party leader .. or any other candidate. Rather, it is a freckled woman with red hair and impossibly green eyes... The image appears to be a stock photo of a model uploaded by a Russian photographer in 2015.

Have you seen a weird ad lately about Ursula Von de Leyen? It might have been part of this

Facebook failed to block thousands of political ads peddling false…
Concerns raised over platform’s ability to curb misinformation as major elections loom

And finally a great Fact Check from The Journal on non-white and migrant candidates running in the elections, and what they face online

How Ireland’s non-white election candidates are targeted with misinformation and racist abuse
Fringe groups claim that non-white people running in elections are part of a power grab.