2021 was an “annus horribilis” for Facebook / Meta whose reputation was seriously threatened by the revelations of the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, who gave life, starting in September, to a series of articles published by the Wall Street Journal, entitled The Facebook Files, including the recent resignation of John Pinette, Meta’s vice president of global communications, who left the company after overseeing its public relations teams since 2019.
In all this, some companies, as had already happened in the past, have decided to abandon the group’s social platforms. Although history teaches that boycotts of companies and brands have a very limited effect. If this is the overall scenario, we wanted to verify which are the subjects that invest most in advertising on Meta’s social platforms in Italy. The data relate to the period from April 2019, when Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica “scandal” decided to make publicly available what are the planned advertisements and, as regards political, institutional and social campaigns, also the he sustained investment, as of January 2, 2022. According to data from the Facebook ad library, NGOs are among the largest spenders in advertising on Facebook.
The largest investor in adv on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, on social issues, elections or politics, in Italy, is Save the Children Italia which, since Facebook makes these data available, has invested 3.7 million euros in advertisements on the platform. Of these, more than 530 thousand in the last ninety days alone. To have a term of comparison, consider that in the same period Ferrero invested “only” 78 thousand euros. In most cases, these are ‘micro-targeting’, advertisements for which relatively little unitarily is invested in order to hit different and relatively small audiences depending on the communication objective, to segment, address and personalize the messages sent to individuals.
The advertising investments on Facebook by Save the Children Italy, whose campaigns are both photos and videos, are mainly aimed at raising funds and obtaining donations. After all, according to the NGO’s 2020 budget, 78% of the fundraising, which amounted to 123.7 million euros, comes from donations from individuals. Donations that for about one fifth of the collection (19.6%) are in turn used to raise other funds.
In short, it seems that the investment in social ads bears fruit even if the engagement generated is decidedly low, as emerged from our analysis on the subject. The mix of Action Aid Italia is more varied with campaigns, also in this case both photos and videos, aimed both at obtaining donations and at raising awareness of various social issues, rather than promoting the launch of their own humanitarian and social initiatives. The same goes for Unicef Italia, to mention another organization that is among the top spenders.
Immediately after Save the Children we find the European Parliament and the European Commission which have spent more than one million euros each in Italy alone. In November 2021, the European Commission presented a proposal on transparency and targeting of political advertising. The EU offers extensive disclosures on political announcements and bans targeting based on sensitive data. A proposal that in the light of the huge investments made leaves even more perplexing. Among the ten largest investors we also find the leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, with just under 500 thousand euros of total investments.
Finally, in tenth place Amazon Europe, with over 355 thousand euros of investment in our country alone. An investment that, unlike other top spenders, focuses on a decidedly limited number of advertisements (37), with an average investment of around € 10 thousand for each campaign, for a communication that alternates promotion with institutional messages aimed at strengthening the corporate reputation. In short, Facebook will also be the villain of the day but even competitors, such as Amazon, need it to convey their communication and their image. Take note.