To ask the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, what the Commission's policy is on online advertising; and how much was spent on online advertising with (a) Breitbart News and (b) each other outlet in each of the last three years.
As part of its work to encourage people to register to vote, the Electoral Commission runs multi-media advertising campaigns before electoral events. Its most recent campaign led up to the voter registration deadline ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly election scheduled for Thursday 2 March.
Online advertising is one of several channels used by the Commission and includes a number of elements, including ‘display’ advertising, whereby the Commission’s voter registration advertising appears on a wide range of websites, including various news media outlets, which voters are likely to visit for information on elections or about political interests. In order to achieve a breadth of coverage, the Commission often use the Google Display Network (GDN) which is a system run by Google that enables advertisers to place online banner ads across a wide range of news, blogs and other websites, and is a commonly used method for publicly-funded campaigns. They brief media buying agencies to purchase space on the GDN based on the audiences they want to reach. The algorithms that sit behind the GDN will automatically identify the most appropriate websites for ads to appear on, based on the audience visiting those sites. This is a cost-effective way to purchase advertising space and to ensure that a diversity of voters see messages multiple times – ads for the campaign in Northern Ireland appeared on more than 5,000 websites.
Historical data on individual website spending for all previous campaigns within the last three years is not held by the Commission. However, the Commission can confirm that as part of the recent campaign in Northern Ireland, the Commission’s spend relating to Breitbart News totals £19.51. This equates to 0.7% of the Commission’s overall advertising spend with the GDN in that campaign, and a total media budget for the campaign of £140,000 which included TV, press, billboard, radio and social media advertising.