Campaign Spending Deep-Dive: Advertising

Pursuant to Moldovan campaign finance law, political parties and electoral blocs contesting the February 24 parliamentary elections must submit weekly financial reports to the Central Election Commission (CEC). IRI’s long-term analyst specializing in media monitoring has reviewed and analyzed the first two week’s worth of financial reports with a focus on advertising spending (Note: IRI has used an exchange rate of 17.22:1 to convert the reported spending in Moldovan Lei to U.S. Dollars).

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Of the nine parties that have submitted financial reports on their campaign expenditures, six have dedicated various shares of their campaign funds to advertising in the media or to media-related services. By far, the largest sums were spent on TV advertising–a natural interest for political parties, with 83 percent of Moldovans relying on TV newscasts for gaining political information, according to the latest survey by IRI.

The Democratic Party (PDM), the highest spending party in this regard, has spent a cumulative $574,236 for TV advertising in the first two weeks of the campaign, which represents roughly 92% of its $621,290 budget dedicated to advertising.

A significant portion of this amount was spent on advertising on PDM-affiliated networks including over $185,800 on Prime TV and Publika TV (channels owned by PDM chairman Vladimir Plahotniuc) and  almost $116,150 on Canal 2 and Canal 3 (channels presently belonging to Oleg Cristal, a former general editor at Publika and PDM affiliated media adviser). PDM spent its remaining television budget on other channels including RTR Moldova, CTC Mega, Familia Domashniy and the public national broadcaster Moldova 1.

The Socialists Party allocated more than half of its $121,530 advertisement budget to television, and approximately half of this amount was spent advertising on channels belonging to PSRM parliamentarian Corneliu Furculita (NTV Moldova and TNT Exclusiv). The Sor Party has spent approximately $175,450 on television-based advertising in the first two weeks. Almost half of this sum ($81,150) was paid for ads on Prime TV and Publika TV, and a little more than $34,800 was spent on air time on the national public broadcaster Moldova 1.

However, not all parties have utilized television in their campaigns. One of the reasons may be the associated cost, with prices ranging between $450 (Jurnal TV) and $2,260 (Canal 2 and Canal 3) for one minute of advertisement, while the most popular channel in Moldova (Prime TV) costs as much as $4,515 per minute of advertisement. Parties such as ACUM and PN (Our Party) have resorted to live streaming some of their campaign or party events, spending roughly $1,782 (ACUM) and, respectively, $580 (PN) for such live stream services. This enabled the parties to relay their message directly to a fair share of viewers and reach a certain audience, as 44 percent of Moldovans retrieve their news from internet resources. Nevertheless, that leaves out between 33 percent and 41 percent of citizens (according to the latest surveys) who do not use the internet at all.

Online media was used by five of six parties which allocated funds to advertising: PDM, ACUM, PSRM, Sor Party and PN, albeit to varying degrees. The biggest sums were spent by Sor Party ($17,950), of which $3,430 were dedicated to advertising in online media displayed in social shops (Magazine Sociale SRL). PDM follows second, with over $4,700 spent for online advertising. PN, PSRM and ACUM spent between $1,450 and $2,500  for similar services.

As for print media, only PDM and ACUM allotted funds for ads in local newspapers. However, four parties reported ad spending in print media while funding their party newspapers. Among all parties, PSRM dedicated the largest amount to the print press—$21,775 for the newspaper Socialistii, followed at a distance by Sor Party with $17,200 for an unspecified paper, PN with a cumulative $5,610 for the newspaper Puterea e in adevar and PCRM with $4,525 for the newspaper Comunist. The Democrats also allotted $10,450 to print their own party’s newspaper, but reported these expenses in a different manner, having attributed them to the category of “other promotional items.”