Presidential candidate Ng Kok Song spends over S$60k to advertise his Facebook and Instagram posts

SINGAPORE: Presidential election candidate Ng Kok Song has spent at least S$60k advertising his posts on Instagram and Facebook since creating his accounts on 17 July, just days before announcing his bid for the presidency on 19 July.

The 75-year-old former GIC Chief Investment Officer, who successfully filed his nomination papers on Tuesday (22 Aug) for Nomination Day, has publicly stated he will not be using posters and banners for his election campaign.

Given this, it’s unsurprising he’s investing significant effort to bolster his online presence, potentially enhancing his visibility among voters.

Ng currently boasts 3.4k followers on his Facebook page and 89.6k on Instagram.

Intriguingly, the transparency report for his accounts shows he’s spent anywhere from under SG$100 (US$73.69) to SG$1,500 (US$1105.30) per post on both platforms, spanning 348 posts.

The priciest ad was an Instagram post, running from 24 July to 27 July, discussing a 2012 meditation event, priced between S$1,000 and S$1,500.

“In 2012, I organised ‘Common Ground’, a two-day event where leaders from various religious faiths shared insights on meditation. The shared experience of silence can unify on a profound level, respecting diverse beliefs and practices. The President of Singapore must represent all Singaporeans, irrespective of race, language, or religion. We must remain united for our future. #unitedforourfuture #ngkoksong2023,” it read.

This post has since been deactivated.

Ng’s increased ad spend suggests he’s aiming for broader social media outreach, potentially amplifying his campaign’s visibility and engagement.

Notably, Ng’s focus seems to be on crafting a polished image, rather than tackling substantive policy issues or addressing criticism. This raises questions about his priorities.

Among his content are market walks, attendance at a cat expo and dog adoption drive, investment tips (including meditation), and guidance on maintaining physical and mental health at 75.

His posts often come across as rhetorical and repetitive, lacking solid problem-solving examples. For instance, in a post discussing high-income and low-income demographics, he said:

“There are two escalators, both ascending. The low-income escalator moves slower than its high-income counterpart. We aim to accelerate the low-income escalator to reduce income inequality. This policy approach will boost our collective wealth.”

He’s also shared testimonies from corporate figures on his social media, including Quah Wee Ghee, former President of Public Markets at GIC; Angelene Chan, chairman of DP Architects & its associated companies; and Ho Tian Yee, with multiple prestigious titles.

The efficacy of these promoted posts is debatable, as some may view excessive advertising as intrusive.

Gutzy consolidated the 348 sponsored posts on Ng’s Facebook, estimating he spent at least S$60,000 targeting his audience.

Worth noting is an alleged artificial spike in followers on Ng’s Instagram, rising sharply from 784 to 3,930. When accused of suspicious activity, his account went private, and the count dropped to 994.

In response to inquiries from WakeUp Singapore, Ng’s media team from Gushcloud International suggested a third-party service might have artificially inflated Ng’s follower count. They denied sanctioning the addition of fake followers.

Many of these new followers were indeed found to be inauthentic. Ng’s team dedicated hours to manual checks, setting the account to private to avoid more fake additions.

Considering the growth of Ng’s page from under a thousand to nearly 90k followers, the strategies of his media team are worth scrutinizing.

ACCSS Digital Pte Ltd, founded by Mr Loo Cheng Chuan (also a Gushcloud investor), manages Ng’s sponsored posts.

Photo of Mr Loo Cheng Chuan from his webpage

Though Ng has allocated a minimum of S$60k to promote his social media content, this remains within his allowable expenditure for the election, even after considering ACCSS and Gushcloud service fees.

As per the Election Department (ELD), every presidential candidate can allocate up to S$812,822.10 for their campaign, based on 30 cents per registered elector.

Guidelines for Online Election Advertisements in Singapore

All Singaporeans are allowed to put up unpaid online election advertisements of their own accord, but publishing paid advertisements is allowed only for candidates and their election agents.

Those who are not candidates or election agents can publish paid online election advertising only if they receive written authorisation from a candidate or election agent following Nomination Day, said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and ELD in a statement.

All paid ads must be declared to the Returning Officer by the candidate or election agent and abide by existing requirements.

These requirements include displaying the full names of those responsible for publishing it, those who approved the content, those who directed that the ad be published, and who had paid for or sponsored it.

ELD said this ensures transparency and accountability and prevents the use of paid advertisements as a conduit for foreign interference in the elections process or to bypass the election expense limits for candidates.

Unpaid ads are allowed but must display clearly the full names of those who played an active role in publishing them.

IMDA and ELD added that Singaporeans who are not candidates or election agents do not have to follow the published-by requirements above if they post unpaid online election ads in their individual capacity and not at the direction of others.

All ads, paid and unpaid, are not allowed during the Cooling-off Period, which is from 12 am on 31 Aug to 8 pm on 1 Sept.

Non-Singapore citizens are prohibited from taking part in any election activity and from publishing or displaying any election advertising during the election period, which is from when the writ is issued, till Polling Day.

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