Political Advertising in India 2014 – Worth it?

Did I just hear that this year the estimated spend on political campaigns in India is $5 billion? $5 billion? That’s like 30,000 crores in INR! $5 billion? That’s just $2 billion short of what they spent in last presidential election in US! $5 billion? That’s way beyond the permissible spend-limit on election campaigns in India. And from where did all this money come from? Curious, like really! But let’s leave it at that. There has to be something because of which everybody is discussing the campaign, the new age strategies, the messaging, the spend but not the real source of spend :). Partly we know the reasons of it, don’t we?

Now coming down to the campaign this year – I think it’s been phenomenal, be it the massive scale at which it has been managed or the diversity in messaging and medium that has been tried out. At least there has been an attempt of targeting different types of audience with different communication strategies this year. Hats off to the agencies and associates involved with these campaigns. As a marketer, I think this year’s campaign was noticeable and impactful and BIG!

But as a consumer? Well, I’m sure we have read this hundred times before – “No amount of good advertising can actually save a bad product”! And how relevant this seems for political advertising in India this year? Every time I see the ads like this or this on TV, I cringe. Neither the creative route is wrong, nor it has got to do with my being pro or anti any party. It’s simply the messaging, the commitment or the positioning that these ads are trying to make – those are false, just so blatantly false. And the leaders who are the faces of these ads just do not have any connect with the messages being communicated. The more I see these ads, the more irritated I get. Not to forget the bombardment that happens on radio, hoardings & digital media. Again reminds me of yet another famous saying in marketing world – “Nothing kills a bad product or service faster than good advertising”. These ads at least to me are just reminders of false promises by these political brands.

And then there are videos like these on women safety that has been doing rounds on social media. I’m sure it can’t be the work of formal advertising agency associated with that party but whosoever has done it, it’s such a trash. This is not just one video, I have also seen official videos speaking of women empowerment or safety in India. After all the incidents that has happened in last few years as gang rapes, molestation, rapes of minors, this is such a sensitive subject that perhaps should not have been used in any campaign. It’s not one or other party but we know that this is one issue that many parties have failed to fulfill their promises multiple times and at multiple levels. The consequences of such false commitments are so huge, then why even dare to bring these in your campaigns?

When the core itself is not in place, when there is a lack of trust in the prime product promoted, when the product has failed many times on its own commitments in past, then do you think any advertising can actually save such product? Yes, I know campaigns are required but did it change your perception?

Would love to know your views on Political Advertising in India for Elections this year. Liked it? Believed in it? Worth it?

As for me, how I wish that after every such political commercial on Television, we the viewers would have got to view this “No Ullu Banaoing” campaign by IDEA! Good sequencing, what say readers :)? And on that note, must say that love these IDEA ads and I think these IDEA ads are surely the highlights of Junior Bachchan’s career more than any of his movies.

*And a post on this blog after more than one and half years. Must thank political campaigns that finally compelled me to write here after this long gap 🙂

Communicating or Spamming?

Yes, I am liking this new media communication strategy of Indian Political parties this year esp. of BJP but think they are definitely going over-board now. Can somebody please tell BJP campaign management team that:

  • Over communication esp. through certain media can really KILL your campaign.
  • Bombarding consumers repeatedly with too many messages, promises & benefits of the same product can actually be treated as spamming and not marketing.

Here is what I mean by my above two statements. On a daily basis I am getting SMSes from “TA-BJP” on my both mobile phones. Some of those messages are:

  • BJP’s promise: Terror-free India, Hunger-free society, Debt-free kisan, Worry-free middle class. 3.5 crore families to benefit from income tax exemption for incomes up to Rs. 3 lakh p.a. Student loans at 4%. Advani for PM. www.lkadvani.in
  • Har school jaane wali balika ko lakhpati banane wali LADLI LAKSHMI YOJANA par karenge amal. Advaniji ki shapath. http://www.lkadvani.in
  • BJP’s JAI JAWAN JAI KISAN JAI VIGYAN promise. Longstanding demands of our brave Armed Forces to be met. Farm loans at 4%. Road and broadband connectivity to all villages. 1.2 crore IT-enabled jobs in rural areas. Advani for PM. www.lkadvani.in

Need I say more??? These are just few samples, I have definitely received a lot more messages to attain a reflex reaction of pressing the DELETE button as soon as I see the sender as “TA-BJP” now.

Suggestion: BJP campaign team, good to see your aggressive strategies but please introduce some section on your website for consumers to unsubscribe from receiving these messages. Permission is the KEY for certain medium! Also would be good if you can post some anecdotes on your website about execution of any of these promises. Will help in establishing some credibility towards your SMSes!


Political Advertising: Indian Politics Reaches Twitter

Whew! Indian Political parties are on twitter now… While I was already chating about change in campaign strategy of Indian politicians this time, here I observe some other interesting & noticeable updates:

  • BJP on Twitter: Yeah BJP has really gone ahead of Congress as far as online strategies are concerned, you go anywhere online & you just can’t ignore BJP’s ads or L.K.Advani messages. And now they are on the latest micro-blogging fad – Twitter too! Not only they are present but they are tweeting quite regularly both by posting their updates as well as interacting with followers. Have a look on some of their latest updates, updates do look promising enough.



  • Congress on Twitter: Till now I have not observed Indian Congress Party formally present on twitter, yes but SM Krishna (candidate from Bangalore) has definitely joined twitter now. He says he has done this to interact with net savvy Bangaloreans!

Well, all interactions & communications on internet with today’s generation are fine but I again wonder – do all these political parties really understand their image amongst Indian Youth? As mentioned in my previous post it’s a welcome change to see such aggressive new age political campaigning in India but don’t you think that these are simply marketing gimmicks? Will they really act on their promises or will these remain as just promises once the elections are over? How much can marketing help them when the core product itself is not good? Would be good to know it from the readers of this post – do you really believe in current communications sent out by any of these parties? Personally speaking as a marketer I like their campaign & appreciate their effort but as a consumer, these communications are not impacting me much as somehow don’t have that trust left on the product itself.

“Jai Ho” vs.” Bhay Ho”

While Congress was quick enough to take rights & create a video out of much acclaimed song “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire but quicker was the counter strategy from BJP to come out with another video based on the same song. And I must say I loved this video! Truly marvelous & strikes straight within! This video titled “Bhay Ho” speaks something like –  “Aaja aaja voter is jhanse ke tale, aaja jhote moote vaade ke tale, BHAY HO”.

What a competitive attack! Though BJP says that they have not officially released this video & it’s some party supporter who has sent this video to them but I think it’s one of the smartest counter campaigns against any competitor in Indian Politics. It’s surely an interesting case study for new age Indian Political Advertising & if it’s really done by a common man, then I think BJP should immediately look at hiring the man behind this video in their promotional team. Have a look on it, I definitely had a laugh watching this video.



Advaniji goes further aggressive on digital medium!

I had earlier written about Advaniji getting net savvy and his portal www.lkadvani.in. But looks like humare neta, Advaniji toh internet space mein super aggressive ho rahe hai :D. Ah he is not leaving any stone unturned to reach out the online Indian citizens. Here are some developments which I observed recently from Advaniji and his campaign promotion teamJ

  • Blog: Like everybody and anybody on this earth, even L.K. Advani has decided to have his presence on blogosphere. His blog http://blog.lkadvani.in/ got launched in Jan’09 & supposedly Mr. Advani is blogging personally on this space. Well, posts are good but don’t think he is writing it himself. Fan following of his blog seems to be ok with each post having on an average 100+ comments. No, I don’t mean 100+ comments is less but kya karein, celebs like BigB and Aamir Khan have set a very high bench-mark for popular personality blogs with each of their posts receiving on an average 1000+ comments.
  • Online Advertisement / SEM: Oh this was truly a surprise for me, I noticed 2-3 sites as well as Google sponsored search displaying L.K.Advani portal ads. And yeah quite an extensive keyword listing they have done for these ads, you type any election related keyword & you get to see these ads. Impressive isn’t it?


  • Emailer campaigns: Personally I have not received this email but one of my associates was mentioning that after pre-recorded voices now people are doing email blasts as part of political advertising. He received an email with subject as invitation from L.K.Advani to visit his portal www.lkadvani.in

Well, I am neither a big supporter of BJP nor I am active into Indian Politics scenario. Most of the times I find it to be so dirty that I prefer to have my involvement limited to reading or watching just headlines and that too not because of any interest but only to be updated about the latest happenings. Having said that, I do find this initiative of BJP a good move and sort of positive change in Indian Politics. At least they are trying to connect to the newer generation; at least they are taking some effort to reach out to educated mass. Wondering if it is Obama effect or the Social media effect on his campaign management team but whatever it is, I must say it is a welcome change J.

Pappu Vote Nahi Karta: Delhi Elections 2008

While surfing some news channel yesterday, got a glimpse of the ad, “Pappu Vote Nahi Karta”. It’s a film by Elections Commission to attract voters for its Delhi Election on 29th November’08. Somehow it caught my attention as it was sort of different from the normal government or political campaigns. Instead of being preachy it was bit youthful, instead of being drab it was bit catchy and instead of looking like those same old social awareness government ads it looked bit new. Maybe it was that very famous song “Pappu can’t dance” or the animation or those vibrant color schemes or that last sentence – Delhi’s latest fashion statement, which made it look so. And the ad was clearly targeted towards youth. Well, looks like all the political advertisements this year are targeted towards the younger crowd and first time voters.

Low voter count has been a big problem in most of the elections and it’s mostly the current generation youngsters who don’t bother about voting and such elections at all. In fact, as per a recent statistics, voter count has seen a steep declining curve in last few years – in 1993, approx 66 per cent of the electorate voted for the state’s first assembly in Delhi. In 1998, the percentage went down drastically to only 49!!!  And in 2003, it declined further with only 47 per cent voting in the third assembly election. Let’s see what’s the count in 2008? With campaigns like “Pappu”, which is not only being shown in television rather at important public places in delhi, Election Commission hopes to get a higher voter turnout on 29th Nov’08. It’s good to see youth targeted and newer kinda messages from Electoral Officer and hope to see some increased % of voters this time in Delhi. Those who have not seen this film can check it out here:


Youtube link in case the film is not opening here: http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=crnJw938TFo

Political Advertising: Advaniji on web!

Just last week itself, I wrote about Political Advertising in India for 2009 elections and here comes another surprise of the same. Now after celebrities it’s the turn of Politicians looking up to the mighty web world. Joining the league is none other than L.K. Advani whose website http://www.lkadvani.in/ got launched on his 81st birthday on 8th Nov’08. BJP launched this website for their Prime Minister candidate Advani with an objective to reach out to the young and first time voters in India. As per BJP, this is the first website of its kind by an Indian Political party and is yet another step towards reinforcing the forward looking and futuristic attitude of their party.

The site opens up with an intro note and welcome message by L.K. Advani and is available in two different languages – Hindi and English. It’s an interactive website with loads of photos, videos, speeches and forums wherein visitors can participate and post their comment / suggestion / grievances. Overall the site looks neat and very 2.0 types except for the first landing page after home page. I think it’s too boxy, maybe they could have used some tabs and made it less cluttered. But content wise I liked the site. In fact to be honest I never expected it to be this deep esp. their “issues” blog section…quite nice and interesting posts there, though I think there should have been a section for users’ comments on each of these posts in order to make it truly interactive. I’m sure they have not allowed comments to avoid nuances and mud-slinging by opposition parties but then if you want it be interactive you need to provide the facility of comments and expressions, see some cool examples of Bollywood celebs like Big B or Aamir Khan. The forums allow posting and comments but as of today I don’t see much participation from external people over there. The home page content is definitely getting updated as I can see a difference between yesterday’s and today’s content, have a look at the scrn-shot:


Overall a neat website and considering the fact that most of the first time and young voters are digital natives it’s definitely a good step and modern approach towards reaching out to Indian youth. It’s good to know that Indian Prime Minister candidates are going high-tech, but wondering is it their own thought or is it Obama effect 🙂?

Also my fundamental question about Political Advertising in India remains the same – is it worth spending so much money before the elections in communication campaigns when most of the Indians know the realities of Indian Political scenario? It’s good to see such interactive platforms getting launched but is BJP going to take any step to solve the real-time issues or grievances being posted on the website or will these just remain as comment counters to prove that the website was a successful strategy with X number of comments and Y number of hits in Z number of days? Will it actually help in a building a “Strong, Prosperous and Self-Confident India” or will it end in just being yet another marketing gimmick?



Political Advertising

In this season of advertising and mass media budget cuts, it definitely rings a bell if you suddenly listen about any campaign having a budget as high as 150 crores! Yeah, such budgets are still there and that too in India for advertising campaigns of just 2-3 months duration.

Recently read that Congress has hired Crayons for their communications campaign for 2009 election and as per the industry sources campaign budget is estimated to be Rs. 150 crores. Crayons is the same agency which has worked on lots of other political campaigns including BJP’s 2004 election campaign, 2003 Rajasthan Elections campaign, Delhi Government’s “Badalti Tasveer Dilli Ki Aapke Liye” campaign and Tourism Industry’s Incredible India campaign for the whole of Europe. Following the course of Congress is BJP whose account has been given to an agency called Hive. And interesting thing is even BJP’s overall budget for the communication campaign is estimated to be Rs. 150 crores! Well, BJP’s budget had to be this or more, isn’t it? As per figures quoted, overall spend in forthcoming election campaign by Congress and BJP is going to be over Rs. 300 crores. This is definitely some money, in fact 300 crores is far more than the annual advertising spend of some very known FMCG giants in India. I’m sure for advertising agencies the forthcoming election campaign is going to be an interesting assignment both from commercial as well creative perspective.

But one thing keeps pinging my mind – from where do all these money come for just building brand image of these political parties? Isn’t 300 crores huge sum of money to be wasted in communications during election campaign esp. when we all know the realities of Indian Political parties be it Congress of BJP or any XYZ? Whole year they don’t do anything and when the time of election comes then they think of communicating their message! Wish they could have spent such money in genuine developments and upliftment work then maybe they need not spend such money in building their brand. Doing any communication campaign is perfectly alright but just communicating false promises with no end result is rubbish and sheer waste of money.