Mumbai: Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), the country’s largest consumer products maker, is launching an ad campaign urging voters to exercise their franchise in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, becoming the latest advertiser to tap the election fever to connect with consumers.
According to a statement from the company, the campaign, endorsed by the Election Commission, was to go on air on Wednesday on television channels across India.
“We have always carried out our operations with a belief that what is good for India is good for HUL, and see this campaign as an opportunity to engage young Indians for creating a better future,” Hemant Bakshi, executive director at the home and personal care division of HUL, said in an e-mail.
The campaign was born out of an initiative called Lessons in Marketing Excellence (L.I.M.E.), an inter b-school challenge conducted annually by HUL and CNBC TV18.
With the elections around the corner, the four finalists were asked to come up with a plan to tackle voter apathy and ensure an increase in voter participation. The jury panel for the finale was chaired by the chief election commissioner V.S. Sampath.
The winning case study, by students of Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B), highlighted the stark difference between how rural and urban citizens approach elections in a country with more than 800 million voters. Urban voters are more politically apathetic and therefore less likely to vote because they feel disconnected from the political candidates.
Among urban elector reasons such as “too busy to vote”, “don’t care about these candidates”, and “live away from home” were cited as the top reasons for not voting. The voter turnout in last Lok Sabha election across India was around 58.19%, the company statement said.
The campaign was executed under the supervision of senior advertising experts. The project was scripted free of charge by Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, South Asia, Ogilvy and Mather India and R. Balakrishnan, chairman and chief creative officer with Lowe Lintas and Partners.
In a bid to ensure that it resonated with urban first-time voters, the film took on the theme of “voting as a coming-of-age moment”. An official from Election Commission of India said the EC had endorsed a number of voter awareness campaigns in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, including those from not-for profit organizations as well as media houses.
To be sure, Election Commission has found much support for the cause from various quarters, from non-government organizations to social-networking sites, such as Facebook, and advertisers.
For instance, the Delhi-based Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) launched a site called www.myneta.info showcasing an exhaustive online database of about 63,000 contesting candidates. All users have to do is to visit the website and type a politician’s name to instantly get his or her details which include any offences listed against them.
Media companies such as Star India have also launched campaigns through their shows to encourage voter participation while MTV India launched “Rock the Vote” campaign—which focused on the importance of voting.
In September last year, social-networking site Facebook—which has over 82 million Indian citizens registered on it—introduced an option that allows users to announce on their profile pages when they get registered as voters.
Advertisers too have seen merit in joining the cause. Not only does it help for the brand to be associated with a good cause and be seen as a part of the community vying for betterment and change, it also helps them cut through the clutter with election-based themes and imagery in their communication.
Such communication tends to resonate better with consumers who already have politics and the election on their mind. For instance, Tata Global Beverages Ltd launched an initiative under their brand Tata Tea, called Jaago Re—Power of 49 campaign, which was aimed at women voters.
Google India, recently launched a campaign featuring 97-year old retired school teacher Shyam Saran Negi, India’s first voter, from Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh.
Others such as Hero MotoCorp Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd and ITC Ltd’s Sunfeast Yippee noodles, though fleetingly, also use election theme in their campaigns.
“Elections, like cricket, is a box-office hit or bigger when it comes to India. You get to connect with every strata of the society,” said Prathap Suthan, chief creative officer and managing partner, Bang In The Middle.
“For brands, obviously this is harvest time. Everyone is keen, intent, absorbed, since the current elections are far more complicated than ever. It also gives every brand to be in public light, yet not side with any party. Part of the action, but not slanted towards anyone, since you never know who will come to power,” Suthan said.
Anuja contributed to this story.