New Delhi: The government is expected to spend between ₹ 2,000 crore and ₹ 2,500 crore on advertisements on its social welfare schemes in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, compared to the ₹ 1,286 crore it had spent in 2016-2017 on ads. The Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), the nodal agency of the central government for advertising on behalf of various ministries and organizations funded by the government, had spent ₹ 1,188.85 crore in 2015-16 and ₹ 998.34 crore in 2014-15.
The marketing campaign with the tag line “Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas" was launched late last month and includes radio commercials and digital videos. The ads focusing on roads, electrification and other government schemes can be found on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
“The campaign is important for the party because the general elections are next year and we are trying to inform people about the work done by the Union government in the last four years," said a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “It is an outreach programme to speak to people directly, we have done it consistently for the last four years, but this year we have decided to do it more emphatically. It is the duty and responsibility of every government to keep the people informed," he added.
However, ad industry experts believe that this isn’t the campaign the BJP would go to polls with.
“This is a very manufacturer-centric campaign rather than a consumer-driven one," said Harish Bijoor, brand strategy expert and founder of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., adding that advertising and marketing are competences that the BJP has acquired over time, having now reached a stage where it’s learnt to intelligently look at what’s working for it and what’s not. However, the reason the current campaign doesn’t entirely work is that sahi vikas, or correct development, is not a very tangible, objective or clear idea.
A person close to the BJP who has worked on the party’s campaigns in the past confirmed that the saaf niyat slogan will soon be replaced.
“The formal advertising will continue to be centered on development issues consistently and the progress made in the last four years. This will be accompanied by messaging on social media and WhatsApp groups," the person said on condition of anonymity, adding that the Ayodhya verdict due later this year may become an anchor for the campaign.
Older voters who have possibly witnessed years of Congress rule, will continue to be the target group, which explains the use of children even in the current advertisements to talk about the party’s accomplishments and the change in citizens’ lives.
“The BJP looks to the young voter quite a bit who will eventually convince all the older people in the family," Bijoor explained. “It also believes the past has been bad and it is creating a future for India which will be good. This (showcasing of children) is an intelligent thing to do because every home has a child whose future everyone wants to invest in even if their own life has gone by."
To be sure, no one media will be able to help the BJP cater to India’s complex landscape. While mass media will help set a tone for the 2019 elections, more localized communication will be required closer to the polls.
“We are likely to see majority of their investment on TV as the mass aggregator followed by print," said Shekhar Banerjee, managing partner, Wavemaker India. “While social, and overall digital, will be more driven by their strong influencer network, times have changed and the party needs to back it with a very strong social listening machinery as it will not have the first mover advantage like 2014."