Ranjan Bargotra, president, Crayons Advertising Ltd . Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint

A veteran at political ad campaigns, Crayons has in the past handled campaigns for the Bharatiya Janata Party, Samajwadi Party and Akali Dal. Unlike commercial campaigns, political campaigns require the ability to respond immediately to new situations, says Crayons president Ranjan Bargotra, referring to how the agency had to change its game plan in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks.

Using a mix of traditional and new media to reach out to rural India as well as urban youth, Bargotra tells Campaign what won them the coveted Rs150 crore Congress account and how the campaign has evolved at a time of recession and the Mumbai attacks. Edited excerpts:

How did Crayons fend off rival pitches from agencies such as Rediffusion Y&R, Percept Holdings, Madison, JWT and Mudra to win the Congress account?

It was our understanding of political campaigns that probably gave us an edge over other agencies. We have been the agency for BJP’s assembly elections for the past two years as well as for the Samajwadi Party and Akali Dal party. In addition, we have worked with the state governments of Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab before, so that came in handy as we clearly have a good understanding of the communication necessary to reach out to the masses. Also, communicating in Hindi is our strength and as people may have seen, a lot of our communication for (the) Congress was in this language as it helps people connect to the campaigns immediately.

What was the Congress party’s brief to you?

There was not one single brief, it was different for different states. For example, in Delhi, where (the) Congress is the governing party, we had to highlight the governance for the past 10 years and pointed out the achievements and progress made by the government, while in Rajasthan, where (the) Congress is in opposition, we had to show what was left to be done and how (the) Congress will do it. The end objective was, of course, to win the elections.

How did Crayons execute the campaign?

We were prepared with the work and the vision was clear but we were dealing with a tight time frame. So this, of course, meant we had to work overtime and sometimes overnight.

Also, you must remember that even though we had the campaign in place, things change on a daily basis and we have to suddenly turn everything around and deliver a new message in a matter of hours by addressing the issue or responding to what our competition has done. The Mumbai attacks, for instance, changed the campaign plan completely.

We came out with an advertisement on 28 November that condemned the attacks, but unlike our competition, we didn’t capitalize on that. In fact, we pulled out our advertisements planned for the last day because it would be in bad taste as the country was dealing with a terrorist attack.

How was the Rs150 crore budget allocated among the various media platforms?

While I cannot disclose our exact break-up, print took up about 50% of the spends and digital media, where we were very aggressive this year, was about 5%. We used TV very judiciously and the rest of the money went on outdoor, cinema, radio, among others.

What did the Congress do differently this time?

Congress was very active on the Internet—we were present on almost every popular website such as MSN, Rediffmail, Indiatimes, social networking sites, among others. While the content remained the same, the quality was much better this year and our approach was very clear—we wanted to retain dignity in our communication and simply tell voters to see for themselves the progress that has been made with (the) Congress as their governing party.

Will the Mumbai terror attacks lead to an increase in advertising for the Lok Sabha election?

We are going to wait and watch. Let the results for the assembly elections come in first and then we will decide the approach to the Lok Sabha elections.