New Delhi: In a little over a month, the government has spent nearly 40 crore on advertising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or Clean India mission.

The programme, launched by Modi on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on 2 October, has already cost 23.5% of the total advertising budget of 170 crore allocated to the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) for this fiscal year, said a person familiar with the expenditure on the campaign.

Spending on the promotion of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan will increase as the government releases more ads, including television commercials, to promote sanitation and an end to open defecation. At least one new promotional campaign will be released every month until the end of this fiscal year as part of the planned ad blitz for the country’s biggest cleanliness drive.

MIB has launched six commercials on the programme, including an ad film by advertising agency Grey Group India, two partly animated videos by Akash Deep Films, a New Delhi-based production house, and three radio anthems, including Swachh Bharat ka irada kar liya hum ne (we have pledged to make India clean) composed by lyricist Prasoon Joshi.

“Our positioning was based on the simple human behaviour that although we keep our houses clean, we don't keep places outside the houses clean. The average person does not know that it is inappropriate to litter. They take littering for granted," said Sunil Lulla, chairman and managing director, Grey Group India.

The central idea of the campaign launched last week is to shame offenders littering the streets or urinating in the open. In the ad, an offender is jeered by people who are witness to his behaviour.

The large-scale communication initiative on the programme, scheduled to end in 2019, the 150th birth anniversary year of Mahatma Gandhi, could prove to be lucrative for advertising agencies associated with it in future.

The spending is likely to increase as more commercials on television and in print are rolled out by the government. “The strategy is to continuously refresh the communication," said Lulla.

Lyricist Joshi, who is also executive chairman of McCann Worldgroup India, said there was a proposal to create a video to go with the anthem he has written on the clean India mission.

“Since the prime minister wanted children to be involved in this campaign, a major part of my song has been sung by children along with singer Kailash Kher. Now we will use mass media to further this anthem," Joshi said.

Joshi had earlier been engaged by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to write its anthem titled Main Desh Nahi Jhukne Dunga for the Lok Sabha elections promoting Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.

The United Progressive Alliance government, ousted in the April-May general election. spent nearly 143 crore to commemorate the birth or death anniversaries of 15 late leaders the five-year period from 2008-09 to 2012-13, according to data from the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity.

The maximum spending, roughly about a quarter of the 143 crore, was in the name of Mahatma Gandhi. The second and third highest amounts were spent on advertisements to commemorate Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi, Mint reported on 7 November.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a campaign aimed at bringing about a behavioural change, according to the BJP.

“It’s a much higher order effort and requires far greater motivation. These are the initial weeks of the campaign so we need a strong focus on mass media, it’s a trigger for us. The media is the anchor of the programme right now," said G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, national spokesperson for the BJP.

Rao said the expenditure on advertising the programme will not be long-term as the efforts to promote clean India move towards a more societal communication to induce change.

“As the campaign matures, these efforts will move towards community-level programmes in schools and colleges. The frequency and visibility of the campaign will go down," added Narasimha.

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