On Sunday, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as the main opposition party, the Congress, unwrapped their campaign slogans for the Lok Sabha election. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP zeroed in on Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar (Modi government once again), Congress has come up with Ab Hoga Nyay (justice will happen).

Both parties are in full poll mode, having unveiled their respective manifestos. Advertising on social media platforms, as well as on radio, is in full swing. Based on ad insertions, AdEx India, a division of TAM Media Research, claims that a bigger chunk of political advertising is going to television–55% in 2019 compared to 48% in 2014.

For now, BJP seems to have an upper hand in terms of sheer media spend to reach out to the voters. Google’s Political Advertising Transparency Report released last week, said BJP spent 1.2 crore in advertising (for 554 ads) on the platform since February, compared to Congress’ 54,100 for 14 ads. The Facebook’s Ad Archive Report said that political advertisers spent 4 crore on Facebook in February, of which, more than half came from BJP and its supporters.

Clearly, BJP is strong in propagating its message, but its slogan Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar sounds repetitive. Sandeep Goyal, a doctorate in human brands and a veteran advertising professional, sees nothing wrong in being repetitive. “It was a kind of default choice for BJP: A second term for the incumbent based on performance is NaMo’s desired outcome. To that extent, Phir Ek Baar is a predictable choice, though not a very creative one," he says.

Indeed, the current BJP slogan appears more as a sequel, which draws heavily on the success of the original Ab Ki Baar Modi Sarkar. “And, as in the last elections, BJP’s campaign relies entirely on one individual’s image and charisma. The party has once again thrown its combined lot behind Modi," says Samit Sinha, brand expert and managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting. However, he feels that slogans don’t win elections, or even marketing battles for that matter. “Without an existing predisposition based on people’s perceptions, slogans ring hollow. However, a catchy slogan does certainly help in reinforcing a pre-existing belief, while serving as a mnemonic for what the entity behind the slogan represents in the minds of people," he adds.

Goyal finds Congress’ Ab Hoga Nyay a bit open-ended. But the slogan has positivity and promise. Plus, it is short and pithy, he says. Sinha deems it clever. For one, it is an acronym for Congress’ Nyuntam Aay Yojana, which it announced as its trump card. Second, it also carries an implicit promise of equitability and social justice. “And lastly, one could also read it as heralding judgement day for the ruling party," he says. But outside of Congress’ core support base, it may influence only those who are convinced of the promise and merits of the NYAY scheme, or fence-sitters who are disenchanted with Modi, he feels.

For now, Modi may be winning the perception battle. “The biggest perception advantage you can build up as a human brand is that of winnability... and of being the likely winner. NaMo oozes that in every communication," feels Goyal, adding that he had the incumbency advantage. Modi utilized the resources of the entire government, which he spent in large measure with the Mumkin-Namumkin report card of his government that he put out before the EC’s model code of conduct came into force. “The entire exercise was focused on presenting him as an action-oriented, development-driven Prime Minister. In the perception battle, NaMo surely outscored all the regional satraps," says Goyal. Besides, he has also upped the promotions game. There’s a web series on him, a film, as well as NaMo TV. “On social media, he dwarfs competition because the BJP has been able to create a cadre-based, shakha-like disciplined army of supporters, agents and volunteers who viralise, like and promote NaMo in a well-orchestrated manner," says Goyal. Sinha agrees. Thanks to its legion of social media warriors, BJP has dominated the space for a few years. “WhatsApp has clearly been the weapon of choice, and it has certainly helped BJP garner the lion’s share of mind," he says.

In fact, in the Congress campaign, the advertising funds crunch is showing. In advertising wars, big budgets are important to stay top-of-mind and get the message across to more people more number of times. “But by no means does a bigger budget guarantee victory, as was proven by BJP’s India Shining campaign of 2004," says Sinha.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff