Nail-biting for politicians, but win-win 2014 for ad agencies

Written by Lalitha Srinivasan | Mumbai | Updated: Feb 11 2014, 06:33am hrs
PollThe BJP is still scouting for advertising agencies for its poll campaign. Reuters
A year in which Lok Sabha elections are held means big business for a lot of sectors. But the juiciest contracts, running into hundreds of crores, go to advertising and public relations agencies. And, just as politicians brace themselves to appease voters, the honchos at ad agencies strategise on how to pitch for that lucrative deal as polls near.

How big is this election from the ad industry perspective can be gauged by a simple set of figures. If the 2009 elections saw a total spend of Rs 500 crore, the 2014 polls will see at least around Rs 2,000 crore being spent on ad campaigns.

The Congress alone plans to spend around Rs 500 crore for its poll campaign. The party has allocated Rs 400 crore for its mass media ads, which include, television, print, radio, outdoor and digital and around Rs 100 crore for on-ground activities. Agencies that have bagged the Congress contract are JWT India, Dentsu India and Taproot. A high-voltage television and radio campaign highlighting the governments initiatives and achievements has already been kicked off.

The BJP is still scouting for advertising agencies for its poll campaign, while the cynosure of all eyes, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), is understood to be planning social media campaigns and on-ground campaigns through its in-house teams and volunteers. It has already created Facebook pages for different districts in India.

The campaigns for each district will revolve around the issues faced by people in different districts, said a party spokesperson.

Another big thing this election year is the use of digital media, which includes social media, mobile and internet ads. As Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and national creative director at Ogilvy India,says, Social media is todays media. I think all parties will focus on this medium to woo voters across the country. Incidentally, multinational ad agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather do not pitch for political ad accounts as a policy.

Like Pandey, R Balakrishnan, chairman & chief creative officer of Lowe Lintas & Partners, strongly believes that digital media will play a huge role in poll ad campaigns this year. Primarily, political parties will opt for mobile advertising to connect with a diverse target audience. Compared to poll advertising in the 2009 elections, there will be a huge difference this year as parties will bet big on digital media, he feels.

Sharing similar sentiments, Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman of McCann Worldgroup India, says new media communication such as mobile ads and social media will play a very significant role during the general elections this year.

There will be a mix of digital media communications to grab the attention of voters. In 2009, the digital media was sparingly used by political parties, he adds.

Pratap Suthan, the man behind the India Shining ad campaign and managing partner of Bang In The Middle, says there is going to be a huge shift in digital advertising this year. I think every party worth its weight is spending money on digital mediums. This is where popular conversation and influences are created. If the parties arent here and spending money, the party is over for them, he adds.

KV Sridhar, chief creative officer, India subcontinent, Leo Burnett, says five years ago, the digital media spend was negligible while it is going be sizeable in Lok Sabha elections this year. Social media advertising will rule the roost in the general elections in 2014. Digital medium is very cost-effective, as political parties get feedback immediately. Today, young people are mainly consuming information on the net. Like O&M, Leo Burnett is also not handling any political accounts.

Interestingly, Sridhar has just joined the Aam Aadmi Party. At a personal level, I can offer advice and help to AAPs poll campaigns, he says.