With stakes very high for all political parties in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the polls are expected to be the most expensive ever in terms of media and advertising spends, besides being the highly contested, as parties pull out all the stops. While the total advertising spends on general elections this year is expected to be Rs 5,000 crore, the actual figure spent on the elections overall could touch almost Rs 30,000 crore, say experts, if the cost of OOH (out-of-home) and on-ground activities is included. “Rs 5,000 crore is the transparent figure reported by political parties to the Election Commission. But if we include the cost of rallies, transportation, handouts, etc, the real number will be closer to Rs 20,000-Rs 30,000 crore,” says Bindu Balakrishnan, country head, India, DCMN, a full stack marketing company.
Compared to the previous general elections in 2014, there might be much more fervour to political advertising in 2019.
Balakrishnan says according to numbers submitted to the Election Commission in 2009, the BJP and Congress together spent around Rs 790 crore.
In 2014, BJP solely spent around Rs 715 crore on the elections, while the Congress spent around Rs 500 crore. While this was the amount spent on elections overall, at least 50% of this was spent on advertising.
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When it comes to party-wise spends, the ruling BJP alone is expected to spend around Rs 2,000 crore this election, of which Rs 1,000 crore is expected to be government spending on build-up campaigns for the elections, like the Namumkin ab mumkin hai series, which is also Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) major poll campaign tagline for the 2019 general elections. The remaining about Rs 1,000 crore will be spent on political advertising. Mogae Media chairman Sandeep Goyal explains, “As the campaign continues, BJP is likely to spend Rs 1,000 crore on political advertising both at the mass and constituency levels.” This is in addition to Rs 1,000 crore government spending on buildup campaigns. While BJP is expected to spend the most, the Congress might spend Rs 200-250 crore; TMC is likely to be another major spender and may spend close to Rs 100 crore. The key UP players — SP and BSP — are likely to spend Rs 50-100 crore each. The rest of the parties, such as Shiv Sena and Telugu Desam Party, might spend Rs 30-40 crore each on mass media spends, says Goyal.
In fact, experts say the recent state elections have already set the bar high for the upcoming general elections. “From an advertising standpoint, in the recent state elections, parties have doubled their spends as compared to the previous election. Its equivalent is expected in the general elections as well. If not twofold, average election budgets of all major parties could be at least one-and-a-half times higher as compared to 2014,,” says Ashish Sehgal, chief growth officer, advertisement revenue, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL).
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The preferred medium in case of national parties will continue to be television followed by print. However, regional parties might resort to print as their primary medium, followed by television. Across national and regional parties, digital advertising is expected to grow substantially and so are OOH and on-ground activation in the form of plays, etc. “Elections are fought at the local level. While there is no real way to measuring all OOH, around Rs 500-800 crore could be spent on advertising on outdoor in the unreported sector,” says Goyal.
With an aim to tap the youth, digital (including social media) will form a substantial part of the media mix. “Digital is expected to garner 10% share from all parties, which was less 3-4% in the previous elections,” says Sehgal. Of the Rs 5,000 crore likely ad spends on elections, TV and print together may take up 50% share; OOH would be pegged at 20-25%, digital at 15% and the rest would constitute spends on radio.