IT’S the election season in Delhi and the air waves are crackling with promises, potshots and counterattacks. Listening to the radio spots released by the three main parties in the fray – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by its chief minister designate Kiran Bedi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by former CM Arvind Kejriwal and the Congress which hasn’t yet formally announced its chief ministerial candidate —as you drive down to work, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s a war zone in the city, but then perhaps it is.
For radio stations, political campaigns are the icing on the cake. The Delhi radio market is worth about Rs 360 crore; this year radio companies expect to earn an additional Rs 15-20 crore from political ads in the run-up to the Delhi polls on February 7. In the last Delhi assembly elections, the BJP spent around Rs 4.5 crore on radio advertising. This time, AAP and BJP are expected to spend Rs 6-8 crore each on radio ads, while Congress is spending Rs 3-4 crore. The rates for ad spots have gone up 25-50% in the run-up to the polls with Radio Mirchi, Red FM, Radio City and BIG FM asking for Rs 1200-1500 for each spot, while the rest are charging Rs 600-1000, says a senior media planner who declined to be named. As of now, each channel is airing 40-50 political commercials every day (Delhi has eight private and three government-owned stations). “Thanks to the Delhi assembly polls, radio players have had a good run so far. For the same fixed point chart (FPC), radio operators in Delhi have seen at least a 25% increase in their advertising revenue. After the last Assembly polls where one of the parties heavily relied on radio to win the election, this time political parties have taken the medium rather seriously and are utilising it to its maximum potential,” said RS Suriyanarayan, associate vice-president, Initiative Media, a global communications network within IPG Mediabrands.
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For political parties keen to reach out to the voters in the capital, FM radio is the perfect vehicle to spread the message with two crore listeners tuning in every day. For a compact state such as Delhi with a homogenous population, radio is able to spread the message effectively, especially among the lower middle class. This has seen political parties pouring in money into their radio campaigns. While 90% of radio listeners tune in through the mobile, about 5% of the listenership is out-of-home, i.e, they are tuning in while commuting to and from work.
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“Delhi market (NCR) is the biggest and perhaps the most buzzing FM radio market of the country both in terms of listenership and in terms of advertising potential. We all know the spread of this city and the amount of time we spend on the road commuting daily – both weekdays and during weekends. Radio is a constant companion both for the young listener through the phone and the older counterpart travelling in cars. It is a big background media in most households during large day parts,” said Vivek Modi, regional director, north and east, Radio Mirchi.
The advertising industry, meanwhile, is celebrating the ad blitzkrieg on radio. For Naresh Gupta, chief strategy officer, and managing partner, Bang in the Middle, political parties have really redefined advertising on radio. “There are some outstanding campaigns on air on radio currently. While the BJP and the Congress are following a template which gives a peek into their strategy, it is the AAP which has outshined its competitors.
The BJP has taken the fight straight into the opposition camp with its radio spots taglined ‘Chalo chale Modi ke saath (let’s go with Modi). In one of the ads, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a booming voice starts out comparing the elections to your favourite mobile app which helps you choose between a cheap product (read AAP) and a high performance one (read BJP). In another ad, Kiran Bedi talks about how Narendra Modi has chosen her to fulfill his vision for Delhi. Soho Square, an agency owned by WPP Group, which was behind the party’s 2014 Lok Sabha ad campaign, has created these spots while Madison World is the media planning agency.
In contrast, one AAP spot has Arvind Kejriwal reminding people of Decemeber 28, 2013 when he took oath as the chief minister of Delhi. “When AAP came to power, it was you, the common people, who came into power,” he says and “falling short of a full majority by a few seats, we could not fulfill all our promises”. He ends by exhorting Delhi citizens to give AAP full majority his time round so that it can complete all the unfinished work. That ad perhaps came in response to a BJP ad which had a woman chastising Kejriwal for resigning with 49 days of taking over as Delhi’s chief minister.
AAP was first off the block to use radio as part of its election campaign to reach out to Delhi voters, with Kejriwal himself spearheading the campaign. It is only in the later part of the campaign that the party has started using the voice of the common man to talk about problems such as unemployment, lack of security for women, water scarcity, education and governance woes that voters face and how the party plans to redress them. The latest ad of the AAP has a little girl talking about the poor quality of government schools but how her father cannot afford to send her to a private school. She then talks about Arvind Kejriwal who has promised that if voted to power he will ensure that government schools are at par with private ones. Says Gupta, “If the earlier campaigns of the AAP were irritating, this time the party is coming out with new content on air every second or third day. By offering new content the party is breaking the mould.”
The Congress was the last to come out with its campaign. One of the Congress spot has a woman’s voice saying ‘I am Delhi’ and going on to talk about the many proud landmarks of the city – the flyovers, Delhi Metro, etc. She says that Delhi was on its way to become a world-class city when all the good work were stopped by false promises of the other political parties. The ad ends with her saying: “Congress chune, bhavisya bane (choose Congress to build the city’s future)”. Both the AAP and the Congress campaigns have been created by their respective in-house teams.
If one were to go by these radio campaigns alone, the Congress campaign stands heads and shoulders above the rest. It is perhaps the most balanced, as it talks about issues that the city faces without resorting to any mud-slinging. The BJP spots are a letdown, especially after the brilliant media campaigns organised by the party during the Lok Sabha polls. Modi is the prime crowd-puller and therefore, using him to get the votes is natural. But while he is a superb orator, able to get the people’s pulse with his down-to-earth metaphors and idiomatic Hindi, this time round, it comes across as a theatrical performance. Somehow the gravity is missing. Even the ad where we hear Kiran Bedi speak sounds a little forced. The key to radio ads is making the dialogue sound like natural conversation even as the key copy is delivered. That, sadly, eluded the BJP campaign this time round though the jingle ‘Chalo chale Modi ke saath’ has the natural verve. “It has been an interesting experience for the listeners. Each party is trying out to stand apart from the rest. While one party has opted for an approach which includes a song apart from taking pot-shots at other, another part is riding on emotions. While both the BJP and the AAP have been aggressively defending their turfs, its’ the the Congress party which appears to be on an innovative path,” said Harshad Jain, business head, Fever 104.
The AAP, of course, is in the defensive in this election, and that comes through in its campaigns. Early on, the AAP fell into the trap laid by the BJP when Kejriwal took it upon himself to explain why he had resigned from the chief minister’s post and pleading with the woman heard in the BJP ad to ‘muskura dijiye (please smile)’.