Marketing for a political candidate or a party is as important as it is for any brand or product/service. Candidate and parties market themselves to make the voting population aware of — who are they, what have they done, what will they do or just promise to do and never really do.
General elections in India are beginning from April 11 and will run until May 19th. The Election Commission of India has termed the upcoming elections as “देश का महा त्योहार” in an effort to make voters aware of their right to vote and encourage them to vote and more importantly without influence.
These elections are held on a 5 year interval in general circumstances. General elections in 2014 witnessed a voter turnout of 62.5% but this year the ECI is targeting a turnout of more than 75% and making every move possible to get voters to vote. Let’s take a look at the marketing activities by the political parties and candidates for the upcoming elections.
The current ruling party is BJP or Bharatiya Janata Party which made the government with majority votes and without any coalition. And the biggest opposition party is INC or Indian National Congress which has been in active politics since the time of Independence. This election however, there are only two major political forces. PM Narendra Modi led BJP on one side vs the Mahagathbandhan on the other consisting of a coalition of Congress, BSP, TMC etc without any clear indication of who their face for PM would be.
This being said, although everybody is spending a lot of marketing themselves and their efforts, BJP seems to be way ahead in these waters. Most used channels are TV Broadcast, OOH, Print Media like Newspapers & Magazines and then Digital.
The ruling party has been using all the marketing channels since long to market their schemes and achievements, while the opposition hasn’t had that advantage. But the marketing activities by all the contenders got accelerated by 4th quarter of 2018 when BJP lost three of it’s important states to Congress in the legislative assembly elections.
Unlike earlier, social media has been the most used choice for marketing by the parties and candidates. Because of which, to maintain transparency and fair play, all major social media platforms have made it mandatory for paid political ads to carry a disclaimer which contains information about who is running this ad or paying for it. And also made ad library which shows the no of ads running and the amount of money spent on them by the respective handle.
Facebook is the first platform to make this live. The ad archive library and report by Facebook was live by mid February with a report of which page is running ads, how many ads and what amount of money have they spent on those ads.
The above image shows the ads run by pro Narendra Modi pages between Feb’19 to 23rd Mar’19. These pages have run over 10,000 ads costing them around 4 crore rupees. This makes Narendra Modi and supporting pages the highest spender on Facebook for political ads .
Following suit post Narendra Modi is Naveen Patnaik, CM of Odisha and BJD leader with second highest cumulative spending on facebook for ads.
Compared to facebook, the spending has been less on other platforms like Twitter and Google Marketing Platform. Also they have not yet made the ads archive live because of which the ads running by the parties and candidates are not transparent.
The platforms need a pre-certification by ECI or by Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) to be eligible to run political ads. However facebook as a platform is taking a lot of steps to make political campaigning on facebook better with added initiatives. Initiative like Issues and Candidate videos helps the candidate to tell to their audience the topics of importance that they want to talk and focus on.
Candidate videos are short 20 sec vertical videos via which the candidate can address his audience and introduce him and his aims. Other tools such as Constituent badges and town hall are not yet live for Indian audience.
Whatsapp has also doubled down on it’s efforts to curb spreading of fake news during election time. They recently launched their second leg of this with a “Share Joy, Not Rumour” campaign.
Every year the ECI chalks out a Model Code of Conduct which guides about the activities that the candidates and parties can conduct before and during the election. In light of this, a similar thing for social media was necessary. Hence social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook — in sync with the IAMAI (Internet Mobile Association of India) has put out a ‘Voluntary Code of Ethics’ dedicated to the upcoming elections.
But this has been declared just a few days back when there is hardly a month left for elections to begin and enforcing all that’s mentioned looks a little difficult and might make advertisers a little unhappy by getting in way of letting them run ads. Nevertheless, it’s a good start. This use of social media for election campaign here, could very well be a case study to read and learn from.
Now we just have to wait and watch the results when they come. I’m sure it’d be an interesting outcome.
PS: I’m adding bits and pieces to this as this is a very vast topic and i feel i might have missed a few parts. Feel free to rope in suggestions and your observations below..