The Lok Sabha election results are out and the verdict has overwhelmingly been in Congress’ favour. India’s two biggest parties – the Congress and the BJP – had embarked in a high decibel political ad campaign prior to the polls. exchange4media asks some of India’s top ad honchos on what they thought worked for Congress and soured things for the BJP.
It may be recalled that IMRB had undertaken a study recently to test the political ads released by the Congress and BJP. The study had found that on an average, the Congress ads were liked more by 74 per cent of the target group, while the BJP ads were liked better by 54 per cent. The four ads selected for the study were BJP’s ‘Bhay Ho’ and ‘Dishayein’ campaigns, and Congress’s ‘Jai Ho’ and ‘Kadam’ campaigns. Of all the four ads, Congress’ ‘Jai Ho’ was liked best by 76 per cent of the TG, while BJP’s take on Congress’ ‘Jai Ho’, called ‘Bhay Ho’, simply did not work.
Prathap Suthan, NCD, Cheil Communications, said, “The country voted for ability, stability and security. The Congress was non-controversial and looked more mature. They weren’t trying to put down another party. Congress’ view was how to take the country ahead. Whereas in the BJP, there was no one who gave a feel of leadership in country. Apart from LK Advani, no other person was focused in the campaign. The Congress campaign was all about that how it will fight the current problems in the country and was related to the common man.”
KV Sridhar, National Creative Director, Leo Burnett India, said, “Regarding political advertising, I feel traditional advertising is a very small bit in the mix. Mass media will not make any difference. What they are saying to people in media and to the ‘aam janta’ makes a difference. The Congress kept on talking about ‘aam aadmi’ in its campaign and there was nothing controversial about it. Another campaign – ‘Bharat Nirman’ – highlighted what role each ministry had played in the development of the country. Another good campaign was ‘Har Kadam aam aadmi ke saath’. They spoke about the needs of the common people. The biggest strength was the shift from ‘garibi’ (poverty) to the aspirations of the common man. The BJP had no new mandate to offer. They started blaming Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. People respect him a lot and he has done a lot of good for the country. People will not like negative campaigns about him.”
Amitava Mitra, Senior VP, PerceptH, noted, “The consistent campaign of Bharat Nirman worked for the Congress. It was a factual-based campaign and told the people about the programmes undertaken by the Government.”
Satbir Singh, Chief Creative Officer, Euro RSCG, opined, “My view is that the Congress has provided a stable government. There has been some legacy in the past five years, which has continued. Congress’ campaign ‘Congress ka haath aam aadmi ke saath’ sent out a positive message. While the ‘India Shining’ campaign is still remembered, the BJP’s campaign this time has been more reactive than proactive. When the Congress did the ‘Jai Ho’, the BJP came up with the ‘Bhay Ho’ campaign. The BJP might have scored some points, but it didn’t work with the people. BJP’s ‘Majboot neta’ is a manufactured claim. The people never believed what the party’s campaign said.”
According to Ranjan Bargotra, President, Crayons Advertising, “There are no ways to find out which campaign worked or not. Campaign plays a significant yet limited role and it is performance that communicates it back to the people. What we do is to deliver the message to the common man. The work has to be based on performance.”
Jitender Dabas, Vice President & Strategic Planning Director, JWT, said, “Did the Congress’ ads help them in winning the elections? Yes. Our campaign did manage to persuade the electorate that the Congress was the best choice for them. Political advertising is about progressive persuasion leading to choice. Political messaging, therefore, needs to be tested not necessarily traditional measures of recall and likeability, but more the trustworthiness/honesty of the message and perception change that the messages bring about. We were tracking the effect of our campaigns as well as BJP’s campaign on these key parameters. We clearly had seen much higher scores our campaign was delivering on these key parameters across various voter segments.”
Dabas further said, “Different voter segments have differing motivations to choose the same political entity. The strategic spread of our campaign ensured that it gave every voter segment his/her definitive reason to choose the Congress. Our messaging was honest and earnest and not jingoistic and loud. More than recall and likeability, the Congress campaign scored much more highly on trust worthiness and honesty. In the current political environment that’s what struck a chord with the electorate.”
Did BJP ads work negatively for them? Dabas said, “Voter research told us during the Delhi elections that negative political advertising done by the BJP was not liked by the electorate and it had got reflected in the Delhi Assembly results. So, I guess while campaigns like ‘Bhay Ho’ might get eyeballs and generate some recall, they do not work at all as a message of persuasion with the Indian voter.”
Congress scores over the BJP in political ads: IMRB Study