Polls 2019: Political ad spends expected to be double this time; digital to get big share

BJP, Congress, AIADMK, TDP, Akali Dal, TDS and other regional parties likely to be the big spenders

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Feb 13, 2019 9:39 AM

As the date for the 2019 general elections inches closer, campaigning by political parties has started to gain momentum.

The elections this year look bigger than any festive season when it comes to ad spends. In 2019, political ad spending is expected to be more than double the amount of money pumped by political parties into campaigning five years ago, according to industry insiders.

The big spenders are expected to be BJP, Congress, AIADMK, TDP, Akali Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samith (TDS) and other regional parties.

According to sources in the advertising sector, the average ad spend of the government every year till 2014 was about Rs 600 crore, but this has now crossed Rs 1,000 crore mark annually. “This year, the total government ad spend on publicity is to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore which is going to increase further keeping the general elections in mind,” said a source.

The noticeable part of these ad spends, according to experts, is that a considerable portion of it is going to online platforms.

Speaking about the upcoming elections and how political advertising will shape up, Pankaj Pachauri, Founder & Editor-in-Chief of GoNews and former Communications Advisor to the PMO, said, “This election is going to be more expensive than any American election ever seen in the world. This is because the Indian media has grown phenomenally in the last five years. And mainly, this money will go into regional languages and not in Hindi and English.”

He also stated that a major portion of this spend was going to online platforms.

Explaining this big shift to digital spends and the factors that will drive the overall political ad spend in 2019, Vivek Bhargava, CEO, DAN Performance Group, said, “Thanks to the low data costs and mobile penetration, we will see large number of content (humour, satire, serious etc) being shared through videos this election season. Thanks to Google, now we have WiFi at railway stations. Video consumption has multiplied over the past couple of years. With almost half of Indian population using mobile internet, political parties are bound to spend on digital. If one spent X amount in 2014, I won’t be surprised to see if 10X is spent in 2019.”

“Last general elections saw 3D holographic projection being used by Narendra Modi while he campaigned for the PM post. 2019 will see more use of Augmented Reality as technology has only grown since then. Today, one does not have to constrained himself to just 100 rallies but can do 1000s of them because of technological advancement,” he added.

Shafiulla Sahib, Senior Vice President, Janta Dal (Secular) JDS Karnataka, too believes that political ad spends will increase this year as there are more number of media channels today and prices have skyrocketed.

Explaining how regional political parties are getting aggressive about campaign, he said, “JDS being a regional party and at the helm in Karnataka, we want visibility for every one of our candidates. In many parts of Karnataka, outdoor media like hoardings etc are banned. Hence we are heavily dependent on television. We also rely on print media and in today's digital age, we have also started to consider advertising on several social media platforms.”

Talking about the need to spend on advertising, senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar said, “Publicity is the oxygen of politics. Political advertising is part of the process.”

According to I Venkat, Director, Eenadu Group, the ad spends will go up significantly compared to 2014 as political parties have entered the campaign mode and are trying to reach out to voters before the elections. “The expenditure overall, whether it is TV or print or online, will certainly go up and we will see the heightened activity in spends now.” He also stated that a lot of this growth will be driven by regional parties.

For Mohan Joshi, General Secretary of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC), political ad spends have witnessed a tangible shift since 2014 and that trend is likely to define the campaign landscape in 2019 too.

“Prior to 2014, the ad spends by political parties were driven by Outdoor, Print and TV, but in 2014 we saw digital and social media playing a big role. Now the whole ad spending formula has changed for political parties; it is skewed towards digital and 2019 will be no different. The rise is spends is because the ad rates have changed in the last five years and that explains the big rise in spends."

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