In COVID era, Facebook becomes the new battleground for political wars in Bihar & Bengal

Banning of political ads on Google and Twitter has put Facebook India at the centrestage for most of the digital political advertising in the last three months

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Aug 28, 2020 9:43 AM  | 3 min read

With COVID-related restrictions on public gathering unlikely to go away before the two upcoming state elections in Bihar and Bengal, political parties are roping in all digital guns to reach out to millennials and first-time voters.  

Banning of political ads on Google and Twitter has put Facebook India at the centrestage for digital political advertising in the last three months. Not just Bihar, even Bengal, that goes to polls early next year, has been betting big on political ads on the medium.

As per Facebook India Ad Library, between May 28 and August 25, 2020, 'Banglar Gorbo Mamata' page by APAC spent Rs 31,29,408 on 156 ads. The 'Baat Bihar Ki' page was the second highest spender on the platform in the same period with an expense of Rs26,18,069 on 296 ads. 

The official page of All India Trinamool Congress spent Rs 18,07,566 on 111 ads, followed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spending Rs 9,89,272 in just 18 days. TMC’s Abhishek Banerjee’s official page on Facebook spent Rs 8,51,565 on 54 ads. The official page of the Bihar chapter of Indian National Congress spent Rs 7,01,051 on 1,894 ads in the last three months.

A total of Rs 7,738,564 was spent on digital political ads from West Bengal in the last three months while Bihar spent a total of Rs 5,797,419 in the same period.
According to experts, Bihar election will take spend on digital medium to the next level. “Bihar will set the template for digital campaigns which other states will improvise on in all the other upcoming state elections. The pandemic has fasttracked the movement of political parties going digital for all sorts of propaganda,” said Naresh Arora, Director at creative political digital campaign management company DesignBoxed.

“Facebook has always been the most important tool for digital messaging by political parties, but WhatsApp is also becoming very important. Since WhatsApp is now owned by Facebook it makes the entire package a very lucrative one for campaigners,” Arora said.

While the digital medium has played an important role in all major elections in India in the last half decade, this time around, digital is seeing a more aggressive push. According to experts, political parties and candidates are likely to devote more than 50% of their publicity budget on digital.

If we look at the last one year’s record of political advertising on Facebook, BJP is the highest spender with Rs 46,018,062 spent on 2,676 ads.  The second highest spender is Congress at Rs 18,335,622 on 3,702 ads. The third spot is an allied page of the BJP, My First Vote For Modi, that coughed up Rs 13,842,360 on 7,996 ads.

Media planners, however, see a lot of scope for digital campaigns beyond Facebook as well.“50% of the voters in Bihar are below the age of 35 and their political alligiance can be impressed upon through digital communication. Given the fact that smartphone penetration in Bihar is greater than that of satellite television and newspapers, spending on ads on social platforms is an absolute must. Not just on Youtube and Facebook, but for effective and persuasive communications, pollsters should plug content on OTT platforms as well. Lastly, one of the platforms that’s making digital dominant and indomitable force in Bihar is

e-platform of local dailies. However, to make an impact on voters digitaly is not the complete solution. Influencers of society are still core readers of newsprint and viewers of national and local news channels," said Deepak Sharma, Managing Director, North-Starcom MediaVest Group.

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