Parties' poll moves on radio: Kejriwal, Modi rule the airwaves

Though print, OOH & TV still see a lion's share in terms of media ad spends, radio has emerged as an important medium in these elections. A look at how BJP, AAP & Congress are leveraging the radio medium

e4m by Abhinna Shreshtha
Updated: Apr 24, 2014 8:07 AM
Parties' poll moves on radio: Kejriwal, Modi rule the airwaves

As the 16th Lok Sabha elections enter the sixth phase today, April 24, 2014, the three main political parties – BJP, AAP and INC (Congress) – are aggressively pursuing all available media to spread their message and steal a march on their rivals. Though traditional media such as print, OOH and TV still see the lion’s share in terms of media ad spends, radio has emerged as an important medium in these elections.

Vineet Singh Hukmani, MD, Radio One observed, “They (political parties) have discovered the true power of radio. They have realised that it is a cost-effective medium, which creates a big impact.” As per estimates, of the total ad spends by political parties, almost Rs 48 crore-Rs 50 crore have been spent on radio. This is a big hike from the miserly Rs 8 crore (approx) that was spent in 2009.

So, what has changed this time? The ad spots have gotten longer, for one. “This time, it seems that all the parties and candidates have done their homework. We have seen some very smart buying. They know exactly what they want and how radio can help them,” Hukmani added. Also, with the Lok Sabha elections coming close on the heels of Assembly elections in many states, most parties have had long-running radio campaigns, which further improve reach and impact.

exchange4media takes a look at how the three main political parties have approached their radio campaigns for these elections.

Though the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) might lack the financial muscle of the BJP and the Congress, it has still set aside a budget for mass media campaigns. For a party with national ambitions, just on-ground activities would have hardly sufficed, and the AAP leadership was quick to understand it. The party already has a strong presence in the digital and social media space and it seems that it identified radio as a cost-effective medium to reach out to the populace. Unlike the other parties, AAP has not hired any professional agency and all its creative work is done on ad hoc basis. On the radio front, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal makes an impassionate speech explaining the reasons behind dropping out of the Delhi Government after 47 days. What is good about the ad spot is that it addresses an issue that has been considered a black mark against the party. Also, AAP has refrained from talking about corruption and the other issues that it otherwise brings up.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might have entered the marketing game later than the Congress, but the party has done it with a professionalism that will leave many MNCs envious. For its radio campaign, the party seems to have adopted a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, there are voiceover commercials with the “common man” berating the current government on various issues – from unemployment and electricity to water supply, among others. The second series has Narendra Modi speaking about his vision for the country. Then there are the “Achchhey Din Aane Waley Hain” series of ads, which run on both TV and radio. By combining current issues with a futuristic approach, the BJP’s radio campaign smartly plays on both concerns. The party got professional help to pen an ‘anthem’ for its campaign, called “Saugandh”. However, the anthem seems to focus more on Modi (who also provides the voiceover in the radio version).

The BJP and AAP’s decision to use Modi and Kejriwal, respectively, for their radio campaigns is a sign of how the approach of political parties towards radio has changed, points out Hukmani. “Who would have thought that we would hear Arvind Kejriwal speak on the radio for more than a minute?” he asked.

The ruling party has not had the best of times these elections. With no prime ministerial candidate announced yet, creating ads promoting a particular individual was never an option. The party might have used Rahul Gandhi as the centre point of its campaign, as was done during the outdoor campaign, but the party has stayed away from using the same strategy on radio (apart from the “Har Haath Shakti, Har Haath Tarakki” series earlier this year). The Congress has created a series of commercials, once again featuring the “common man”, but this time highlighting the progress made in various areas by the government. We would have liked the Congress to show a little more imagination in its campaign.

Media reports speculate that the BJP has spent around Rs 25 crore on radio spots, as compared to the Congress’ approximate spends of Rs 20 crore. Considering that the Congress has identified the non-urban and rural electorate as its target, it seems a bit strange that it would not focus more on radio, which is considered a strong local medium.

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