Parties push digital campaign budgets for Bengal polls

Industry observers say political parties are pushing their digital campaigning budget by at least 30-40% just for Bengal

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Nov 19, 2020 8:19 AM
Poll spends

With Bihar polls coming to an end, the focus of political ads has already moved on. While elections are expected in at least four big states between April and May next year, data shows Bengal will lead the way with digital ad spends.

Digital experts say political parties are pushing their digital campaigning budget by at least 30-40% for Bengal. According to latest numbers in Facebook Ad Library, between November 9 and November 15, ‘Banglar Gorbo Mamata Page’ has turned out to be the highest spender on political ads. The page, handled by a Patna-based political strategist’s consulting firm Indian Political Action Committee I-PAC, has spent Rs 946,897 on 78 ads. The All India Trinamool Congress’s official page on the platform also spent Rs 50,090 on 27 ads.

BJP has also pumped in hefty investments on Facebook, which is presently the only popular social media platform, allowing political advertising. Amar Poribar BJP Poribar, a page created on July 2020 by BJP, has spent as much as Rs 229,333 on 182 ads. In the same period the BJP West Bengal of Facebook spent Rs 52,834 on just 7 ads.

Experts say unlike Bihar, Bengal is a more tech savy state. “In Bihar it was a hybrid election with a mix of digital and mainline campaign where the later was close to 70% of all campaigns. The scene is quite different with Bengal. Incidentally preparations for the election had started in the state way before Bihar elections and digital campaigns would be aggressively used both for political messaging and propaganda against competition,” said political commentator Anup Sharma.

Talking of propaganda, Facebook is also being used to run some parody accounts that heavily invest in political advertising. Khotikarok Modi, a satire or parody account, was one of the top political ad spenders nationally in the last seven days. The page spent Rs 429,237 on 81 ads. As it turns out between February 2019 and mid-Novemeber 2020 the page has spent a total of Rs 3,899,583 on political ads on Facebook.  

While formal and accountable investments are being made by parties and campaigners there are a lot of backdoor investments taking place on the digital medium. Most of these investments are in the form of content offerings.

“A lot of news channels across platforms are being created just to drive home political messaging. A host of channels like The Bengal Owl, Sri Bangla, Rupam TV, Bangodesh and Bharat News are doing the rounds of platforms like YouTube,” said a digital expert working for a political party in Bengal.

The primary reason why digital is a strong focus area in Bengal is because of the youth in the state. As per experts the party wants to bring in a change of rule in the state driving on popularity amongst youth. “The young voters have a digital profile and the BJP has a very strong hold on the medium. It is a fierce battle in Bengal and the BJP will use all their digital aids to convince the youth in the state,” Deepak Sharma, Managing Director, North-Starcom MediaVest Group.

Alongside political ads, parties are also using local and nano influencers in constituencies and more often than not a candidate of a certain constituency is the one creating maximum content that is being popularized on platforms such as Chingari, Mitro and ShareChat.  

“WhatsApp is the still the biggest platform. From memes, hashtags to even GIFs, political parties are leaving no stone unturned to keep the buzz alive on digital media,” said Sharma.

From Bengal only, between November 9 and November 15, 2020 a total of Rs 1,322,625 has been spent on political ads on Facebook. The top spenders in the state were Banglar Gorbo Mamata at Rs 554,218, followed by Amar Poribar BJP Poribar at Rs 229,333,  the parody page Khotikarok Modi a Rs 219,073,  Bharatiya Janata Party at Rs 52,834 and another allied page Modipara at Rs 28,587.

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