In battleground UP, will news channels be the greatest gainers of 2022 assembly elections?

For political parties, traditional media will still be the mainstay in terms of messaging as it allows them the freedom to control and even dictate the narrative, say experts

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Jul 29, 2021 8:29 AM  | 5 min read
UP Elections 2022

The Uttar Pradesh government has pulled up its marketing game with full-page jacket ads on newspapers to prime time slots on TV. Campaigns like "Irade Nek Kaam Anek" and "Naye Bharat ka Naya Uttar Pradesh" is already trending across platforms.

However, the lion’s share of the political ad budget would be allocated to news media for the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly election 2022, say experts.

According to political analysts, high-intensity debates on news channels across the board will attract big spends from political parties and candidates ahead of the elections. In fact, parties have already started the initial phases of campaigning through news media.

Why is news the preferred medium for communication in UP when it comes to political messaging?

“The first thing that crosses one’s mind when we talk about political advertising is the news genre. The absence of ratings hasn’t really affected the rates of news channels. Media vendors also know that high impact news will bring eyeballs to their channels and hence the rates are not going down in spite of channels not having their usual brag factor of TRPs. The recently concluded West Bengal elections are a clear example and Uttar Pradesh too will follow the same pattern,” said Thulasi Krishnan, VP - Account Management, OMD Mudramax.

“Unlike other markets, UP is a non – media isolatable market. However, I believe despite TV media spillovers, there will be heavy usage of national GEC & News channels to influence the audience. Most part of UP is media dark since 65% of the population resides in rural areas. Free to air channels and DD become all the more important touchpoints for political campaigners,” she added.

However, the focus on news will be more diverse with a more renewed emphasis on cross channel messaging. According to Asheesh Malhotra, Executive Vice President and Branch Head, dentsumcgarrybowen India, a flood of media bucks will be flowing into news channels and newspapers, who are also very digital-focused and mobile-first now.

Malhotra also added that in terms of spends, political parties still lean on the traditional mediums heavily, TV (mainly news channels), Print, Radio and OOH, since aligning with news entities has become a necessity for political parties in India. “And moreover, the narrative can be controlled or even dictated,” he said.

Upping the ante with an increased ad budget

Parties across the board are expected to up their ad spends for Up elections. As per past studies, the UP Polls saw a total of over Rs 5500 crore spent on campaigns in the 2017 elections. “The spend will touch upwards of Rs 10000 crore this time around,” said a political expert.

While news channels have not increased ad rates significantly in the last few months there might be premium inventory sold to political parties and individual candidates during the last legs of campaigning closer to the elections in 2022. As per industry estimates, the cost of a 10-second ad spot in regional news channels as well as on GECs will go by at least 20%-20%.

Similarly, even for print the cost of jacket ads and other prominent positioning ads will go up in the first half of next year especially Hindi newspapers that are read widely across North India. “Hopefully the country will be partially vaccinated by the last quarter of the current fiscal and consumer sentiments will be better than what it is presently. This added to the election period demand will make newspapers increase ad rates too. While government ads are subsidized individual candidates or parties will not paying the premium to be on cover pages of newspapers,” said a media planner with political clients.

Political messaging on digital

While news TV will see aggressive spends, digital publishers and other digital platforms will also see political messaging take over months before the elections in Uttar Pradesh.

According to Malhotra, digital media will be deployed heavily too. “A bulk of it probably does not even get documented. It’s done through many independent groups aligned to the political parties. This trend started in 2014 and continues to grow at a very rapid pace,” he said.

Interestingly Uttar Pradesh with the highest spends in political advertising on Facebook in the last 30 days a number of pages like the Bua Babua page have spent significant amounts. As per Facebook Ad Library, between June 26 and Jul 25, 2021, the page spent as much as Rs 364,017 on ads about social issues, elections or politics. Another page Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar - Uttar Pradesh by spent close to a lakh in just a week. Individual pages too have been spending substantially on Facebook like that of senior BJP leader from UP Dr Mahendra Singh, who has spent Rs 140,352 in the last 7 days.

“Consumers shift to digital platforms has seen political parties also following suit with their marketing budgets. The result has been the percentage of ad spend devoted to online medium has grown significantly,” said Himanshu Arya, Founder and CEO, Grapes Digital. 

“Social media campaigning has grown into a very attractive means of reaching out to potential voters. BJP is one of the largest spenders on political ads when it comes to social media platforms and Yogi Adityanath has a massive following on social media after the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. However, the political messaging has to be very relevant and prominent in their content strategy and keep track of what’s happening. As we go near the election date, the campaign on digital media will become effective to garner reach and engagement, "Arya added.

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