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Karnataka Polls: BJP spent Rs 300 crore, was among BARC's Top 10 advertisers

16-May-2018
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Karnataka Polls: BJP spent Rs 300 crore, was among BARC's Top 10 advertisers

The Karnataka Assembly election results threw up an unclear verdict, with BJP emerging as the single largest party but still falling short of majority and Congress springing a surprise by quickly proclaiming support to third-placed JDS to stay in power.

While the polls have resulted in a political cliffhanger, the campaigning ahead of the voting was equally exciting, with both BJP and Congress going for aggressive marketing across medium. From the conventional door-to-door campaigning by candidates and full-page banner ads in mainstream papers to social media campaigns, the players did not leave any stone unturned to be out there.

According to media reports, BJP had allocated Rs 300 crore for advertisements (most of which went to print ads) while Congress spent close to Rs 50-60 crore. It was reported that BJP had bought ad space in one of the leading Kannada dailies for Rs 3 crore. Congress and JD(S) reportedly spent Rs 2 crore each for ad space in the same newspaper. 

Also, while BJP took equal interest in putting advertisements (banner ads and otherwise) in English and regional dailies, Congress and JD(S) were more focused on the regional papers. So regional dailies such as Prajavani and Kannada Prabha got a fair bit of attention from both the parties. Also, the space below the masthead in many prominent newspapers was consistently taken up by BJP for about two weeks. 





Meanwhile, the All India Mahila Empowerment Party, which was formed in November, 2017 placed a full-page ad in the Vijay Karnataka. According to media reports, they bought the ad space for Rs 50 lakh, thereby joining the big brothers in terms of media spends.



Lump sum amount was spent on television as well. Talking to exchange4media, Clifford Pereira, Director, TV9 Kannada, gave an estimate.

“The political parties started placing advertisements for the Karnataka elections during the last week of April. BJP took around 70 slots per day for two weeks. These advertisements ran in the channel throughout the day. Congress Party started the advertisements with a very small number of five slots per day. They increased the number to 40 (per day) and finally to 80-100. JD (S) acquired five slots per day for two weeks.”

In fact, BJP was one of BARC's Top 10 Advertisers, holding the second spot with 10012 insertions in Week 17 (April 28-May 4, 2018).

The spends are not surprising to Saurabh Uboweja, International Brand Expert and CEO, Brands of Desire. Uboweja says any party looking to get into power has to invest a lot during elections.

“Also, the party which is in power usually puts in a lot of money in marketing schemes and campaign in the guise of government initiatives. So it’s not so much of BJP marketing budget, but government marketing,” he explained.

In the digital age of social media, the new sector saw active engagement in the form of elaborate tweets, hashtags, constant digs against each other and minute-to-minute updates of rallies by teams of political parties.

A leading English daily reported that Congress’ social media team has close to 30 members. BJP, on the other hand, had two separate teams for the party-- BJP Karnataka and BS Yeddyurappa. Congress used hashtags like #INC4Karnataka, #KarnatakaDefeatsBJP and #JanaAashirwadaYatre. While #CongressMuktKarnataka, #BJPWaveInKarnataka and #KarnatakaTrustsModi were frequently used by BJP. Other than these, there were the usual hashtags such as #KarnatakaElections2018, #KarnatakaPolls.

WhatsApp also served as a major digital campaigning tool for parties during the Karnataka polls. Videos depicting the achievements and promises of the candidates were forwarded to the voters on WhatsApp. Messages were sent and news was distributed to Karnataka’s 49 million voters. Prior to the voting on May 12, BJP and Congress claimed to have set up at least 50,000 WhatsApp groups to spread their messages.

Facebook and YouTube were also used as a medium to convey the election agenda to the voters.

Uboweja says, “In the last two-three months, BJP has reinvested in WhatsApp. They are reaching out to their audience more directly. Also, with the rapid penetration of mobile phones, video marketing is happening extensively.”

Sanjay Bose of Bose Communications, who handled the PR for Congress candidate from Gandhinagar Constituency Dinesh Gundu Rao, says, “We focused more on reaching out to the people in this constituency and creating an awareness about the developmental activities performed by the candidate. We have reached out to people mainly through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc. Short videos on the developmental activities of the candidate were shot and forwarded as WhatsApp messages to the people of the constituency.”

Hoardings and posters with names of candidates and parties were put up in every nook and corner of Karnataka. The political parties used pamphlets and notices to communicate their election agenda and achievements to the voters.

The aggressive marketing in Karnataka has set the tone for other upcoming elections. Now only the results will tell whose strategy has tilted in their favour.

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