Tug of war between print and digital over political ad spend pie

Digital has made significant inroads in the political advertising space, which has been the print's bastion so far. Given the sizeable chunk of young voters, digital has been the media

e4m by Abid Hasan
Published: Apr 25, 2014 9:31 AM  | 5 min read
Tug of war between print and digital over political ad spend pie

Digital has emerged as a significant medium for political advertising in the 2014 Elections. In the previous Lok Sabha elections, print was the most dominating medium as far as political advertising was concerned, garnering a share of 50 per cent of the total ad pie, as per a GroupM report. Television’s share was 30 per cent, while radio and OOH had a 10 per cent share each.

However, the tables seem to have turned in the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha. The GroupM report for 2014 indicates that television has got the lion’s share of the ad pie at 50 per cent, followed by digital with 15 per cent and radio and OOH garnering a share of 12.5 per cent each. Print has slipped to capture a mere 10 per cent share of the total ad pie this time.

exchange4media spoke to some of the leading print players, media experts and digital players to know what’s their point of view and do they think digital pie of marketing spends has increased?

Talking to exchange4media, Satyajit Sen, CEO, ZenithOptimedia expressed serious concern about the advertising distribution. He remarked, “This whole thing sounds funny and it is just creating hype. Digital is an important medium, but it is not overtaking print in terms of advertising. It’s just the commission game as a digital agency gets 8-10 per cent of the margin, but when it comes to print, the commission goes down to 2-3 per cent. Print players are getting good amount of advertising as compared to digital.”

Ruby Bana, Chief Strategy Officer, Madison Communications felt differed with this and said that digital makes a lot of spends, creating word of mouth. She said, “Successful election campaigns thrive on owned and earned media. This is neither new nor different from the past. Increase in digital spends is an indication of the same. Compared to the last elections, increase in digital spends reflects the gain of strength of digital media to inform, engage and propagate ideologies.”

Agreeing with Bana and highlighting the USP of digital, Arun Sharma, VP, Lodestar UM said, “The new voters are going to decide on the future of these elections – there are 10 crore new voters this time. The two largest political parties have pumped in significant sums on digital to cater to the youth population that constitute a significant chunk of the 81.5 crore electorate. The youth don’t read much of print, and digital is their medium.”

Print has an upper hand
Print players question how the digital industry, which is worth Rs 3,000 crore, will take over print, which stands at around Rs 35,000 crore?

According to DD Purkayastha, MD and CEO, ABP Group, there is very less print advertising in West Bengal and no party seems to be interested in the medium.

When asked whether print is losing out on political advertising spends as compared to digital, he replied, “We are hardly getting anything; and whatever ads that we are getting in Bengal are coming in print and not in digital.”

Questioning the sharing pattern, Benoy Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Hindustan Times said, “Our revenue has grown significantly over the last Lok Sabha elections. But that could be because our readership has grown exponentially in Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai. In both the markets we are significant players today.”

When asked which medium is getting more advertising for HT, he replied, “Print.”

While Suresh Srinivasan, VP, The Hindu also questioned the power of digital and said, “I would definitely go for print any day, it can’t be ignored. Print has always got more revenues and the share of print is definitely bigger. I don’t understand why there is an assumption that the youth are not connected with print. They are intelligent enough to choose between different media.”

Digital is the way ahead
On the other hand, the engagement and measurement offered by the digital medium can’t be ignored, besides it is being considered as the medium to attract the over 10 crore new voters.

Highlighting the importance of digital and the reason behind digital getting more advertising, Suveer Bajaj, Co-Founder, FoxyMoron said, “The parties are targeting the first time voters as they are easily accessible on digital. Apart from engagement, political parties are spending more on digital because of the latest technology and applications. Various apps are available and they are engaging with the voters on an individual basis.”

He further said that social media gives an amount of conversation and initiates strategy, which creates political debate online.

Kanika Mathur, MD, Razorfish, too, felt that digital has got an edge because of its different features. She said, “The advertising spends have increased as compared to the previous elections as the market has also grown. There is proof that digital is a more accountable and measurable medium. The other reason is that the youth are going online and people are interacting with this medium. Political parties are seeing this as an important strategy to target individuals.”

An important factor to consider within digital is mobile. These are the first Lok Sabha elections where significant penetration of smartphones is seen.

Commenting on the role that digital is playing and why political advertising is inclined towards digital, Vishal Sampat, CEO, SMG Convonix, said, “We do feel that the digital pie, including mobile, has substantially increased in these elections. This just goes to show that digital today is on its way to becoming a mainstream medium.”

He added, “From a politician’s perspective, they are able to customise their message for the first time, thanks to the targeting that digital allows – be it by city or state or by age and other demographics. Further, the young voter today is online and it is absolutely necessary for any political party to be present on the same platforms as the young generation.”

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