x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Fortunes of India’s media and marketing sectors rise on poll fever

Indian elections that begin tomorrow augur well for the beleaguered media and marketing sector as parties plough billions of rupees into campaigns, using multiple platforms to woo more than 800 million voters.

A think-tank estimates that India’s campaign spend is expected to reach 300 billion rupees. Jagadeesh NV / EPA
A think-tank estimates that India’s campaign spend is expected to reach 300 billion rupees. Jagadeesh NV / EPA

With Indians set to go to the polls tomorrow, the media and marketing sector is being boosted as political parties plough billions of rupees into their campaigns.

From billboards and television advertisements to YouTube and Facebook initiatives, candidates are using a wide variety of platforms to win voters in what is being dubbed the world’s biggest election.

The general elections — in which more than 800 million Indians are eligible to vote — begin tomorrow and run for more than a month, with the results scheduled to be announced on May 16.

While economic growth has slowed and advertising spending in some sectors has taken a hit, the elections are set to prove a boon for advertising and public relations agencies and the media.

In total, the Centre for Media Studies, a Delhi-based think tank, has estimated that India’s campaign spend is expected to reach 300 billion rupees (Dh18.3bn). About 50bn rupees are expected to be pumped into advertising throughout the elections, with about half this amount coming from political parties, according to a Pitch-Madison survey.

“India will be the fastest-growing advertising industry in the world in 2014,” says Sam Balsara, the chairman and managing director of Madison India. “Industry will find a lot of advertisers in the form of politicians who will come up with their own small campaigns apart from the heavy advertising which will be done by the political parties.”

Campaign spending is expected to be a major driver of growth in the media and broadcasting industry this year. The media and entertainment sector is forecast to grow to 1.03 trillion rupees this year compared with 918bn rupees last year, according to a report by KPMG and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

“Election spending by the government and political parties is set to significantly add to the ad expenditure across all media, with print emerging a front-runner,” analysts write in the report.

The elections are likely to boost advertisement revenues for television, with ad rates for political advertising almost 30 per cent higher than average rates, they write. “The upcoming elections in 2014 are expected to boost the advertisement revenues of the news [television] channels with ad rates for political advertising nearly 30 per cent higher than the average ad rates.”

The use of social media and digital marketing has come to the forefront in these elections, as the number of internet users continues to rise and politicians try to reach out to younger voters. “It’s the first election where social media really matters and has got the fancy of Indian politicians,” says Shaili Chopra, an Indian business journalist and the author of a new book called The Big Connect, which is about the role of social media in Indian politics. “In 2009, politicians long thought of it as a toy not a tool. Today every election candidate has a political campaign that considers social media a big part of it. The biggest reason for this is the number of youth expected to join the voting pool. Politicians have realised to engage with young people, they need to be where they are — that’s online.”

Facebook has launched a number of initiatives for Indian voters, including a feature that allows users to add that they registered to vote to their timeline as a life event and a political interests list covering parties and leaders. According to Facebook, Narendra Modi, the BJP’s candidate for prime minister, has become the world’s second most “liked” politician after the US president, Barack Obama.

“Our mission as a company is to give people the power to share, and to make the world more open and connected. Part of that mission is connecting citizens with their elected officials and candidates,” says a Facebook spokesman. “We recognise that … this is the opportunity for us to invite campaign teams and leads to leverage the mass reach we have to engage in lively and honest open discussions leading up to the elections.”

He adds that mentions of the word “election” increased on the site by 561 per cent during the 24 hours after the poll was called.

Zafar Rais is the founder and chief executive of MindShift Interactive, a digital marketing and social media agency, which has been conducting research on the elections.

“This year there have been massive budgets that are being allocated to social media or holistically digital marketing as an activity,” he says. “There are new portals that are actually investing in tracking devices or research devices to help the consumers understand who’s doing what and how successful they’re being in their communications.”

Mr Rais said funds were being pumped into advertising banners on Facebook, Google, and YouTube.

“There’s a lot of money going into the digital agencies that the political parties have got on board, towards running the campaign and creating applications or new communication strategies.”

Indian news channels are also set to get a boost. Viewership is predicted to surge during the elections and networks can charge higher advertising rates as firms spot an opportunity to market their products.

It is not only Indian news media that hopes to benefit from the elections. BBC World News is planning to broadcast its programmes Global with Jon Sopel and Impact live from India during the first week of polling.

“In today’s interconnected and mobile era, Indian stories are becoming more global and the world is much more engaged with India, especially given the pace of economic and political change in the country,” says Jim Egan, the chief executive of BBC Global News. “Indeed, we can’t credibly claim to be a serious global news provider unless we have a significant presence in India and are able to report comprehensively from there to the rest of the world.

“The upcoming elections give us the perfect opportunity to showcase what BBC World News can deliver — telling India’s stories around the world. Plus India’s demographics are very attractive for us — with a young English speaking audience that is interested in international news and global events. And we also are making significant gains with our Hindi offering.

“This, combined with a growing mobile and digital industry, make positive factors for our business as we aim to deliver news whenever our audience wants it wherever they are — on line on mobile or on TV. We also welcome the positive changes happening in the Indian media landscape which will be good for the country and its media industry as a whole.”

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