The pandemic and large crowds make for an incompatible relationship. However, when it is election time in India, it is always an exception. There is bit of a difference this time as physical rallies, the big moment when the voters see their leaders up and close, will not be allowed. It's hard to conceive of a situation in India where elections are held without the big crowds, but that is how it will play out in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.
Those in the media business say that, on an average, the media spend per constituency for all parties will be around Rs 4 crore. That means, as much as Rs 1,600 crore is the figure for Uttar Pradesh, the largest by way of population, or for that matter, the strength of its 403-seat legislative assembly.
"It is important to keep in mind that only physical rallies have been put on hold. That said, the most expensive item on the election menu is mass advertising," says Naresh Gupta, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Bang in the Middle. With gatherings being banned, he thinks the innovation that is normally done to reach the masses will not be effective. "That means we will see nothing like a holographic projection."
Of course, all this is also moving with the times. Harish Iyer, EVP at Interactive Avenues, says the entire industry has pivoted to digital or a virtual setting. "It is on the back of an audience shift and political parties will not face a challenge when it comes to making that change," he explains. Be it a car launch or an expo of any nature, it is the norm today. Digital took off the first time in Indian elections in 2013. "Now, it has become a more dominant medium. This time, we will see asset creation on digital channels and even a manifesto on digital."
Gupta is clear that this election will be fought on mobile phones. "From messages on WhatsApp and Telegram, to videos that will be seeded, to YouTube ads and pre rolls, to advertising across web and mobile apps, we will see it all. Media expenditure may not increase sharply and that is anyway at its optimum," he thinks.
Like most companies, political parties are no less sophisticated and technology is understood well. Industry trackers point out that with people spending a lot of time at home, television or just in-home media consumption in some form will take off. "Parties will build serious traction using mobile and reaching voters through native ads on apps, in-game ads, placement on OTT, and even content placement. There is a good chance that the likes of NaMo TV make a comeback for a short while," states Gupta.
Another possibility is of parties finding a way to beat the restrictions. While people cannot congregate, the leaders may get a little innovative. "They can reach the residential area through a television mounted on a mobile van and simultaneously address the whole locality. This can be through using either a pre-recorded speech or by live streaming," he says.
A digital rath with a mounted LED screen is what has been used in the past. When options are somewhat limited, innovation does take charge. This is one of those instances.
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