2019 Elections: Dissecting the political battles online and offline
With the dates for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections being declared, campaigning by all political parties has gathered momentum. These elections are crucial for the ruling BJP Government as it looks for another term with Narendra Modi in the lead; on the other hand, the opposition parties are looking to oust the BJP from the Centre and are busy forming strategic alliances and communication.
Amid the poll battles, Adgully seeks to understand what’s different about the 2019 elections compared to the earlier General Elections – specifically in terms of campaigns, use of mediums to increase reach, projected spends.
Naresh Gupta, Managing Partner & Chief Strategy Officer, Bang in the Middle, and N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, dissect the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, the role of digital and social media, spends by political parties, transparency issues ad much more.
2019 General Elections Vs earlier polls
Naresh Gupta believes that this would be the most expensive election campaign ever. He noted how India has been in election mode for almost two years and now with the announcement of the poll dates, political parties will be seen battling for eyeballs like never before. “I do suspect that rules of reach and frequency will be rewritten in these elections. This is not just from the media perspective, but even from the creative perspective – we will see a very different focus. The battle of personalities will be very sharp these elections, he noted.
N Chandramouli remarked that the 2019 elections will be fought with an increase in the online surpassing the offline. With more than million internet users in India, political parties – both big and small – are looking at active engagements across social media platforms to be able to reach out to a larger audience. “Digitisation is taking over a large part of the marketing spends and is an important factor while planning campaigns. Having said that, social media has its own pros and cons. It gives people a voice to share their opinion, but on the other hand, it can also be a major cause of falsehood. Though Twitter and Facebook are working towards addressing these issues, this could lead to the introduction of censorship,” he opined.
Sharpening the digital focus
Both Gupta and Chandramouli felt that digital will be the big part of the election campaigns and will have greater spend allocation, and social media platforms will play a crucial role.
According to Chandramouli, “We see a lot of manipulative and fake content around social media platforms which directly or indirectly tries to set propaganda in the mindsets of the users.” In order to combat the menace of false news, Facebook and Twitter have taken steps forward in the right direction. By bringing more scrutiny into election advertising, one can expect lesser propaganda, but unscrupulous campaigners and interests have a way of finding new ways of influencing a voting pattern.
Gupta pointed out that in the last 5 years, the whole digital medium has transformed. The cost of data has fallen, more people own smartphones, more people are on social media, the targeting on digital has changed completely, thus changing the whole communication landscape. He expects the political parties to not only focus more on digital, but also focus more on new tech innovations.
Impact of strict monitoring on political spends on digital
Gupta felt that digital needs monitoring more from content perspective than from advertising perspective. The platforms also monitor the ads more aggressively than they monitor content. With messaging platforms coming into play, content has become the new way to drive perception and this is where all the old rules of communication have been thrown out of the window. “There is monitoring, but this will need far more active monitoring as the election starts,” he added.
While maintaining that the entire digital advertisement ecosystem needs a desperate overhaul, Chandramouli remarked that digital advertising is currently “as wild as it gets in the Wild West”. He added, “Many of these monopolistic digital platforms hold so much information about users that it is scary. Hopefully, forced by actions of brands and users, Facebook and other digital players will make digital advertisement more transparent and permission-based, which will surely make a positive mark. Having said that, all social media platforms have strong revenue streams in advertising and promoted content, and this self-regulation is antithetical to their revenue aspirations, and so I don’t think social media companies will regulate themselves too strictly.”
Online Vs offline poll battles
Chandramouli noted that for the 2019 election parties have focusing more on online media, along with hoardings and placing ads in newspapers for their poll campaigns. “So, more people now share the updates uploaded by the parties or media along with their own opinions and predictions,” he observed.
Meanwhile, Gupta said that political parties make no distinction between offline and online, because for them every vote matters and they want to reach out to voters across media platforms. “Just because we see a greater spends on digital, it doesn’t mean that we are seeing a reduced focus on offline. The spends in both mediums have gone up and will go up further as the campaign progresses,” he concluded.