Shailesh Kapoor: Modi Ads: How much is too much?

25 Apr,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


For the first time in about two weeks (or at least it seems like that), the front-page jacket on The Times Of India Mumbai edition did not carry a BJP ad today. The Mumbai elections being done with, the print budgets are sure to have shifted to Punjab, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. But national TV ads will continue to make their presence felt for at least another three weeks.


There has been enough talk about BJP’s advertising budget and the source of that money. What interests me more, however, is the thought behind such an aggressive media plan. Surely, if Congress or BJP wanted such a plan in the past, say 2004 or 2009, they would not have issues in finding resources to put it together. Hence, it comes down more to the will and the need, than the budget.


Narendra Modi is omnipresent on television these days, barring the kids genre. Even websites and apps, including the most unlikely ones, throw up a BJP ad with him and the lotus symbol prominently displayed. If media planners had any theories on how many exposures you need to build reach or effectiveness, you can throw those theories out of the window. Here, you may as well ask: How many exposures do you need to build a “wave”?


Yes, it comes down to that. BJP (or Modi, used interchangeably here on) has been smart in realizing that their best chance to get an absolute majority in these elections lies increating a “wave” or a “leher” across the country. The party does not have presence in several states, such as West Bengal, Kerala and the North-East. In several others, like Tamil Nadu, it is in alliance with the weaker regional parties. In effect, if BJP-led NDA have to cross the 272-mark, they have to win 272 out of 400-odd constituencies in the heartland states, not out of 543.


That makes it two out of every three seats! A sizeable segment of “undecided” voters, led by first-time voters, can make the difference. After all, more than 50 seats in 2009 were decided by a margin of about 15,000 votes or less.


BJP’s campaign message has been smartly selected and phrased. It wants us to “assume” that a Modi Government is only a formality. The headlines are phrased as statements of fact, not as pleas to the voters, ranging from ‘Hum Modiji ko laane waale hain’ to ‘Abki baar Modi sarkar’ to ‘Kamal ka button dabayenge, Bhajapa ko jitayenge’.


Over many exposures, you would tend to believe that these “facts” are indeed “facts”, and a Modi government is only a matter of formality now. That would be enough to sway both the first-time voters and those sitting on the fence in general. Anything less than a campaign of this visibility may have arguably fallen short of giving credence to the claim that a Modi government is a given this year.


A “wave” in today’s world largely stands for “buzz”. It’s more about talk value. The decision-making takes care of itself thereafter. As a country, we are in a phase where it is becoming increasingly easy to create buzz using the media, but at the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sway opinions. With more sources of influence, media campaigns are now playing a “show” role than a “tell” role.


So, is there a Modi wave? Yes. But does that wave mean a majority of seats for NDA, we will know only on May 16. But one thing is clear. If NDA does not cross the 272-mark this year, with this campaign and such lack of options available to the voter, they never will in the next few decades at least.


To that extent, the pressure is on Modi. Even 230-240 seats may open up possibilities that he would hate to be a part of. On one day, middle of May, it will all be known in a matter of hours!


TV Trails is a weekly column written by Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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