The Leo Burnett-affiliated Orchard, the Sam Balsara-headed Madison Advertising and the public relations firm, Perfect Relations, have been short-listed for the Congress party's Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million) media campaign for the forthcoming general elections.
The trio are the favourites to bag the contract after weeks of closed-door consultations and a series of presentations.
The Bangalore-based Orchard and the Mumbai-based Madison were likely to get the mandate to create the Congress' advertising campaign for the polls, while the Delhi-based Perfect Relations, run by Dilip Cherian, was likely to handle its media relations, said a senior Congress leader.
A source in Perfect Relations confirmed that the deal was close to being struck, but declined to give any details about the size of the account.
"I will neither confirm nor deny the report. Any such announcement has to come from the Congress brass," Orchard managing director Nitish Mukherji said.
Sources in Madison said no deal had been signed as yet, but "we are hopeful of getting the contract".
To counter the NDA government's 'India Shining' campaign, the Congress has directed its team of advertising agencies to harp on issues like unemployment, the plight of farmers and corruption. The television, radio and print advertisements are likely to be ready by the end of this month.
Also planned is a set of commercials presenting the party's counter-claims on the health of the economy.
Advertisement industry sources said the amount earmarked for the campaign was not surprising as the Congress had to do a lot of catching up after the setbacks in the December 2003 Assembly elections and the "feel-good" factor that seemed to be favouring the central government.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is likely to spend a similar amount on its election campaign. It has set up a committee comprising Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Balbir Punj and Venkaiah Naidu to give finishing touches to its advertising strategy.
The BJP's advertising team is likely to include professionals from Grey Worldwide, the agency that created the 'India Shining' campaign, and a few other Mumbai-based admen, who will work along with a couple of Delhi-based agencies that were associated with the party during the recent state elections.The government has spent close to Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million) on its 'India Shining' campaign, which is in its second phase on television.