Parties expected to splurge a fourth of advertising budget on social media.
Over the past few months, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in power along with alliance partners, has been releasing advertisements on television, promoting its achievements. Other political parties are also gradually stepping up their campaigns, with less than six months left for the general election.
According to top advertising executives, the spending on political advertising during the 2019 polls is expected to double to Rs 30 billion from Rs 15 billion five years ago, pointing to a media blitzkrieg that awaits voters.
Social media is likely to account for at least a fourth of the ad spends, or about Rs 8 billion, which would be a big jump over the 2014 expenditure, they said.
In the last election, Rs 3.5 billion to Rs 4 billion was spent on social media, led by the BJP, which had put all its might behind new media in a bid to woo young voters.
"While digital and social media will be big platforms next year, the power of print and television cannot be underestimated," said Ashish Bhasin, chairman and chief executive officer, South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN).
"Most political parties will use a mix of all media, including print, television, radio, outdoor and social, to bring everyone on board. That will be crucial when it comes to bagging votes," he said.
DAN had the creative and media mandate of the Congress party during the 2014 general election. It is, however, unclear whether the agency will undertake the assignment now. Bhasin declined to comment on the issue.
The chatter among most senior agency executives is that the Congress will decide on its advertising and media partners after the state elections.
On the BJP front, the ruling party, say industry sources, is expected to go back to its 2014 advertising team of Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Joshi.
Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, Ogilvy South Asia, and Joshi, chairman, McCann Worldgroup Asia-Pacific, declined to comment. "I have not been briefed. So, I do not know," Pandey said.
Pandey was involved in the BJP's recent ad campaigns in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Like in 2014, BJP leaders Piyush Goyal and Arun Jaitley are expected to brief ad agencies on the party's advertising agenda once the state elections are through.
Similarly, Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Milind Deora might do the needful once its partners are finalised, industry sources said.
"Continuity will be a big theme for 2019 versus change in 2014 for the ruling party," said Ambi Parameswaran, founder brand-building.com.
"So, the accent for it will be on highlighting its achievements, while the Opposition parties will bring to the fore the challenges and problems faced by the people in the last five years," he said.
The 2014 election stood out for its liberal use of US presidential-style marketing tactics, especially the emphasis on a name and face versus a party and its symbol.
While the BJP went whole hog to push Narendra Damodardas Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, for the Congress it was Rahul Gandhi.
2019 is expected to see an encore from the BJP when it comes to pushing Brand Modi as its big face.
The Congress party, though, is yet to decide on who will be the face of its campaign, said sources, since Gandhi is not likely to be pushed as its prime ministerial candidate.
"The state elections will be crucial in deciding what stance the key (political) parties will take during the general election," Prathap Suthan, who created the BJP's 'India Shining' campaign in 2004 and is now managing partner & chief creative officer at ad agency Bang in the Middle, said.
"States such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh will be critical in determining the mood of people in the Hindi belt," he said.