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Who Are Political Ads Targeting?

By Sarthak Choudhury
May 04, 2024 10:17 IST
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'It is the first-time voters and the agnostics who are often influenced by political advertising.'
'These swing voters tend to make a huge difference in the outcome of any election.'

IMAGE: A screen grab from a BJP ad. Photograph: Kind courtesy BJP/Youtube

The first two phases of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections has just concluded and political temperature in India is soaring.

The campaign trail is ablaze with a potent weapon -- advertisements.

These aren't run-of-the-mill political ads but they are cleverly crafted messages designed to resonate with both old and new generations.

The national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, are pulling out all the stops to pique voters' interests: Some ads are a showcase of their achievements, while others are a sharp jab at their opponent.

This is what advertising experts dub positive and negative advertising.

Harish Bijoor, an advertising expert, explains: "There are two genres to this. One is showcasing what you, as a party, are good at. The other is showing what the opposition is not good at.

"The former tends to work for those who are undecided about the party they are going to vote, while the latter is focused on committed voters who believe the best way forward is to poke in the opposition's eye."

The BJP's ad campaign on YouTube takes aim at the INDIA bloc, a coalition of parties contesting the parliamentary polls against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

Its advertisements highlight leadership issues within the Opposition alliance.

One ad, featuring a rap song, depicts the INDIA bloc squabbling over a kursi (chair), hinting at infighting.

Another ad, titled 'Dulha kaun hai?', portrays Opposition leaders as prospective grooms, undecided on who the groom will be.

Several ads by the BJP also seek to highlight the failure of the previous UPA government.

On the other hand, the Congress, on its YouTube channel, has released a series of animated ads highlighting the failures of the NDA government.

These ads, tagged 'Mere vikaas ka do jawaab', focus on inflation, unemployment, and minimum support price for farmers, and how the BJP-led NDA failed to address these issues.

Samit Sinha, a brand expert, says: "What makes advertising effective is when it touches upon a relevant issue, and has a strong idea, which is then well executed."

However, the communication strategy depends upon whether the party is power or in the Opposition, he further explains.

"It would be more pertinent for the challenger to target the incumbent; it would make more sense for the incumbent party to power to talk about its achievements in power and the future trajectory."

Parties have also released ads focusing on their manifestos and accomplishments.

The BJP's ad, titled '24x7 for 2047: Vote for Modi, vote for G.O.A.T', targets first-time voters and focuses on the economy, startups, and connecting youth with their roots.

The Congress, too, has ads spotlighting its manifesto.

One ad shows a woman carrying a sewing machine, set in a not-so-distant future of June 2024, where the Congress has fulfilled its promise of 'Nari Nyay', granting Rs 1 lakh annually to impoverished women and ensuring 50 per cent reservation in government jobs.

Another ad shows a man distributing sweets after getting his first job, part of the party's promise of filling the 3 million vacancies in the central government.

Most of these ads a tagline 'Haath badlega haalaat'.

Bijoor says: "Essentially, 39 per cent voters have already decided the party they want to vote for. The rest are out of the ambit of any vote bank. These are people who vote on issues.

"This is a group that swings based on issues and time. All the advertising is focused on this group of undecided people."

Echoing Bijoor's view, Sinha explains: "It is the first-time voters and the agnostics who are often influenced by political advertising. These swing voters tend to make a huge difference in the outcome of any election."

IMAGE: A screen grab from a Congress ad. Photograph: Kind courtesy Congress/Youtube

The BJP and the Congress have also added a touch of Bollywood to their ad campaigns. The BJP has recreated a number of hits from the 1990s.

In one ad, adapted from the Shah Rukh Khan-Salman Khan starrer Karan Arjun, a woman is heard saying the famous dialogue: 'Mere Karan Arjun aayenge'.

Meanwhile, a voiceover interrupts and says 'Karan Arjun ki guarantee nahi, magar videsh mei phassa har Bharatiya waapas aayega (any Indian who is stuck in another country will return).'

In another ad, a woman is shown playing Kajol's character from the 1995 hit Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, trying to catch the train.

The voiceover interrupts and says 'Simran ke train pakadne ki guarantee nahi hai magar Bharat mein bullet train ki guarantee Modiji ki hai (There's no guarantee if Simran will catch the train, but Modi can guarantee that India will have a bullet train).'

The Congress has borrowed a similar playbook. In an animated ad, the party portrays BJP leaders like Amit Shah and J P Nadda, along with Modi, as characters from the iconic movie Sholay.

The ad, released during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, shows the character of Gabbar scolding his henchmen for not being able to stop Rahul Gandhi from joining the Parliament session (after he was briefly suspended as an MP in a defamation case).

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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Sarthak Choudhury
Source: source