The general elections are just a month away and if the AdEx India data is anything to go by, political advertising in the print media hasn't picked up yet.
Prior to the general elections in 2004, in the December 2003 - February 2004 period, political advertising consumed 263,000 col cm space. It is expected that the number would go up in the subsequent elections, but the figure of 222,000 col cm for the same period this time, has come as a dampener.
AdEx India is a division of TAM Media Research that specialises in advertising expenditure and trends in print media.
During the 2004 elections, in the aforesaid period, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) consumed 102,570 col cm of print space. It was the largest consumer of print space with, a volume share of 39 per cent in the election campaign category. Even though it has emerged as the top advertiser this time as well, taking about 41 per cent of election campaign print space, it has consumed only 91,020 col cm space.
The BJP was in power preceding the 2004 general elections, and it was expected to be the highest spender to beat the anti-incumbency factor. This time, however, what's surprising is that even though the Congress is fighting to beat the anti-incumbency factor, it is lagging behind with 27 per cent print ad volume share in the election campaign category. Last time, it commanded a 30 per cent share.
Ditto for the Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) - the third highest advertiser of last general elections, with a 10 per cent share of the print space. It, too, was in power in Andhra Pradesh at that time. Not in power any more, its print ad share has declined to a mere 2 per cent; it stands at No. 8 in the top advertisers' list.
This time, the No. 3 spot is taken by independent candidates and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), each with a 5 per cent share of the print election campaign category. Last time, the contribution of independent candidates was a mere 2 per cent. At No. 5 is Shiromani Akali Dal - Badal (SAD), with 4 per cent share. Both the BSP and SAD are in power in their respective states - Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
Like TDP, Telangan Rashtra Samiti, too has fallen from the fourth to the tenth position this time.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Maharashtra based party led by Sharad Pawar, stood at No. 10 last time, with 1 per cent share of the total print election campaign. It has moved up in the top advertisers' list to No. 7, with a 2 per cent share this time.
The other top spenders of the previous general election Janta Party, Kannada Nadu Party, Shiv Sena and Samajwadi Party have moved out from the top 10 advertisers' list, this time. While Janta Party, Kannada Nadu Party's contribution was 3 per cent of the total advertising spend on print by political parties, Shiv Sena and Samajwadi Party's contribution was 2 per cent.
These parties have been replaced by BSP, SAD, Praja Rajyam and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazagam (DMDK) this time. Praja Rajyam contribution, this time is around 3 per cent while, that of DMDK is 1 per cent). These two parties are at No. 6 and No. 10, respectively, this time.
As per industry estimates, print is the largest medium for political advertising contributing around 70 per cent of the total advertising pie. However, the share could go down, if uncountable spends on outdoors - wall paintings, posters, hoardings and pamphlets - are taken into account.
An industry observer is of the opinion that given the economic conditions, overall ad spends by different political parties could take a beating. "Political parties are cautious this time. Any ostentation could backfire, as it could be seen as wastage of money by the voters, who've been hit by the economic slowdown," the observer say.
Another media analyst, however, feels that it's premature to judge on the basis of three months' data. "Election campaigning is just warming up, and political parties may have learnt a few lessons from the US president, Barack Obama's election campaign on how to use technology and the Internet in their favour," he says.
The BJP has already gone online with its "LK Advani for PM" campaign; others, too, are expected to go online soon. Also, what could take away the print share is the amendment of the All India Radio Code by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, which allows political advertisements on radio, including private FM radio. According to industry estimates, FM radio could take up to 10 per cent of political parties' total ad spends.