BJP: Wooing India With A Mixed Bag

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | April 04, 2014
Ahead of the 2014 general elections, the political party has released three different sets of TV campaigns. A look at the eclectic mix of creatives.

It's nearly time for the 2014 general elections and Indian citizens are inundated with persuasive ad campaigns. Cities and towns are covered with hoardings, banners and posters as prime-ministerial candidates campaign across the country.

In addition to its recently launched outdoor efforts, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has rolled out three sets of television campaigns, the first of which was rolled out in the second last week of March. All promote Narendra Modi through the tagline - 'Abki Baar, Modi Sarkar', a catchphrase that has already become the source of inspiration for many a digital joke writer.

WPP's Soho Square has worked on BJP's campaign. The party's media spend is reportedly around Rs 400 crore this time.

No Nonsense

The first set of films is based on what experts call the 'piece-to-camera format' or 'monologue format'. In each ad, an individual talks straight into a camera and addresses the TV viewer in a direct, serious manner. In two ads the speaker is a man and in the other two, the speaker is a woman. Unemployment, safety of women (the lack thereof!), inflation and electricity problems are the four issues they highlight.

These partly black-and-white films end with these hard-hitting words: 'Bijli ke liye tarsaane walon, janta maaf nahi karegi', 'Yuvaon ko berozgar rakhne walon, janta maaf nahi karegi' , 'Humari betiyon ko suraksha na de paane walon, janta maaf nahi karegi' and 'Mehengayi ko lagataar badhane walon, janta maaf nahi karegi'. The accusations are quite clearly directed at the Congress.

Graphic Humour

The four-film monologue series ranks high on the seriousness quotient, quite unlike the second set of films that takes the humorous route to win citizens over. This series of five films is animated and is based on cricket. Launched during the T20 World Cup series, the ads take a dig at Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), BJP's adversaries.

The first film in the animated series shows a bunch of cricketers who, after losing a match, let off steam at the expense of the umpire; the voice over (VO) says - 'No gundagardi, no maaramaar...abki baar, Modi sarkar'.

The second film takes an indirect dig at AAP by showing scenes of people interrupting on-going cricket matches and protesting elaborately for the silliest of reasons, like wanting a samosa or wanting less homework. Trivialising AAP's approach, the VO in the end says, 'No faltu dharna, no time wasting...abki baar, Modi sarkar.'

The third commercial shows a pre-match coin toss scene, in which the captain of only one team has arrived on the field. The implication is that the Congress doesn't have a candidate ready to take on the responsibility that comes with the PM's chair. The VO goes - 'Bina captain ki team khayegi maat, isiliye abki baar, Modi sarkar'.

The fourth film features a cricketer trying to bribe the umpire in a bid to change his verdict from 'out' to 'not out'. When the umpire refuses the bribe and says, 'No Corruption', the VO goes - 'No corruption, No bharshtachaar...abki baar, Modi sarkar'. In the last animated film, the wicket keeper moves the position of the stumps in an attempt to get the batsman out by hook or by crook. The VO reprimands such hanky-panky behaviour with 'No hera-pheri yaar..isliye abki baar, Modi Sarkar.'

More recently, the BJP has launched a promotional video that positions Modi as the harbinger of happy days. Through a musical, the party conveys that in the days ahead, women will feel safer, parents will be able to educate their kids and the country will change for the better. The ad film ends with the lyrics - 'Ache Din Aane Wale Hai, Hum Modi Ji Ko Lane Wale Hai'.

It is pertinent to note that the ruling party, Congress, launched its communication efforts weeks before the BJP. According to highly placed industry sources, there were some issues relating to BJP's ad rates on TV and print channels. Though finally resolved, the back and forth between certain media owners and BJP's media partners - the media duties of BJP are being handled by Madison - is said to have postponed the release date of BJP's ad campaign.

However, some expert say nothing's lost as the ideal time to launch the bulk of any pre-election campaign is no sooner than 15-20 days before the voting starts.

Janata's Verdict

We asked creative veterans, planning experts and brand strategy consultants to review BJP's gamut of films.

Gautam Talwar

KV Sridhar

Ashok Dingra

Gautam Talwar, chief strategy officer, Rediffusion-Y&R found the animated campaign downright senseless. He thinks it tried really hard to make a serious point with bad humour. If it's the youth the BJP is targeting through this series, then it will surely fall short, he feels.

According to him the monologue series was an "expected" campaign. "The format and the issues discussed are age old and I do not expect the ads to influence the two most important audiences that the BJP needs to convince: the first time voter and the undecided or floating voter," Talwar critiques, going on to appreciate the standalone musical film (Hum Modi Ji Ko Lane Wale Hai), which caught his interest from a "strategic point of view."

The strategic attempt behind this musical film, he explains, is to reconfirm what the opinion polls have been predicting and to sway the undecided into voting for 'the winning candidate'. Even so, Talwar feels the BJP may have stepped into celebratory mode a touch prematurely.

KV Sridhar (Pops), chief creative officer, India subcontinent, Leo Burnett, finds the animation series interesting. "When you take a pot-shot at the older brother (Congress, in this case) in a humorous way, it is entertaining," he explains.

"The ads are hard-hitting and make an emphatic point," Pops adds, particularly referring to the film that says the competing team doesn't have a captain. Moreover, he expects the animation series to capture the attention of the 12 crore first-time voters.

Overall, Pops points out that though the ads talk about the existing issues facing the country, they fail to explain how the BJP plans to resolve them. "Political parties should do that instead of dragging each other down," he suggests.

Ashok Dingra, brand strategy consultant, says, "In the animated campaign, the messages don't come out clearly; it will be difficult for the masses to understand them. The other ads (monologues) are powerful, well executed and topical; the messages come out clearly. They are relevant considering the strong resentment and anti-incumbency sentiments."

If it were up to him, Dingra would've rephrased the sign off phrase in the piece-to-camera series to a more direct line, like 'Hamari betiyon ko suraksha naa de pane walon ko maaf mat Karna'."

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