A number of A list influencers have recently been seen indulging in interviews and podcasts with leading politicians. afaqs! decodes if the trend will turn bigger in the run- up to the 2024 General elections.
From Ranveer Allahbadia (Beerbiceps), to Raj Shamani and Kamiya Jani a number of A list influencers have recently been seen interviewing or collaborating with leading politicians and ministers. According to industry experts, Central Government’s spending on newspapers and radio has taken a significant hit. On the other hand, the opposition has ramped up its spending and presence on digital media.
Ahead of the 2019 General Elections, the Election Commission of India pegged the total number of registered voters at 900 million. Of this, 15 million were said to be first-time voters in the 18-19 age group. This number of first-time voters in 2024 is only set to grow. Hence, in the run-up to the upcoming General elections, influencers or influencer marketing has taken centre stage for political advertising to woo first-time voters.
Mitesh Kothari, co-founder and cco, White Rivers Media says reaching out to the common public via influencers can effectively engage specific demographics and amplify messages. “This is especially important now as people spend a lot of time on their phones and reaching out on digital platforms can lead to deep connections.”
“The media spending by the government encompasses multiple events and activities with varying expenses and objectives. When it comes to politicians, we have been seeing a trend of social media engagements as the potential of the digital ecosystem is recognised.”
Shradha Agarwal, co-founder and CEO, Grapes states that gauging the popularity of influencers, it is very likely that the 2024 elections will see a lot of collaboration of political figures with the influencers. According to her, tapping into their audience will provide the parties with a vast arena to play in, allowing them to navigate the unexplored avenues it beholds.
“Influencers, including podcasters, have their share of popularity, and political figures get a mass audience that seeks specific thematic content. Harnessing the personal credibility of influencers, collaborations allow parties to showcase viewpoints that resonate with the ideologies of the audience rather than just portraying generic ideas,” she states.
How much has the phenomenon evolved over the last few years?
Gone are the days when political parties relied on holding huge rallies in different parts of the country. The space is now evolving with parties partnering with marketing/influencer marketing agencies and in some cases the influencers directly.
Shudeep Majumdar, co-founder, Zefmo Media, an influencer marketing firm that has planned political campaigns in 2019 and 2017 states that influencers will be at the forefront in the run-up to the 2024 elections. He says they are already seeing a large number of queries from all political outfits for campaigns.
Media veteran and founder The Bhasin Consulting Group, Ashish Bhasin, says that media choices have evolved significantly since 2014. “Influencer marketing spending was nearly zero in 2014. It started on an experimental basis in 2019, however, this year it is going to be probably one of the most important mediums.”
However, Naresh Gupta, co-founder and managing partner of Bang in the Middle states that it is a temporary phenomenon. “It's not going to last too long because you are dependent on a bunch of influencers. Influencers can sell a product, a restaurant or a brand. However, selling a politician is a far more difficult and complicated task. By the time the elections come closer parties will be defocusing from this,” he suggests.
Apar Gupta, director of Internet Freedom Foundation had recently highlighted how the Government is betting big on influencer marketing. He had flagged that the Government had issued a tender for Request for Empanelment (RFE) for Selection of Influencer Marketing Agencies for Empanelment with MyGov. The tender was dated 07.03.2023.
Another leader from an influencer marketing agency who did not wish to be named explained that while the ‘bigger party’ has its own influencer mechanism in place, the others are on the lookout for agency partnerships.
Monetisation for agencies and influencers from political advertising
The collaborations between influencers and politicians or political parties are not uniform and may differ from time to time. Majumdar suggests that unlike some perceptions, parties tend to collaborate with only those influencers whose political inclinations are public. Hence, the influencers are speaking about what they actually believe in.
“If the political ideology of the party matches that of the influencer, the social media influencer does the influencing at no cost. Mid-level influencers may not charge exorbitant sums. For a political campaign, they charge considerably less than they would for commercial campaigns, about 25-30% less than their normal fees," he adds.
Aashay Shah, co-founder Django Digital states, these campaigns need to be non-monetary in nature otherwise, they would go against ASCI’s 2021 influencer advertising guidelines. “ I also truly believe that any political association brings a lot of attention to the influencer’s channel. For me, it's a no-brainer that because of such associations, you will get more views and expose more people to the content that you've made.”
Speaking about how agencies make money out of such associations, Majumdar states the margins are relatively lower for such campaigns for agencies. The only way that agencies like us make money is by deriving economies of scale. Since the number of influencers and the amount of work is very voluminous, we make a little bit of money by economies of scale. Otherwise, the margins are anywhere between, I would say 10% to 15%.”
Kalyan Kumar, CEO and Co-Founder of KlugKlug pointed out that this is a grey area and in most cases, there is no disclosure from the influencer if there is a paid partnership. “There is a 60-40% split between the ruling party and opposition when it comes to spending on influencer marketing,” Kumar says.
Subtle influencing through meme pages
Other than influencing opinions through podcasts and interviews with social media influencers, political parties have also subtly been investing in ‘meme pages’ on Instagram and Facebook, that spread their messages with a dash of humour.
Achal Manchanda, who runs a number of ‘meme pages’ on Instagram explains how the ecosystem works and says numerous pages on social media platforms exclusively promote content aligned with specific political ideologies or agendas.
“ I have had the opportunity to engage with various political parties during state elections, particularly in the realm of meme marketing. This form of promotion has gained significant attention and recognition. Memes have proven to be an effective way to capture people's attention quickly and easily. Significant sums of money are invested in such activities. Politicians often allocate substantial budgets, sometimes even double the usual amount, to promote their agendas.”
“In recent times, political parties across the spectrum have recognised the value of utilising cost-effective marketing methods. Compared to traditional activities like rallies and other elaborate campaigns, these modern strategies offer a more budget-friendly approach. It is no surprise that even prominent political parties are increasingly investing in such marketing tactics to undermine the image of their opponents,” he adds.