Indian Elections: Digital Media's Mandate Grows After Elections

The Bharatiya Janata Party's three-month-long election campaign has had a sanguine effect on advertisers' digital spends: They are slated to go up in the coming months. Ad agency heads across the board such as McCann Worldgroup, Ogilvy & Mather, Soho Square and SapientNitro say that queries from their clients have gone up following the success of the BJP campaign, which used digital in a big way to swing a decisive mandate in its favour.

Anuraag Khandelwal, executive creative director & head, Soho Square, the agency responsible for the BJP campaign, says, "Certainly the level of excitement among advertisers has gone up because here was a campaign that successfully demonstrated what digital could do. The efficacy of digital, in other words, was visible, which in many ways has convinced advertisers that they should invest more on the medium. My clients have been asking me how we could leverage digital more effectively in future campaigns. I find this nteresting."

Prasoon Joshi, president, South Asia, McCann Worldgroup, says, "Curiosity levels have gone up mainly because digital and social media were leveraged well to shape opinions by the BJP. The synchronisation of media and how so many legs were brought together to create an impactful campaign are also what advertisers have taken note of. Certainly this will translate, if not now, later into spends in categories such as digital."

At about 6-7 per cent of total advertising, digital, according to estimates by the country's largest media agency GroupM, is set to cross the 10 -per-cent-mark in the next few years. Elections, say media planners, has been a catalyst in this process. GroupM says that political parties - both national and regional - spent almost 15 per cent of their ad budgets on digital in the just-concluded general elections, second to TV, which is about 50-60 per cent. And estimates say political advertising this year has cost nothing less than Rs2,000 crore. With such a precedent, advertisers, say media planners, will surely tweak their media plans to include digital more.

Money flows digital
Manish Sharma Manish Sharma, MD, Panasonic India, says, "Digital and social media have become a crucial part of every brand's strategy to reach out to its consumers . It has grown in functionality and influence over and drastically changed the ways brands interact with their audience. We spent around 2 per cent of our marketing revenues on consumer engagement through social media last year. This year, we have decided to devote around 3-4 per cent of the total marketing revenues on this medium."

A Vijay Narayanan, head, marketing, Havells India, says that spends by his company on digital are expected to double this year. "From 5 per cent last year, spends this year will be 10 per cent of our total markeing budget. Trends suggest that India is going the US-way. For the first time last month, digital spends overtook TV spends in the US. Digital is about engagement and TV and print are not able to do that well."

While TV and print still remain dominant, attracting about 38 and 44 per cent of total spends according to GroupM, digital's share in the next decade, say analysts, could well be closer to 20 per cent, if its 30-35 per cent rate of annual growth continues.

Sajan Raj Kurup Creative honchos consider digital to be a more serious brand-building platform than print or outdoor. "Much of the work entered in print and outdoor categories at ad awards are those that one has hardly seen or heard of. It is common to see public service ads here or work done for a charity or non-governmental organisation. While not all of them can be called scam, but genuine brand-building is not much," says Sajan Raj Kurup, founder & creative chairman, Creativeland Asia.

Both clients and their creative partners are taking their digital ad campaigns seriously and entering award shows too. "There are multiple things you can do on digital: Mould opinions, create thought leadership, trigger a response. Of course, the key challenge is how do you measure all this and whether digital can replace TV or print. My answer to that is no," says Saurabh Baisakhia, business head, air-conditioners, LG India.

But given the groundswell after the polls, advertisers are expected to jump onto the digital bandwagon with more gusto.