In an exclusive conversation with 4ps b&M, tarun singh chauhan of jwt shares his views on the current Indian political advertising landscape
Political advertising campaigns are different in the sense that they almost always claim to be promoting a cause that supposedly promises to change the lives of millions in the country. As such, do conventional advertising principles apply to such campaigns? Should political brands be treated differently from regular brands?
I think that the principles of conventional advertising do apply. The fundamental difference is that in political advertising, the stakes are very high. Parties can’t afford to fail because under normal circumstances, there won’t be a re-election before five years. Unlike a product failure, failing to get votes pushes you the sidelines for a significant period. Although consumers/voters respond to advertising of any form in the same way, one reason you can’t treat political brands like regular consumer brands is because the insights required to pitch to the electorate can’t be sourced through a routine market research project. Candidates need to experience the issues which a common man on the street faces everyday. Only then can they come up with a strong communications strategy which a voter might choose to consume.

The advertising industry and marketers alike have come to a common understanding that the Indian consumer is now more sophisticated and conscious about the decisions she takes. There’s a lot of talk about the evolution of the typical new-age Indian consumer. But similarly, has the Indian voter evolved?
Yes. I think he’s evolved like hell. He’s much more open, much more smarter today. He’s much more aware of his responsibilities. He’s extremely aware of the people he decides to vote for. What has happened over the last 15 years is that politicians who were extremely powerful a decade back, have today become irrelevant because they didn’t change even when they realised that the voter was changing. Or probably they didn’t realise that at all.

Apart from being an advertising professional, you yourself are a farmer. You even take two days off every week to attend to your farm. Given that you’ll better relate to farmers and realising the fact that they make up for a sizeable voter base, do you think political parties and candidates have been doing enough to communicate with them?
In a rural environment, the bond between farmers and politicians is extremely strong. This is perhaps one segment which displays brand loyalty similar to what some consumers show for Apple products. The dependency of farmers on the government (subsidies for seeds, fertilisers, et al) for different needs is on a daily basis. Therefore, a lot of times there is direct interaction between the farmer and politician. Plus, there are extremely influential farmer leaders in our country – leaders who come from rural India. And therefore, when you’re looking at national elections, you can’t afford to ignore their base.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2013

An Initiative of IIPMMalay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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