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Brands hop on to election gravy train urging the youth to get “inked”

A new trend noticed this year is the surfeit of campaigns launched by brands, media companies and social media biggies urging people, especially first-time voters, not to waste their vote. BestMediaInfo talks to marketers, brand custodians ad men to find out the reason

Sarmistha Neogy | Mumbai | May 5, 2014


Like every General Election, the 2014 General Election has also whipped up hysteria that has gripped the entire nation. However, a new trend noticed this year is the surfeit of campaigns launched by brands, media companies and corporate houses asking people not to waste their vote. There appears to be an overarching attempt to educate voters “to vote”.

According to the latest Census 2011, more than 70 per cent of the Indian population is below the age of 35. And out of the 800 million people voting this time, 100 million will be first-time voters. It is woo this audience and grab potential customers from this group that brands are going out of their way to urge people to vote.

Ameer Jaleel Amer Jaleel

Two different patterns of brand advertisements are noticeable in this election, the first being those with the message ‘Go Out and Vote’, and the second being those that are riding the unprecedented popularity surrounding this election. As Amer Jaleel, National Creative Director, Lowe Lintas, put it, “There is a very fine difference between riding a wave and creating a wave. What we try to do in our campaigns is to read people’s mind, pre-empt the popular thing and to create a wave.”

Internet giant Google India has featured Shyam Sharan Negi, 97 years, India’s first ever voter, and who still makes it a point to vote, as part of its digital ‘Pledge to Vote’ campaign to encourage voters. The brief given to the creative agency, Ogilvy & Mather, was to inspire today’s youth, who are a part of the internet generation, to vote. The campaign also promotes Google India’s election hub which provides citizens with all voting related information.

Over the years, Tata Tea campaigns have created little triggers of awakening the masses. It all started with their ‘Jago Re’ campaign in 2007. Its new campaign – ‘Power of 49’ – brainchild of Lowe Lintas, underlines the importance of women in the electoral process. “The first film released under this campaign is talking directly to the politicians in their language, projecting women as a powerful ‘vote bank’ that cannot be ignored as they constitute 49 per cent of the total electorate. The second film ‘Kala teeka’ or the black dot sends a hard-hitting message to all women across age groups and unites them under the “49%” by discussing topic of safety,” explained Jaleel.

Sapangeet Rajwant Sapangeet Rajwant

General entertainment channels (GECs) have also joined the electoral effort – and tapping this “stree shakti” is one of their planks. ‘The Power of 49’ campaign has found an extension on television shows – to bring together the “49% ka power, bahu nahi bahumat hain”. Television’s ‘bahus’ came forward asking their fans and viewers to cast their vote. Popular GEC channels like Star Plus and Zee TV have also integrated ‘the power of 49’ angle in the story plots of their popular serials. “Being creatively different is the key to communicate the message effectively. We have blended this awareness message finely into the storyline without making it look preachy. Knitting these issues into our story lines definitely has a great impact on the audiences today,” said Sapangeet Rajwant, Marketing Head, Zee TV.

Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has produced in collaboration with leading advertising professionals and top B-school students, two television campaigns that encourage all eligible citizens to fulfil their duty to the nation by casting their vote during the 2014 General Election. The two films highlight the stark difference between rural and urban citizens’ approach to elections. They are also part of the only corporate voter awareness campaign to be approved the Election Commission this year.

Radio, always a popular communication medium, is not far behind in the voting awareness effort. 93.5 Red FM has launched a new campaign – ‘Dabaa Ke Bajaa’ – to urge the first-time voters to come out of their houses and to press the voting button on voting day. This mega election awareness campaign conceptualised by DDB Mudra in association with the Election Commission has been running successfully and will continue through the entire duration of the election to reach out to the masses. Huge hoardings with LED integrated “pledge meters” have been installed at the busiest locations in New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Pune.

Rajat Uppal Rajat Uppal

Rajat Uppal, GM, Marketing, 93.5 Red FM, said, “The point of differentiation between our ‘Dabaa Ke Bajaa’ campaign and the other election campaigns has been the tonality and the communication built around innovation. The word ‘bajao’ in Hindi is used to refer to things which are not correct in society. However, we have used ‘bajaa’ to introduce good things – it is only if you go and press the voting button can you expect good changes around you. We have done innovation in terms of the LED pledge meters which act as a constant reminder to people and also strike their consciousness when they see the number of people who have already pledged to vote.”

Sumeli Chatterjee Sumeli Chatterjee

The popular youth channel, MTV India, on the other hand, wanted to make voting ‘cool’ and hence launched its ‘Rock the Vote’ campaign. Sumeli Chatterjee, Head, Marketing & Insights, MTV, said, “Through this campaign, we wanted to make voting so cool that the voter’s ink is the coolest tattoo which the youth would love to flaunt.” The channel through its campus connects, music anthem, television shows, info graphics and cartoons conveyed one message to the youth: ‘If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.’”

“We have kept the communication simple, direct and tongue-in-cheek, so that it resonates with the youngsters. From playing pun on the voting machine button to the new video of ‘Dot is Sexy’, the campaign weaves in a lot of humour while being serious at the core,” added Sumeli.

Saurabh Parmar Saurabh Parmar

“The flavour of the season is election and therefore not only brands but mainstream movies like ‘Bhootnath Returns’ have also played on the election theme. Since everyone is following the same trend, the brand connect relies heavily on the creative execution,” said Saurabh Parmar, Founder & CEO, Brandlogist Communications.

If the youth is the main target audience of this year’s General Election campaigns, how can the social networking sites keep themselves aloof from the zeitgeist? Facebook India launched apps like ‘Election Tracker’ which tracks the mention of leading candidates and parties, ranking them from most mentioned to the least. The homegrown personal social networking site, Vebbler, is not far behind in this race with the launch of its new campaign, the ‘Ungli campaign’, to engage the youth in quality conversations revolving around the General Election. The campaign has also collaborated with the popular Band of Boys to create a catchy and upbeat song – the ‘Ungli Song’. “The youth is always accused of talking big and not doing anything productive; hence, through our ‘Ungli campaign’ we decided to use the digital platform to convert endless political debates into real action,” said Sahil Bhagat, founder of Vebbler.

Samyak Chakrabarty Samyak Chakrabarty

Operation Black Dot’s objective is to bring a shift in the way politics is looked at in India and by making it more engaging and inclusive. Samyak Chakrabarty, Founder of Operation Black Dot and Chief Youth Marketer, DDB Mudra Group, explained, “This campaign is not only an incentive for the disinterested voters to go out and vote, but an excellent way for them to celebrate their vote and consequently democracy. From getting MPs on bean bags to breaking down complex political concepts into quick, fun videos, we did it all to ensure our TG finds such discourse interesting and engaging.”

In the run-up to Mumbai voting on April 24, DDB MudraMax and Thincquisitive Foundation celebrated democracy by hosting India’s first ever ‘Voter’s Party’ at Hard Rock Café, Andheri.

Harish Bijoor Harish Bijoor

Brand experts have expressed mixed opinions on this new trend. Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults, observed, “Brands and their dads and moms - brand managers - are always in the hunt for events. The General Election is India’s greatest event which gets the biggest set of eyeballs. Marketers therefore jump onto the gravy train of elections. In this entire episode, some do well and some handle it miserably. However, everyone manages to grab attention.”

Anand Halve Anand Halve

Anand Halve, Founder, Director, Chlorophyll, however had a word of caution. He remarked, “When too many brands jump onto the same platform, the effect is confusion, and far from getting more attention, brands get diffused and become part of one merged vignette of associations. Moreover, the important question is whether the topical efforts are related to the long-term proposition of the brand. On the matter of elections, the only brand that seems to me to have an ongoing connection with elections and people's issues is Tata Tea. As for the rest, their election / voting related ads are likely to be forgotten in a few days, because they are not related to the brand’s long-term efforts.”

Santosh Desai Santosh Desai

On whether we will get to see more of this trend in the coming years, Santosh Desai, MD & CEO, Future Brands India, said, “Election as a topic is easy to communicate compared to other social problems in our society. Hence, we will get to see this trend more and brands will continue to propel Indians to come out and vote till the voting percentage increases to a decent 75-80 per cent.”

For now, every brand is doing its bit to spread awareness and to entice the youth to cast their vote. The question remains how many of them will actually cast their vote. From statistics doled out by the Election Commission after every polling phase so far, the communication effort appears to be having a positive effect as voting percentages have shot up almost everywhere.

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