Campaign strategists have suddenly become hot property in Kerala with leaders waking up to the import of ubiquitous social media as a potent PR tool to shape public opinion and reach out to prospective voters for the impending polls.
Advertising agencies and marketing strategists are sinking their teeth more than ever in this Kerala Assembly election as they have strung together a common theme for both the UDF and the LDF, taking a leaf out of Narendra Modi’s hugely successful poll campaign in the 2014 general elections.Going a step further, some candidates are roping in outside agencies to handle their campaigns, including giving ‘one-on-one’ interviews with ‘select media’ and to familiarise them with the voters. There is a strong buzz that most top leaders of both the fronts have engaged Mumbai and Delhi-based agencies to give personalised touch to their two month-old campaigning.
“Modern-day elections are increasingly fought on perception and key larger issues that afford a strong emotional connect with the masses; so professionals who can figure, shape and deliver messaging that leads to it have become not just important but indispensable,” says Xavier Prabhu, founder & managing director, PRHUB, a Bengaluru-based firm which is very active in the Kerala poll scene. “Advent of social and digital media today allows one to control messaging or overpower opposite (negative) campaigning and create a set of ardent followers; and obviously politicians and parties want to take advantage of that,” he adds.
Loud and Clear
While UDF is banking on the theme ‘Valaranam Keralam, Thudaranam Ee Bharanam - Oru Vattam Koodi UDF Sarkar’ (Kerala should grow, this government should continue; UDF Government one more time), the Left front resorts to a much curt and crisp slogan ‘LDF Varum Ellam Shariyakum’ (LDF will come and everything will be alright). BJP’s slogan ‘Vazhimuttiya Keralam Vazhikattan BJP’ attempts to send across a message that Kerala needs a change from both the LDF and the UDF.
Positivity is the Motif
“I find the Congress theme is more positive as people could connect some positivity in their regime. By choosing not to be a project or an issue in their ad campaign like the liquor policy or the Kochi Metro, it has averted people’s direct attention from the corruption issues,” says G Srinath of advertising agency Hammer India. In contrast, instead of pinning down the UDF Government on various corruption issues the LDF campaign slogan could have been more imaginative, Srinath adds.
Any Publicity is Good Publicity
But, there’s a section who believes that LDF’s one-liner was a deliberate attempt to be silly so that it has more recall value vis-a-vis the long-winding sentence of the UDF/Congress. “Even the UDF politicians are using the LDF one-liner to poke fun at them, but this is indirectly giving momentum to LDF’s campaign,” explains an independent observer.
Raju Menon of Maitri Advertising Works says today’s youth do not have the patience to read long articles or news reports and hence the simple one-liner slogan will be more effective. “Once the political parties come out with their manifestos we’ll see a change in strategy,” Menon reckons.
According to Rammohan Paliyath of Ten Degree North, his firm also received requests to manage the campaign of some politicians, but has chosen to stay away. “Handling political parties can get tricky. Unless you are ideologically in the same page as the political parties there will not be a genuine effort from our side,” he explains. Also, handling a political party may hamper the long-term business interests and may create unnecessary issues with the opposing camps, Paliyath adds. This is the reason why ad agencies/strategists want complete secrecy on who their ‘clients’ are.
Prabhu of PRHUB feels that at the end of the day, the elections are won and lost decidedly based on the best use of the latest available tools to reach out to the voters. “While at ground zero, caste and religious factors are the primary influencing factors, if done well, the communication campaigns often sway the movers and shakers in these areas, besides the voters who sit in the middle; and this is what turn upshots today,” he says.
Creative agencies in the fray
Push Integrated Communications
Maitri Advertising Works
Bangalore based PRHUB
A campaign manager is a paid or volunteer individual whose role is to coordinate the campaign’s operations such as fundraising, advertising, polling, getting out the vote (with direct contact to the public), and micromanage all campaign related activities
Branding political parties and refashioning their ideologies
Cleaning up tainted past of parties by giving perception makeover
Helping parties to connect with urban, youth voters
Micro-managing publicity; creating symbiotic voter interface