When the electorate gave a thumping win for the LDF over the ruling UDF, there were contrasting moods in three different camps elsewhere-- at the offices of the advertising agencies, which worked with the three leading fronts( the LDF, the UDF and the NDA) in their campaigns. Maitri Advertising Works coined the LDF’s initially lampooned-later-lauded ‘LDF Varum Ellam Shariyakum’ and Push Integrated Communications conceptualised the UDF’s theme of ‘Valaranam Keralam, Thudaranam Ee Bharanam -- Oru Vattam Koodi UDF’ while Graphin Communications did it for the BJP. Rajesh Abraham spoke to top executives of the three agencies to know what went right and what went wrong for the campaign.
Q&A with Raju Menon, director (operations), Maitri Advertising, which was the brain behind LDF's tagline
'LDF was clear in their mind what they want'
Q: The LDF campaign hit the bullseye in terms of the end result. But, initially, it was lampooned and trolled on the social media.
Raju: We expected that it would be made fun of, but we knew that it would be widely discussed. Our motto was ‘Keep It Short and Simple’ or KISS as we say in advertising parlance. Even the children started to use ‘LDF varum..’ Through the kids, the women in the family also started discussing the theme.
Q: How were the LDF strategists as a client for your agency. Did they interfere?
Raju: Their brief to us was simple: to give the confidence to the people that the LDF will indeed come to power. The second, that they will rectify or correct all the misdeeds. I’ve dealt with several clients but never interacted with such a good client in terms of clarity of thought and never did they interfere with our work once they told us the brief.
Q: The LDF campaign more or less monopolised railway stations, radio and even trains.
Raju: Again, this was a deliberate strategy. Those, who travel by train, mostly arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before. So, we realised this was a big platform to send the message across. Only a leader would monopolise such opportunities. We decided to use only traditional media, which was again a deliberate step. And, used newspapers only on the day of voting. Had we used newspaper ads earlier, it would not have registered this big on the minds of voters.
Q: There was criticism, at least from some quarters, on a cadre-based party like the Left employing ad agencies.
Raju: In the end, the strategy proved right. We also avoided revolutionary songs or such gimmicks towards the end of the campaign to ensure that the message had credibility.
Q&A with: V A Shreekumar, CMD, PUSH Integrated Communcations, which conceptualised the UDF campaign
'The UDF’s advertising corpus was just 1/3rd of the LDF'
Q: What went wrong with the UDF campaign.The LDF’s ‘Ellam Shariyakum’ scored over your ‘Oru Vattam Koodi’?
Shreekumar: The LDF campaign of ‘Ellam Shariyakum’ will be the biggest liability of the new government during its five-year tenure. Already people, who are facing some issues, have started mocking the ‘Ellam Shariyakum’ campaign. I fear, the LDF has fallen into a big trap. It( the tagline) will be remembered by the people for the next five years, and may be brought up whatever little problems the new government faces.
Q: It seemed that the LDF and even the BJP-NDA campaigns were more visible than those of the UDF?
Shreekumar: We have put up a best campaign within our constraints. Our budget, you wouldn’t believe, was 1/3rd of the LDF’s and 1/4th that of the BJP-NDA. So, we had our limitations. We simply couldn’t match our rivals’ financial muscle.
Q: Were there any shortcomings in projecting the UDF’s development projects?
Shreekumar: It was visible everywhere. In big hoardings and billboards, we showcased the UDF Government’s achievements in the development sphere.
Q&A with Joice C Jose, Graphin Communications, which worked for the NDA/BJP campaign
'BJP brass wanted to play up UDF, LDF Govts’ failures'
Q: What was your brief from the client, the BJP?
Joice: They clearly told us that we need to project the fact that the two fronts, which had ruled Kerala by turns for the last 60 years or so, failed miserably on sectors ranging from agriculture to industry and employment generation. Our campaign ‘Vazhimuttiya Keralam Vazhikattan BJP’ captures the state of affairs in Kerala under the LDF and the UDF.
Q: It is said the BJP-NDA campaign was flush with funds; even four times the UDF budget?
Joice: Not true. We kept a low profile in the initial phase of the campaign while both the LDF and the UDF spent money. We put our might into the campaign only from May second week, which gave an impression that we poured more money.
Q: There was a feeling that your campaign focused on negatives, which was not a right strategy?
Joice: Our strategy was to bring out the negatives of the last 60 years. Then we narrated the steps we would bring in for a positive change. That was our campaign.
Q: Many would say there is nothing to show for the BJP in the end with just one seat?
Joice: The vote share of the BJP has grown four times from the last Assembly elections. Places where the BJP could secure 2,000 votes saw the share jump to over 25,000.