The Congress-led UPA’s publicity managers are now resorting to new modes of advertising to present its softer, welfarist side even as anti-rape protests have been rocking the country. And the move to ensure the maximum reach to the Centre’s campaign has resulted in a corresponding rise in the costs involved.
Over the last few months, the Centre’s latest tech-innovation involved sending over 100 crore text messages to mobile phone users at a mere 1 paisa per message. The Union I&B Ministry’s publicity wing-- DAVP (directorate of advertising and visual publicity)-- had conducted a total of 10 campaigns not just for the Health and Information and Broadcasting ministries, but also for the I-T Department.
However, even as the government agencies woke up to the usefulness of these bulk messages, the rates have been hiked. According to the recent telecom order, the cost since November 7 has jumped from 1 paisa to 16 p. Naturally, SMS companies empanelled by the DAVP are asking for their rates to be increased to 17 paisa per SMS as well.
Vinod Sharma, director of Holymark India SMS Solutions empanelled by DAVP says, “We have requested even the telecom companies and the ministry to reduce the rates for the transactional SMS, as these are for public good.” According to officials, DAVP had hired agencies to send out these bulk messages. And they were first used to send text messages regarding the deadline for digitalisation of cable services in all the four metros. A similar campaign was used on behalf of the I-Tax Department on the deadline of filing returns.
Texts were also sent on calendar events, such as Independence Day and the birth and death anniversaries of national leaders. The UPA Government has spent over `1,768 crore in the last three years on various advertising campaigns. While, the cost of the newspaper advertisements was `375.31 crore in 2011-2012, a sum of ` 13.95 crore had been spent on audio-visual ads.
Following the aggressive online anti-graft campaign launched by civil society groups, the UPA decided to hit back virtually. And the Health Ministry ran a campaign on dengue to generate public awareness, while the national disaster management authority sent out messages for ensuring the security of people in case of calamities.
Sharma said his company’s database comprised around 35 crore mobile phone subscribers. And these messages come under the transactional category, which can be sent to users who have subscribed to the DND directory.
Currently, there are five SMS service providers empanelled with the DAVP. And with the Manmohan Government about to enter the last year of its tenure before the 2014 polls, its PR managers are likely to go into an overdrive to drive home the image of a responsive and responsible administration.