It looks like the UPA government is planning an ad blitz in a campaign named “India Building” with a budget of 100 crores. The lack of imagination in the campaign is stunning – specially after the disaster that its predecessor turned out to be. A grotesque amount was spent by the previous NDA government on an ad campaign named “India Shining” in early 2004. Like any advertisement campaign is supposed to, India Shining campaign caught people’s attention. Everywhere one turned there was the India shining message with claims of dubious achievements. Television, billboards, radio, road dividers and practically everywhere one turned, the whole scenario was littered with India Shining messages.
The campaign meshed well with the gung ho attitude of the NDA then, and the overwhelming poll predictions that the coalition would win. With the coalition drowned in its own media blitz, June 2004 turned humour into hubris with the coalition suffering a “surprise” poll disaster.
Now, it looks like the UPA coalition is all set to follow the mold with its India Building campaign. I am greatly surprised that this ad blitz has all the same trappings as the previous one including big budgets and the sole aim of projecting “achievements”. It looks like the current project will talk of the Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) that I had so much wanted. As I tour around Villupuram and go to other places, it is very clear that awareness levels about NREGA related entitlements is rather low and some imaginative advertising is needed. Rather than spending the money on that, the government is now set to just tout its achievement. There can be no better advertisement for a party than a well functioning programme – unfortunately the emphasis here seems to be on propaganda than programme. The title, “India Building” will leave no one in doubt on what it’s modeled after. It puzzles me as to why the coalition would want to take this route when the previous attempt was such a disaster. I have only one possible explanation so far.
In a country where a lot of newspapers are dependent on advertising revenue, the ad campaign is a great way of generating favourable news for the party. It is well known that advertising has a significant impact on news. This is all the more true of smaller newspapers and vernacular newspapers in India – which have the largest reach among newspapers. Perhaps this pointless ad campaign has a point – that of winning friends and thus influencing people. With luck, this will fail.