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Tamil Nadu is a leader in spending on political advertising in digital media

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Be it the sudden increase in the number of internet users during the pandemic or simply the growing power of digital media, the 2021 general election saw a huge leap when it comes to political advertising. Tamil Nadu alone spent nearly Rs 40 million on Google and Facebook ads during the election.

According to the figures from Google Transparency Report, Tamil Nadu was the top digital political advertising spending country with Rs 33 crore spending. Google ads include not only political ads on Google, but also on YouTube and other partner sites. The Tamil Nadu Numbers are a sum of advertisements containing or operated by a political party, political candidate or current member of the Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha.

According to political analyst Sumanth Raman, the growth of Tamil Nadu’s digital spending in the 2021 election will be supported by several factors. “In Tamil Nadu, if someone needs to reach a population below the age of 55, the easiest way is to reach them on their smartphone. The state has high internet penetration and a vibrant Tamil social media ecosystem. It was only in the last week that the parties went under pressure. Most of the advertising in the state has been done digitally because it’s easier and quicker to create a narrative through a YouTube video than through any other traditional medium, at least in Tamil Nadu, he said.

On the other hand, the state spent around Rs 4.5 crore on Facebook between January and April (according to the Facebook Advertising Library records).

Google ads saw higher spending from states and individual parties. According to the report, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) spent almost Rs 21 crores on more than 2000 ads on Google.

While small spends between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 were made in the final months of 2020, the political advertising glut peaked between January and April, with the highest spends being made in the last week of March. DMK spent Rs 8.34 crore this week. On Facebook, DMK spent almost 1.7 million rupees on pages like Ondrinaivom Vaa and MK Stalin.

“In Tamil Nadu, political parties have very deep pockets and there is perhaps the highest spending on online campaigns,” said Ambika Sharma, Founder and Managing Director of Pulp Strategy.

“This year the ads have improved and have a good storytelling technique,” she added.

“Although digital spending is huge, it’s not happening in large volumes. Spending on Google ads, be it on any of their platforms, ranges from as little as 250 rupees per ad to as much as 1.25 rupees per ad. Many of these ads have a reach of almost a million people. With Google’s focus on language products, it’s become easier for parties to provide targeted content and that’s why spending in this election is at an all-time high. Even if we compare the figures of Tamil Nadu with Maharashtra or Delhi, which also participated in surveys in 2019 and 2020, Google’s ad spend ranged from Rs 3.3 billion to Rs 6.4 billion. Tamil Nadu is setting new records in election campaigns lined up with the digital editions,” said a Southern policy strategist.

According to the Google Transparency Report, BJP was the second highest Google ad donor after DMK. However, most of the party’s spending on the platform started in late February and peaked in mid-March when they spent more than Rs 70 lakh in a single week. However, on Facebook, TMCP took the lead, followed by BJP. While the former has spent Rs. 3.6 crore on ads related to social issues, elections or politics on Facebook in the last three months, BJP West Bengal spent approximately Rs. 2.04 crore on 2,239 ads during the period. The parties’ Assam wing is also spending about Rs 35,000 on Facebook for 143 ads.

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