The Lok Sabha elections (General Elections) in India just concluded and has yet again demonstrated why it is the biggest democracy in the world. Few basis metrics from the recently concluded elections,
- Elections were held over 39 days
- 902 million registered voters (814.5 million during 2014 General elections)
- Voter Turnout: 67.11 per cent (605 million voters cast their vote)
According to a Centre for Media Studies report, over Rs 55,000 crore (approximately $8 billion) was spent on Lok Sabha 2019 elections.
The political digital campaign was seen in a big way for the first time during Lok Sabha Elections 2014. The ad spend during 2014 was not being tracked that seriously, but for the 2019 elections, Google and Facebook have published the ad spend made by political parties and politicians.
In many states, the candidates personally spend and don’t depend on their political party for their digital campaign. This phenomenon is seen more during assembly elections.
A total of Rs 58 crore ($8.2 million) was spent on Google and Facebook by the political fraternity for the Lok Sabha Elections 2019. Even if you are generous and round off the digital expense to Rs 100 crore, in the grand scheme of things very little money was spent on the digital campaign. Only digital ad spend has been made public. Print, Radio and TV were not required to make this data public.
Thanks to the alleged Russian involvement in the US Presidential elections, the sponsors of each digital ad has been made public.
There was a lot of digital activity on platforms like Sharechat and Tik Tok but there not paid campaigns. Many say the campaings on these 2 platforms was effective.
The overall digital ad spend compared to 2014 elections has increased but not anywhere close to what the digital publishing world was expecting. One should note that there are expenses related to the creative work which will not be captured in any of these reports.
Radio Gaining Traction For Election Campaigning
Ad insertion on the radio by political parties has increased by 14 per cent this election year, while ad insertion in print has decreased by 9 per cent and by 83 per cent on TV. The largest spender across TV, print and radio in terms of ad insertions was BJP (53% share) followed by Congress with a 14% share. [source].
Election Campaign Digital Ad Spend on Facebook
A total of 126,857 ads were published at a cost of Rs 283,983,715 (Rs 28.4 crore / Approx $4 million) for the period Feb 19 – May 18, 2019. This is too small a sum in my opinion. Whereas Trump and Clinton spent $81 million on Facebook ads. Russia got a lot of visibility & brand recall for a spend of mere $46,000!
|Party||Ad Spend in INR (USD)|
|Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)||₹43,415,038 (Rs 4.3 crore / $620,000)|
|Indian National Congress (INC)||₹18,295,046 (Rs 1.8 crore / $260,000)|
|All India Trinamool Congress (TMC)||₹2,987,574 (Rs 30 lacs / $43,000)|
There are many more entities which spent on Facebook. I have only listed the spends done by the political parties directly. The complete ad spend report from Facebook India can be seen here.
Election Campaign Digital Ad Spend on Google
A total of 14,886 ads were published at a cost of Rs 293,001,000 (Rs 29 crore / Approx $4.2 million) for the period Feb 19 – May 18, 2019. The ad spend on Google is very similar to that of Facebook. The complete report can be seen here.
|Party||Ad Spend in INR (USD)|
|Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)||₹183,183,000 (Rs 18 crore / $2.6 million)|
|Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(DMK)||₹41,007,000 (Rs 4.1 crore / $586,000)|
|Indian National Congress (INC)||₹30,459,250 (Rs 3 crore / $435,000)|
|TDP (1 [small spend on AAP], 2, 3)||₹57,872,750 (Rs 5.8 crore / $826,000)|
|All India Trinamool Congress (TMC)||₹10,240,750 (Rs 1 crore / $146,000)|
|Eywa Media Innovations Private Ltd (AIADMK)||₹1,782,500 (Rs 18 lacs / $25,000)|
When it comes to Google vs Facebook, regional political parties prefer to spend on Google. Is it because Google has access to many regional digital publishers?
Political Ad Spend on Google By Geography
The spend by geography report throws some interesting results. The spend in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana is high. Either of the two national parties is not strong in these states, hence I assume regional parties have spent.
The spend in North-Eastern states is low. The spend in Andaman, Lakshadweep are terribly low!
|Geography||Ad Spend in INR )||Ad Spend in USD|
|Andaman and Nicobar Islands||₹6,000||$85|
|Andhra Pradesh||₹52,623,500 (Rs 5.3 crore)||$751,000|
|Bihar||₹16,375,250 (Rs 1.6 crore)||$234,000|
|Dadra and Nagar Haveli||₹18,750||$268|
|Daman and Diu||₹17,750||$254|
|Delhi||₹28,344,000 (Rs 2.8 crore)||$405,000|
|Jammu and Kashmir||₹822,750||$11,754|
|Total||₹293,012,250 (Rs 29 crore)||$4.2 million|
|Geography||Ad Spend in INR||Ad Spend in USD|
BJP spent Rs 22 crores ($3.2 million) and the main opposition party Congress spent Rs 4.8 crore ($695,000), a 4.6:1 spend ratio. BJP won 303 seats and the Congress won 52 seats, a 5.8:1 strike rate ratio.
Google and Facebook will continue to attract the majority of digital ad spend for elections in India. Google does trickle down the revenues to digital publishers but I still believe the numbers are small.
Digital Publishers in India should avoid having a line item “Elections Revenue” in their Financial Plan. Your projections will go haywire. With radio gaining traction digital publishers have think of innovative ways to attract political advertisers.
The only way for digital publishers to get revenues is by publishing high-quality content. Attract users. Garner page views. Increase the time spent. Revenues from other advertisers will follow.