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‘Get out and vote’, Indian brands tell their consumers during the general election

The general elections in India are a time of high budget campaigning. In 2019, spends are expected to touch US $430 million according to some estimates, nearly thrice the US $147 million spent by the two major political parties the BJP and the Congress on their campaigns in 2014.

It is not just the political parties who are spending though; brands tend to piggyback on every single significant election in the country. The attempt is to push a “purpose-driven” message – usually encouraging Indians to cast a vote – and to try to ride a dominant societal concern or trend.

This year, one of the country’s largest broadcasters Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited said that it will pull programming in the morning time band from 8:00 am to 10:00 am in every region that goes to the polls – the election process in India typically takes well over a month.

Instead, the channel has been airing its own messaging and ads from brands encouraging people to go out and vote.

Among the other entertainment channels running voter engagement campaigns in India is MTV. For a series of films called ‘Vote Because You Can’, MTV and its agency Leo Burnett Orchard claim to have tracked down refugees from places like Sudan and Somalia affected by conflict to make a point about how being allowed to participate in an election is a privilege.

#VoteBecauseYouCan

Democracy is a privilege. This election, #VoteBecauseYouCan.

Posted by MTV India on Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Chasing choppers for food was his only option for survival. He didn’t have a choice. But you do.This election #VoteBecauseYouCan

Posted by MTV India on Thursday, 18 April 2019

Speaking about the campaign, Leo Burnett chief creative officer and managing director Rajdeepak Das said: “Democracy is a choice and it comes to life when you see people from different parts of the world who don’t have that freedom.

“To bring home this point, we have taken a macro-view of democracy and juxtaposed it with people coming from war torn countries who have fled from their homes under great duress. With the help of our Leo Burnett global offices we have actually managed to shoot in the war conflicted areas and portrayed real-life situations.”

A campaign from Comedy Central created by Tilt Brand Solutions does a humorous take on the same theme with ‘Chooser Not Loser’

It ain't funny anymore.#ChooserNotLoser

Posted by Comedy Central India on Monday, 1 April 2019

You can’t choose your father, but you can choose your Daddy. 😉#ChooserNotLoser

Posted by Comedy Central India on Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Speaking about the films, Tilt Brand Solutions chief creative and content officer Shriram Iyer said: The idea #ChooserNotLoser, coupled with  quirky scripts deserved an execution that’s both thought-provoking and humorous, given it’s after all a message from Comedy Central. The sketches depict the significance of making one’s own choice by dramatising the repercussions of not exercising it. It is a wakeup call to take a step towards the polling booths”.

McDonald’s staged an ‘activation’ at an outlet in Hyderabad, a city that has already gone to the polls. Going by the film called ‘Make Your Choice’, the fast food chain apparently opted to annoy customers who had refrained from voting, by fouling up their orders.

An ad by Times Group owned OTT platform posited the elections as “entertainment” and in a cynical commercial, recommended the platform as the best place to keep abreast of the “drama”.

There is also a campaign doing the rounds on social media from obscure non-governmental organisation Dynamic India. Very little information exists about the organisation online and it appears to have come into existence purely to back these visually driven ads from Bengaluru-based agency Vatitude.

The Dynamic India website is apparently under construction, while all its social media channels have nothing but the campaign on offer. The ads spin a narrative around how voting can solve societal ills. Except, presumably self-serving advertising.

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