Tale of two campaigns: Bland and Blander

If the mass media campaigns from political parties are the way to decide on who to vote for, my hunch is a whole lot of voters will choose NOTA, or non of the above on the voting machine. So terribly boring and uninspiring the campaigns from the defender and challenger are!

Political campaigns play a critical role in making or breaking fortunes of any political party is a known and accepted fact. Every political party is a brand, needs a bunch of loyal followers and also needs a wide swathe of voters who will be happy transacting with the party. Any political party has a small number of committed vote base, and is always looking to expand base and eat into the other parties vote base. This is not very different from the way brands behave. Defend the base and expand by knocking others off.

Any political campaign is a judicious mix of two factors: Ideology and Idea. Most political parties have a sense of ideology, but it’s the idea that can help any party define the agenda and create the ammunition for the battle. Political parties in past have won poll battles on back of a strong idea: from Garibi Hatao to Aam Admi to Ram Mandir

What is interesting is that ideas are often free of shackles of ideology. They spread on their own, they create their eco system, and they become glue for a diverse set of voters to come together. Ideas strengthen ideology. In politics therefore just ideology alone is not enough. Strong ideology needs stronger ideas to flourish.

How do the two campaigns that have been unveiled till now hold up to this?

First the defender. Large portion of population, specially the urban connected audience had a sneer when they first interacted with the campaign. The singular media interview that Mr. Gandhi gave almost destroyed the entire campaign. The campaign has an idea, an idea of being plural, of being tolerant but has been told in a convoluted, confused way. Despite the promise of plurality, the campaign pitches a singular individual. Despite the attempt to project an agenda, the campaign leaves you with no sense of direction. The campaign fails to build on the idea, despite having a strong underpinning of an idea


Now the challenger. Personally, I was waiting with baited breath, for two of India’s advertising icons were leading the process. For a party that has a very sharply defined ideology, I was waiting to see a strong sense of idea. Somehow the campaign falls short on both fronts. There is no ideology in the campaign, but worse there is no idea either in the campaign. At best the campaign speaks with committed voters of the party and may be strengthens their resolve to vote for them. For a party that redefined the use of social media, the unveiling of campaign itself was a pipsqueak. It almost quietly slipped in through some eminently forgettable outdoors. The radio ads raised more questions, created more derision then liking and the messed up TV plan that saw release on DD before other channels left a poor after taste. As a party it should have built on hope, it should have built on future, it should have built on prosperity, instead it tells a sorry tale of despair, hopelessness and resignation. The campaign has a negative appeal, it runs the risk of polarizing the voters sharper then the party may have imagined, or actually may have wanted.

This is for the first time probably that both the parties have emulated the US Presidential Election tactics to the T. Yet, both parties have not been successful in telling the stories they gather from their mass contact to the wider mass of people. This what is needed to give the campaign a sense of participation, a sense of ownership and may even motivate voters to come out in a larger number.

In the end the two campaigns may become like any opinion poll, they become the fodder for News; they generate conversation, but rarely are indicative of results

We have two campaigns that have scored self-goal. It goes a long way to say that advertising eventually is a powerless tool when it comes to influencing political choices. Personally I would have wished to see two strong ideas emanating from two different ideologies.

India deserved better from those who will eventually end up ruling it.

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