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Despite spending crores on advertisements to promote their leaders, political parties and various states and central government have suffered serious backlashes on social media and among the masses due to blunders on their advertisements. More often than not, some of their promotional advertisements backfires and turns out to be an embarrassment for them. Recently, Congress was left red-faced when the party’s new advertisement, featuring Rahul Gandhi, ‘lifted’ a tag line used by BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi three years ago. BJP accused Congress of being copy cats and pointed out that the slogan ‘Main Nahi, Hum’ had been coined by Modi in 2011 for a ‘Chintan Shivir’ in Gujarat.

However, ad experts believe that the advertisement agencies are morally responsible for such marketing blunders. Prominent ad guru Prahlad Kakkar told Millennium Post over the phone that the ad agencies are responsible for any such mistakes which turns out to be an embarrassment for their clients. ‘Such mistakes frequently happen due to the poor research and lack of awareness among the advertisement industry professionals. Majority of them now a days rely on the internet for information. Most of them don’t have basic knowledge about politics and international affairs. Lack of knowledge instigate such ad disasters,’ said Kakkar. However, he clarified that the advertisement agencies can’t be held solely responsible for such blunders as the final authority of approving an ad rests with the client. ‘They cannot be held solely responsible for any such mistakes as the green signal to pass an advertisement is given by the client. The clients should also go through the ads carefully before going ahead with it,’ added Kakkar.

Earlier, BJP had criticised Gujarat Congress after it ran an election campaign ad on malnutrition which included a picture of a child who apparently was a victim of the floods in Sri Lanka. The red-faced Congress asked BJP to focus on the problem and not on the picture in the advertisement.
Congress, however is not the only victim of ad blunders. In 2010, BJP faced a similar situation when Gujarat government-sponsored ad ‘Muslims in Gujarat’ showed pictures of girls who were from the state of Uttar Pradesh. The ad showed Muslim girls working on computers, an attempt to promote the idea that Muslims are well-off in Gujarat. The picture, according to reports, came from a US-based news portal run by Indian Muslims. To much amusement, the same girls appeared in a Rajasthan government ad in 2012. This time the ad said: ‘We are proud of being Rajasthani’.
Such ad disasters are not restricted to just political parties. Even various union ministries have faced the music for such blunders. Mamata Banerjee, during her tenure as railway minister in 2010 was left fuming after an Eastern Railways ad showed Delhi in Pakistan and Kolkata in the Bay of Bengal. In the same year, the BJP government in Karnataka was embarrassed after a ‘Karnataka Shining’ ad carried a picture of a farmer who killed himself in 2009. Even the Navy Day celebrations turned sour when an advertisement showed Chinese fighter jets. The ad showed JF-17 fighter jets that China had once supplied to Pakistan. Ironically, the Navy Day commemorates the victory on Karachi port termed ‘Killers’ Night’ in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Meanwhile, ad guru Prahlad Kakkar believes that such incidents can be averted if the ad agencies and the client engage more with each other and focus on their responsibilities. He explains, ‘these blunder cause great amount of embarrassment to the clients as well as the agency. They have to be more focussed in their work and should be careful before a final nod is given.’

The advertisement industry sees a huge market for themselves in the political fraternity. While the 2009 elections saw a total spend of Rs 500 crores on advertising, this time around advertisers will collectively fetch more than Rs 2,000 crores. The Congress alone plans to spend around Rs 500 crore for its poll campaign. The party has allocated Rs 400 crore for mass media ads, which include, television, print, radio, outdoor and digital media and around Rs 100 crore for on-ground activities. Mind you, these are just the official figures. Surprisingly the Congress has accused BJP of spending Rs 10,000 crores on Modi’s ad campaign.
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