imgadLK Advani is all over the web – banner ads, Google text ads…you name it, he’s in. He’s got himself a shiny new blog too, besides a Twitter account. According to this report, Congress too is planning an online assault shortly. This post is not about who I plan to vote for or how effective these online ads are. Its about what these ads communicate and my take on what they should be communicating.

The Obama campaign online was straight to the point – state-wise ‘Register to Vote’ call for action banners, banners directing visitors to the official campaign site and assorted cause-based (Learn how Barrack Obama will change Washinton) ads. In comparison, what we’ve seen of Advani’s ads are – what I tend to call – face-holders. A mug shot of Advani, ‘Advani for PM’ and similar headlines and the Advani blog link. Here’s a snapshot of the kind of ads Advani has, online, courtesy WATBlog.

Think about it…who exactly are they targetting with these online ads? The illiterate/ semi-literate masses who get swayed by face value? Or the educated class that can afford internet and who do not succumb to mindless face-value ads? This assumption may be wrong, but given the fact that its the educated class that gains access to pervasive internet and its the considerably-more-educated class that is discussing such strategies, doesn’t it make sense to go for a cause-based campaign than a mere banner that puts out a mug shot?

Print ads by Congress proclaiming the development they’ve ushered is perfectly justified based on the target audience. But the online medium enables conversation and Indian politics never ever liked/ wanted/ had any meaningful conversation with its audiences. It was always a broadcast – take it or leave it. If you want to leave it, they’ll make sure you take it, courtesy, television sets, free gas stove, free electricity and good ‘ol cash.

Why can’t Congress (for instance, could be BJP too) buck this trend and do something interesting with their online ads? I’m not even talking about social media engagement, which requires a new post altogether – but how about banner ads that address specific issues? How about banners that say things like,

  • ‘We know how bad the traffic in your city is. And we have a solution!’
  • ‘We are worried about the callousness of the police department too. But we can help’
  • ‘We have some ground-breaking ideas to improve the distribution of essential commodities via ration shops’
  • ‘The average age of our candidates is <age>. Vote for a Young ruling class’
  • Our candidates’ education qualification break-up – <add pie chart here>. Vote for an informed government.

The opportunity – as always, endless. Its time to think afresh, like an ad agency and think about the target audience, for a change. They are working and they access the internet all time. Your ads are competing with Digg, Twitter, Google Reader, tons of blogs, Google News, Facebook, among others. The ads needs to be compelling and needs to instill some kind of aspiration to (a) open the banner and go the next step (b) read the content and start thinking about it.

A mug shot and a link with the Indian flag in the background? C’mon!

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