Just a couple of weeks ago, before the elections, most of the Indian Websites were full of Google Adsense Advertisements. These ads were in full flow by the political parties of India. BJP started online campaigning initially like a full fledged campaign but were soon followed by Congress as well. The entire Indian webosphere was covered by these ads and after a while people even became quite sick of them.
According to a poll on WATBlog almost 50% people felt the online campaign of BJP will work and 50% felt it will not work. Quoting from their entry “as most people will remember that BJP had spent a lot of their time, effort and money on wooing the online voter. And urban centres have been the ones where BJP’s performance has been severely dismal.” BJP did run an aggresive campaign online but it wasn’t really successful and congress easily copied it. Let us try to analyze it.
Why did the campaign fail? I believe that although the campaigns were successful in catching people’s attention once, but they did not convey any message to the public. If we look at the advertisement which was displayed almost through the campaigns by BJP and Congress we see their leaders covering the screen with their political campaign statement covering the rest. What was missing was the issues they wanted people to read and discuss. People on the net are not looking for just advertisements but they want more. They already know about both the political parties but they need more information for reasons to vote for them, and this information was not passed on to them. The campaign medium was correct but the strategy was wrong.
Comparisons: A lot of people are comparing the online campaign started by BJP to US President Obama’s online campaign. Obama’s online campaign raised more than $500 m for his campaign through the online route and got his message to many many americans. When BJP started the online campaign there were immediate comparisons with Obama but instead the comparisons should be to John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for 2004 US elections. Kerry also tried the online route for fund raising and campaigning but was not so successful. It takes time to build an online brand, get supporters and run a successful campaign and this is just the beginning for online campaigns of both BJP and Congress.
The Road Ahead: Since the elections are now over I don’t see any advertisements from any political parties. Their online activity has also slowed down considerably. Political parties need to maintain their online campaigns (in a subdued form) for the next 5 years. Interaction of leaders through online medium, informing citizens about issues (like black money, reservations, government projects & policies), getting citizens feedback through online polls and comments, forming an active online support group, and many more activites are possible. In the next elections online campaign just might become more important. Political parties should not let the spending they have done on their online campaigns go waste, they have already built a brand and now they need to maintain it and increase the interaction.
When the common man will feel empowered by a political party, when he will feel a political party is listening to him through the net then they will definitely support them.