As the first phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls nears, parties are not just taking to the roads but also vying for attention in the digital arena. 

All political parties increased their digital advertisement spending on Google starting March 1 this year. But the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had a head start in putting out image and video ads on Google as early as January. 

A total of ₹52 crore was spent on political advertisements on Google from March 1 to April 9 2024, as per the data published by the tech giant per its political ads transparency initiative. This is also six times the political ad spending on Google recorded during the same period in 2019 at ₹8.8 crore.

During this period, the BJP is the top advertiser, spending ₹8.8 crore across 73,000+ ads. The largest portion of the party’s digital ad spending was during the week of March 25-31. 

At ₹7.9 crore, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), through its agency Populous Entertainment Network, is the next biggest spender on digital ads. Over 70% of this expenditure was incurred between April 1 and April 9, and the party spent almost 80 lakh each on April 2 and 3 alone. 

The Indian National Congress (INC) is in third place, spending ₹6.8 crore during the period. Over 50 per cent of this was spent during April 5-9 alone and ₹2 crore ad spends were recorded on April 7. Most INC ads were targeted in the regions of Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, as per Google’s data.  

Political advertisements

Google’s political advertising comprises image ads appearing on various websites and video ads on YouTube. The dataset is updated dynamically. businessline analysed the data until April 9. 

The majority of BJP’s ads in this period were directed toward Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. However, gearing up for PM Modi’s visit to Chennai on April 9, 27 per cent of BJPs digital ad spends between April 1-April 9 were in Tamil Nadu at over ₹14 lakhs. In terms of the format, 84 per cent of BJP’s ads from March 1- April 9 are video ads across various regional languages carrying the messaging of ‘Phir ek baar Modi Sarkar’ (Once more Modi rule). 

DMK’s digital ads include image and video content showcasing various schemes brought out by the MK Stalin government in the last three years, along with an emphasis on the ‘Dravidian Model’. The majority of INC’s ads involve the clarion call of ‘Haath Badlega Haalat’ (alluding to the Hand symbol) and raise questions about reforms by the current regime. 

Campaign trends

Interestingly, the top spender during the period was the government’s Central Bureau of Communication (previously Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity), but the agency stopped advertising on March 15 in line with EC’s announcement of poll dates. Digital agency Indian PAC Consulting Private Ltd and the YSR Congress party are among the other top ad spenders during the period at ₹3.9 crore and ₹2 crore, respectively. IPAC put out ads for its clients Trinamool Congress and YSR Congress party. A three-minute campaign video titled ‘Maa Nammakam Nuvve Jagan’ was a key video ad played on YouTube and clocked millions of impressions.  

Vikas Chawla, co-founder of digital marketing firm Social Beat, says political ads have become more targeted and customised this year. “Parties have come a long way from 2019, when digital ads were not very common. We will likely see digital ad spends rising in the next few days,” he adds. 

Interestingly, events like elections, IPL or Diwali also lead to a rise in the cost of digital ads, and marketers observed a marginal increase in digital ad costs in the last month with the deluge of political ads.