A third eye to keep track of election advertising

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla | | Updated on: Nov 24, 2017

BJP uses new technology to ensure its message reaches the people

The huge billboard at Andheri near the Western Express Highway in Mumbai says, ‘ Chalo bhrastachar mitaye ,’ with a life-size cut-out of Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Harjaap Singh Mann looks disinterested in the billboard unlike others who notice it.

Proof of performance

Mann is founder and CEO of an outdoor media monitoring company — Proof of Performance Data Services — and has been hired by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to monitor and audit its outdoor campaign activities.

“We have been engaged by the BJP as a neutral third-party to ensure compliance and audit of their outdoor media activities. Their entire outdoor campaign in 50-odd cities is being executed by different agencies and we audit their performance,” says Mann.

Proof of Performance Data Services caters to out-of-home advertising, monitors and measures responses. A traffic hoarding, for instance, has a built-in camera that records vehicle movement. The bundled software recognises the vehicles and counts how many cars, two-wheelers and buses have sped past the hoarding. These numbers are relayed to the back office for analysis.

“It is more like a census. We can collect powerful data that give us an opportunity to see how much traffic has gone past. We have in-built software to even detect the look or the gaze of the car passenger, if he/she is looking at the hoarding. We had done it on some pilots in the past and have used it in this election,” Mann told Business Line .

The concept, he adds, has also been applied to billboards on trucks or advertisements on moving local buses to capture a video of the landscape, which is then processed by the proprietary software. “The camera catches the pedestrian and records how many people have viewed the ad. Algorithms and tools are used to measure the probable impression the advertisement has had on the people who have passed through the location,” added Mann.

Video cameras on moving vehicles capture data through a pre-defined drive within each city. “Whether the ad has registered or not, we cannot say, but invariably there is a subconscious tendency to look at hoardings while one is waiting for the traffic lights to change,” says Mann.

For the three-year-old company that has routinely conducted similar audits for several corporates, including Star TV, ICICI Bank, Citibank, LG, Dabur and ITC Foods, this is the second assignment from the BJP. Earlier, with a focus on the Delhi, the party had subscribed to its services for the Assemble elections. Out-of-home advertising is considered crucial for political parties during elections because of its ability to address audiences in a specific locality, says Mann, adding that it also enables easy recall. Since many top cities have banned posters and banners, parties are turning to newer technology.

Mann maintains that the BJP is eager to use new technology to gauge if its message has reached the people. “Every company’s ad campaign provides an opportunity to look at sales, and tweak the ad campaign to achieve the desired target. A political party gets an opportunity once in five years. It is not about whether the money was well spent. It is about the message that they wish to give to the community, and whether it has been executed properly,” says Mann.

Like the voters, Mann will have to wait for the verdict.

Published on April 11, 2014
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