Sam Balsara, CMD, Madison World spoke to ET about the ‘toughest campaign of his career’.
How did the BJP mandate come to Madison?
We were first contacted by Prashant Kishore in Ahmedabad through our client Lodha. Subsequently we were contacted by Ajay Singh and Arun Narendranath. Then we met Piyush Goyal and Arun Jaitley. All major agencies were competing for the account. What won us the business was a lot of detail work revolving around media reach in different constituencies.
Political parties like the BJP and RSS were known to be orthodox, not open to modern ideas. Was that a problem?
We were confident of delivering on our product not just because of faith in our own experience, expertise and capability but we knew we had a strong product, compared to competition.
Advertising works brilliantly for a good product, but kills a bad product fast.
The party did a number of innovations, like the content integration with Channel V.
Was BJP open to these ideas from the beginning?
Yes. That was the very reason they reached out to professionals and then played a supportive role, not an interfering role. I must say the people at BJP are not the stereotypical politicians; they are smart, savvy and intelligent managers who have left corporate jobs to help the nation catch up on lost time.
Reaching out to media-dark markets like UP & Bihar seemed to be a big challenge.
How did you resolve that?
These markets did pose a challenge and obviously got our greater share of our attention. In addition to mass media these markets got intensive below-the-line support.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
Outdoor — in UP especially — posed huge challenges because of unfair play by the ruling party in granting permissions for putting up hoardings. The other challenge was negotiations with media, some of whom artificially inflated their rates for political campaigns! Random numbers floating around in the media for the budget of our campaign made our task more difficult.
Would you call this the toughest campaign of your career?
What made it tougher was frequent changes based on feedback from state units. Work timings for the team changed from 9 am to 5 pm to 12 noon to 3 am. We succeeded in releasing jackets in newspapers at 4 hours notice, and TV spots at 2 hours notice. We launched the campaign on cricket. You can’t do better than that, based on our experience and the creative also was specially created for cricket.
Going forward, will you continue to work for BJP or the new government?
We hope so. What I would really like is for the Government of India to appoint us as media advisors. We could make a huge difference in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Communication is a very important element in the nation building process.
People say BJP spent close to Rs 5,000 crore for the election ad campaign. Is that true?
That is indeed the finest compliment that Madison Media has ever received. The actual spend is a minuscule fraction of that number, but I am not at liberty to reveal it. The BJP campaign has once again proven that mass media has the power to move mountains, it is not as expensive as it is thought to be and multi- media is essential for effectiveness. What our campaign achieved is that it cost-effectively raised the pitch to a crescendo, constituency by constituency as polling day neared which converted a communication task into what you in media call a Modi "wave" that resulted in a landslide victory for the BJP.