He spearheaded campaigns during Punjab assembly elections 2017, Gurdaspur bypolls 2017, Himachal Pradesh assembly elections 2017, Punjab Municipal Corporation elections 2018 and Shahkot bypolls 2018. Naresh Arora, Director and Co-Founder, DesignBoxed, talks to Moneycontrol on his journey with the political parties and the role of social media in the forthcoming general elections.
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us a little about DesignBoxed Creatives.
DesignBoxed Creatives is a creative political digital campaign management company — the one to have a consolidated presence, both in the offline and online sphere. It is a company with a dedicated team of ground team professionals amassing real-time and pertinent data, giving an expanse to the campaigns. We take up engagement-driven digital media campaigns, catering to different sections of the electoral base with customised content, providing the necessary impetus to create a visible shift in the voting behaviour, formulating favourable grounds of support.
Tell us about your journey with political parties.
We started with just one candidate during Punjab assembly elections, 2017. The very first political digital campaign we ran was during the Punjab elections, which was called ‘Main Captain De Naal Naal’, which was given to us just 21 days prior to the polling day. Next up was the Gurdaspur bypoll 2017, during which the ‘Saada Jakhar’ campaign became the anthem. Saada Jakhar, which aimed at curbing Sunil Jakhar’s projection as an outsider in Gurdaspur, became so popular that it led to winning of elections with a margin of 2 lakh votes.
We also managed six candidates during the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections in 2017, who delivered victories in spite of adverse circumstances. During the Himachal Pradesh elections, ‘Jawaab Dega Himachal’ campaign was devised, highlighting the ineffectuality of the opposition party, which went on to become viral, gaining millions of views in a matter of days.
There were plenty of other campaigns like Jan Ghoshna Patra campaign in Chhattisgarh, Charge sheet, Haryana ki yuva', Haryana ki baat for Haryana’s Kiran Choudhury, Like, Comment and Right Sharing: Humari Social Zimmedari', organised by AICC National Secretary and ex-MP Harish Chaudhary in Barmer etc.
In the last state elections, we saw AAP and other parties getting celebrities to tweet in their favour or put up a picture. Will similar things happen this time too? How are the celebrities rewarded for the favour?
This is called influencer marketing. Their endorsement is much bigger than what ours is. In our country, politicians don’t hold as much credibility, not in as heroic a manner as they are looked at in the West. Celebrities tweeting and putting out posts on other social media platforms will definitely happen this time too. As for their rewards, there might not be cash but there are other benefits that are extended to them. I haven’t seen any exchange of cash in the case of all the clients I have handled; but if someone endorses someone, it cannot be just for the sake of it, there are benefits attached to it.
Would you say this is one focus area for political parties, using influencers?
There is a big race between right wing and centre wing. But generally, celebrities have tended to go towards BJP — whether it is Amitabh Bachchan or Babul Supriyo. They have benefited in different ways. Even when social media wasn’t there, stars used to campaign on the ground from specific constituencies. They were not paid for that also. They were given some other benefits or they asked for other benefits.
Will it be on the social media strategy to involve big names this general elections?
Certainly. Especially on Twitter.
What about the choice of platforms in India for political messaging through social media? How different is it for different States and elections?
Choice of platforms is common in India — first is Facebook, then is WhatsApp and third is Youtube, which is disregarded by people but is still a very popular platform. Then comes Instagram, and then Twitter. People in Delhi have taken Twitter more seriously, but it will not get votes.Otherwise, votes come only from Facebook or Whatsapp. Instagram is going to be a game-changer. The BJP has invested in it. Venkaiah Naidu, when he was Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, had organised a two-day workshop for party members to understand Instagram. Congress has not invested in it yet.