An IITian and a NIFT graduate are among those at the frontlines of the Congress’s 2019 digital battlefield as the 134-year-old Grand Old Party attempts to take the fight to the BJP camp.
Last week, after weeks of dilly-dallying and repeated presentations, the party gave out the contract for the party’s social media outreach to Hitesh Chawla, 36, of the Gurgaon-based data-powered advertising company SilverPush; and Naresh Arora, 38, of the Surat-based digital campaign firm DesignBoxed.
Media communications company Percept and Niksun have also been roped in.
A coordination committee with Sam Pitroda and Pawan Khera, among others, will monitor these external agencies during the upcoming campaign season, but the agency heads are still looking for further instructions on their work.
Though the companies tested the waters for the general election with their #ShutDaFakeUp campaign last Saturday, they said the big push would start on April 2.
As a data-centred company, SilverPush will focus not on content creation, but rather analysis of social media penetration and conversation to assess the party’s campaign strategy. Using a method called “sentiment analysis”, the company can tell the party which localised campaigns are gaining traction where and among which demographic group.
In addition, the SilverPush team uses WhatsApp broadcasting and SMS pushes to get through to targeted voters.
The Gurgaon-based SilverPush made its mark in the corporate marketing space with a form of targeted advertising called “contextual advertising”, where the consumer sees ads based on the content she consumes. For example, if a user is reading a webpage about vacations, she might begin to see ads for flight tickets on other platforms and media almost immediately.
While the 2019 elections will be SilverPush’s first foray into the political arena, Arora’s DesignBoxed entered the space in 2015, when it designed digital strategies for MPs in Punjab.
Also, the firm had replaced Prashant Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) at the fag end of the 2017 Punjab Assembly campaign, during which it worked for the Congress, after which it did campaigns for the party in the 2017 Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections as well as last year’s Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan Assembly polls.
“Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan elections brought to the forefront something that the entire national media missed – that the BJP can be beaten at this game, and with fewer resources,” Arora said.
Arora distinguishes his 300-employee company from the other players in the rapidly-expanding digital marketing industry by stating that he does not just social media outreach but also manifesto and campaign creation.
The team had come up with the “Jawab Denge Himachal” campaign against the BJP’s “Hisaab Mange Himachal” and designed the “Rajasthan ka report card” for the Congress.
Saying that the team plans to get all hands on the deck for the political campaigning, with a focus on building followings on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, Arora says he realises his YouTube videos have to catch the viewer in the first five seconds.
“Our attention spans are decreasing… Who is going to read long posts on Facebook? We don’t even read all the content on top of graphics anymore. It has to be fast and swift to catch attention,” he said.