New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met a group of ad producers, researchers, economists and filmmakers last Friday to tap them for ideas on how to best devise a publicity campaign to promote the government’s achievements ahead of next year’s general elections, said people with knowledge of the matter.
“The PM spoke on the importance of perception in politics and how to reach out to the masses and mainly the youngsters with this message that his government was keen on development and that the economic and social agenda of the government is the only thing that should matter,” said one of those present.
ETspoke to several of those who attended, none of whom wanted to be identified.
Senior officials said the point of the informal meeting, which was attended by about 15 people and lasted more than two hours, was to get expert views on what the sentiment on the ground was like and look at improving the government’s communication. Some broad outlines of the likely campaign push emerged at the meeting.
“He made it very clear that whatever he has done was done with the sole aim of improving the lives of the poor in the country and that he was taking responsibility for everything,” said one of the persons. “That the government listens only to industrialists is a negative campaign that needs to be blunted. Additionally, it is very important to convince people that steps such as demonetisation and GST (goods and services tax) were not hastily made moves but reforms that will benefit them and the country in the long run.”
The two masterminds of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 2014 ad campaign, however, weren’t at the meeting: Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, Ogilvy South Asia, said he “had prior commitments and was travelling.”
Prasoon Joshi, who’s Central Board of Film Certification chairman, was also travelling, ET learnt.
Messaging will be a critical component of the election campaign, given that the BJP’s publicity campaign across various media in the last national poll played a key role in its sweeping victory.
Among those who attended the meeting were veteran ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar and Sajan Raj Kurup, chairman, Creativeland Asia Group. Kakkar declined to comment. Kurup said he was at an ashram in Coimbatore and not in a position to speak to the media. Actor Anupam Kher said he had only come to pay a courtesy call on the PM that day and had no role in any other event.
Another participant said it was pointed out that there was a need to identify credible faces other than the PM in the country so that Brand Modi doesn’t face any kind of fatigue and can be used incrementally to strengthen the campaign throughout the next few months.
A filmmaker said the PM listened to suggestions intently and didn’t speak much.
“He came across a leader who was trying to do the best for the country,” he said. “At the end, people just need to be told that while it is their choice who to vote for, they should remember that what is good for the country is what is good for them.”
The meeting started with experts presenting data slides on the government’s achievements in the past four years. “There was neatly presented information on what has already been done,” said one of the persons cited above.
The idea is to promote the government and publicise its successes among the masses so they “understand and acknowledge the efforts of the government” and also to counter the “negative propaganda” of the opposition, according to one of those present. This was among the first of many meetings that are likely to be held, an official said, adding that such a discussion wasn’t extraordinary in any way.
“He did several such meetings in Gujarat too before coming to Delhi,” the person said. “The attempt is to get good suggestions to improve the government’s outreach. The campaign is several months away, so the intent now is only to gather suggestions and make improvements.”
The Prime Minister has been meeting people from various sections of society in the past few months, mainly through the NaMo App and listening to their stories of how government schemes have improved lives.
Another participant said the Prime Minister came across as “very open to suggestions on best ways to communicate the sincerity and intent of the government.” He added that the participants intended to send the PM a note each on ways they think his outreach efforts can work better.
“We will also point out anomalies where the government needs to do more, talk more or talk less,” he said. “That will be done in the next few days. We are his wellwishers and all of us present there want to do our best to help him out.”