Policy for Govt. funded Advertisements

Sonia Gandhi was not part of UPA govt. Still, her photos, bigger than even Prime minister, would appear as part of govt. ads. Jayalalitha, specially after scoring 37 goals in recent elections, has issued full 4 page advertisements in all leading papers, multiple times of the month. Her full body photo would appear first, occupying the whole single page, followed by her govt. initiatives and achievements. Interestingly, she is CM of Tamilnadu but ads were issued for northern prints of the papers (ET, IE, Hindu etc.). UPA would constantly remind us of Nehru/Gandhi birthdays and deaths. To get a taste of kind of money govt. spends on ads, read Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi ads alone cost UPA-2 Rs 53 crore and Government's ad blitz: Wastage in a time of austerity?.

After 70 years of misusing govt. funds for selling political agendas, primarily by congress, pioneered by Indira Gandhi (she was convicted on using govt. machinery for political campaigns), someone woke up (SC in this case) and setup a committee to frame guidelines to curb such misuse Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) already has a policy for ad publications. It mainly talks about classification of newspapers, payments ceilings, general precautions etc. I am sure it can be improved by margins. One such effort has been made by the committee, in its recent ad asking for inputs from public space on advertisement policy.

Following are some quick suggestions on how to handle govt. funded ads.



1. DAVP should target "satisfactory levels of reachability and visibility" of "appropriate content" to the "targeted mass".

2. DAVP should periodically highlight summary of Govt. work over a period like 6 months or year.



3. DAVP should publish ads for Govt. of India, its ministries and departments, PSUs.

4. DAVP should not limit itself to central govt. but also include state and local govt. depending upon the targetted region, type of mass and content (elaborated later).

5. DAVP should publish precautionary guidelines in form of ads during "emergency situations" like epidemics, floods, droughts etc.

Content Classification and Management of Ads


Political executives


6. DAVP should publish Govt. achievements and work in progress periodically. It should publish incoming events like inaugurations, schemes, birth and death of imminent personalities. Any other advertisements from political executives should not be allowed.

7. DAVP should not allow publication of photos and names of anyone not part of Govt.or with no direct relevance to the client which is financing this ad.

8. DAVP should not allow publication names, photos, flags and election symbols of any political party including the one in Govt.

Business / Tenders


9. DAVP should publish tenders for its respective clients.

Recruitment / Jobs


10. DAVP should publish job openings for its respective clients.



11. DAVP should contextually publish schemes for its respective clients. For example, community marriage ceremonies should be published right before the season of marriage starts, not throughout the year.

Localization of Ads


12. DAVP should not design same content for all regions and masses. Wherever possible, it should contextualize/regionalise the content based on region, language, nature of targetted people (students, job seekers etc. ).

Content management


13. DAVP should integrate same or similar ads by multiple clients and publish just one ad in their place or publish them together.

14. DAVP should ensure that political executives and other stakeholders do not occupy more than required space in ad content.

Publication platform


News papers


15. DAVP should select print papers based on "local reach" instead of "national reach". For example, a Kannada daily may have better circulation than Times of India in Karnataka. Hence former should be preferred.

16. DAVP should segragate a particular but definite section of all registered news papers where Govt. ads are to be published, if at all. This is in lieu of several discounts and tax benefits Govt. provides to the media. This will also help masses to locate govt. information without any hassle.

17. DAVP should not publish any ads on front and second pages to avoid high costs. Because any paper will have a "definite" section for govt. ads, people can directly look up there for any govt. notification. However, in emergency situations DAVP may be allowed to publish on front pages of news papers.

Television and Radio


18. DAVP should avoid ad space in private channels as costs are very high, unless in emergency situations.

19. Govt. of India should focus on reviving viewership of National television channels like Doordarshans and national radio channels like AIR. This way their services can be used and costs for broadcasting govt. ads can be reduced.

20. DAVP should use cheaper electronic medium like Radio for its audio based ads.

Social Media


21. DAVP should build a system using which Photo and Video Ads can be easily integrated with Govt. posts on Twitter, Facebook and similar popular social networks.

22. DAVP should impart training to individual handlers of Govt. departments on how to effectively use social media.



IT managment


23. DAVP should maintain an integrated database of published ads, timestamps, costs, publication platform, its relative significance, client associated etc.

24. DAVP should associate each ad with its significance factor (say between 1 to 5) and accordingly allocate or demand budget for its publication.

25. DAVP should build a system for easy retrieval of ads using SMS, IVRS, Mobile and Desktop apps and websites. This is because often these ads are important source of information for masses but difficult to locate. As each department manages ads individually, people find themselves lost to find ads for their interest (like jobs, tenders etc. )

Financial management 


26. DAVP should pass the cost of publication of ads to respective clients. It should not have any budgetary provision on its own.

27. DAVP should act as consultant for its clients while a) deciding over "reachability" and "visibility" of ad and "creation of content".

28. DAVP should crowd source its publication process in case of emergency situations when high and quick reachability is required.

29. DAVP should estimate the costs of publication over the year for respective clients based on its previous year assessments. This may be used for allocation of funds for ad purposes beforehand by respective clients, for smooth payments.

30. DAVP should identify effective publication platform in each region and partner with it for publication of regular ads for long term association and cost cutting. 

Post Ad Analysis


31. DAVP should carry out effectiveness of its ad campaigns for each publishing platform, type of content and targeted mass. This will help DAVP to reassess its choices and accordingly make changes in content, publishing platform etc.

Nodal agency for State and Local govt. 


32. DAVP should act as nodal point for state and local govt. for content templates, IT system and funds (as appropriate).

33. DAVP should engage State and Local govt. for creating contextual content for the region and people, for effective reach and visibility of ad.

(With inputs from Rahul Dev Singh, Swaraj Bharti)

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