Exclusive Radio One: Modi's election campaign the largest we have ever done

Radio One: Modi's election campaign the largest we have ever done

As a client I kept the BJP campaign with myself , says Nagaraj


cobrapost - May 25, 2018


Namratha Nagaraj, Assistant Sales Manager and Ananda Nandi, Assistant General Manager (Sales), Radio One Bangalore; Sanjog Kumar, Sr. Sales Manager, Radio One Delhi

Declared most attractive radio brand last year, 94.3 Radio One was launched a decade back by Next Radio Ltd. Promoted by Next Mediaworks Ltd. and BBC Worldwide Holdings B.V, the Radio One is India’s only radio network which broadcasts English language programmes in three biggest cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, while the rest broadcast Hindi language programmes. Next Radio was among the first private players to have ventured into FM broadcasting and has established Radio One as the premium FM Brand in top seven cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune and Ahmedabad. It is perhaps for this reason that the BJP chose the station for its election campaign in 2014, as Ananda Nandi, one of its senior officials, confessed to Pushp Sharma when the journalist met him in his Noida office during the course of this undercover investigation. To quote Ananda Nandi: “See the last campaign which was election where Modi did the campaign, I think it was the highest largest ever political campaign we have ever done.”

It is interesting to see how the interviews that the senior journalist had with Nandi and his colleague Namratha Nagaraj unfolded at the Radio One Bangalore office. Here, Sharma first met Nagaraj, who is working as Assistant Sales Manager with Radio One to have an idea if the BBC partner behaves in an ethical manner while accepting ad campaigns. However, a few minutes into this meeting dispelled all notions of probity that an organization like BBC is known for worldwide.

As Sharma goes about briefing Nagaraj of his agenda, he tells her that his campaign is targeted at the upcoming elections and initially he would like their radio station to promote Hindutva with an innovative packaging. So, have you ever run such campaigns, not necessarily political, on your radio stations? The journalist asks her.

Yes, we have. Says Nagaraj: “Campaign we have, so we regular campaign we do we can just …” But such campaigns must be done as commercials? Replies Nagaraj: “Yeah, you can do a commercial on our station and if we have any property maybe you can give your tagline thing ʻBrought to you byʼ or ʻPowered byʼ and then your company’s name.” Her message is clear.

What if we buy a half-an-hour slot for our campaign? The journalist asks her.

Yes, but commercial spots are hardly 10 seconds long. “So we don’t do half an hour or hourly slots such. The ads spots are minimum of 10 seconds. So that’s how we create our ads,” explains Nagaraj. It is now clear that we can push our agenda through such commercial spots.

You mean to say that we can run our agenda through such commercials? The journalist seeks confirmation. “Yeah, commercial,” says Nagaraj. Fine, but we have not any commercials ready with us. Tell me if you have any third party vendor who could do this job for us?

Nagaraj sets aside our worries when she says: “No, no, we only do everything. You just have to give me brief what exactly you want to promote on air.” In the meanwhile, her senior colleague Ananda Nandi has joined the discussion. Throwing a poser, the journalist tells Nandi, you see, we cannot take any liberty with your programming, which you do in-house, vis-à-vis our campaign. So, maybe it is the commercials where we can enjoy some liberty?

Yes, you can certainly do that. “See you can create some humorous spots,” suggests the assistant general manager. They may not be direct. He explains how effective this will be: “You may not use name but you might always use similar name … Yeah, but of course the listeners understand that it is you are targeting this person.” You mean the way Aaj Tak does in “So Sorry.” “Yeah … Yes that can be done.” We can always hit at our rivals by doing it in innovative way and using humour is one such sure way, we come to know.

Would this be editorially acceptable to your team? The journalist now asks.

Nandi has no problem with it as he goes on to say: “So we can do. That should not be [a] problem. Only thing [is] that we have to take approval. We will take [the approval]. So for your political campaign we always run campaign.” But when we have bought the entire slot for our campaign, he is told, ensure that none of our rivals gets a space into that slot. Agreeing he says: “Okay, okay. That way!”

Have you ever done such campaigns before? His reply makes it explain it all: “See the last campaign which was election where Modi did the campaign I think it was the highest largest ever political campaign we have ever done.”

While Nagaraj and Nandi assured the journalist that his agenda will be promoted on Radio One, their colleague at Radio One Delhi Sanjog Kumar turned out to be a BJP acolyte and when he came to know the motive of his visitor he readily agreed to undertake what he was being asked for. Here, the journalist explains how he wants his Hindutva agenda passed onto the electorate through two kinds of jingles. One set of jingles would have shlokas of Bhagwad Gita and Lord Krishna. In the second set of jingles, they would have to create political satire to hit at rivals without naming them. The first would serve to gravitate the electorate toward the Hindutva, while the second set would help blunt the opposition.

Revealing his association with the BJP, Sanjog suggest: “Correct, correct, correct. Matlab I have been associated with BJP guys past two years chaar saal jabse Delhi election tab se toh hum log jab jaate the meeting 11 Ashoka Road toh wahan bhi humko ye hee milta tha ki message boss mujhe bas hit karna hai dimag pe BJP BJP BJP mujhe koi bhi aisa … type political statement nahi bolna jise banda sunke … offensive na ho na main kisi ko condemn karoon bas main apne baare mein bataonga (Correct, correct, correct. I mean I have been associated with BJP guys for past two years. Four years back during Delhi assembly elections, we used to go to their meetings at 11 Ashoka Road. We used to get message ʻBoss I have to hit BJP BJP BJP in the minds of people … I need not to make … type statement. So that … other fellows don’t take it as offensive … I will not condemn anybody. I would rather tell about myselfʼ).” This is the right mantra, the journalist appreciates his approach, and this is how we can make our Hindutva campaign more effective. Although the campaign is being funded by the Sangh, you have to keep Shrimad Bhagwad Gita Prachar Samiti at the forefront of this campaign. Agreeing Sanjog says: “Right, right.”

So, apart from the promotion of our school of thought, that is, Hindutva, the journalist tells him, the second most important part of our agenda is thrashing our political rivals. But that should be done using their nicknames, in an innovative way. “And how I figure out ki matlab jaise can I have some name can I have some pointers brief kind of things (And how I figure out, I mean for instance, can I have some name can I have some pointers, brief kind of things)?” Sanjog seeks to know who those rivals are.

Congress, Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and BSP are our rivals, and you may be aware these rivals have indulged in a lot of corruption. It would be wonderful if your RJs create a funny atmosphere around them to get our message across the people. Replies Sanjog: “Ye sab creative. Theek hai theek hai (This is all creative [work]. I got it).”

Hope you understand all three points of my agenda, asks the journalist. Yes, he says, they will have to create something like on the pattern of “So Sorry”. So, the first point is the promotion of Hindutva, the journalist reiterates what all has been discussed with him. Now, the creative you make should contain a shloka from the Gita and explain it to the target audience within five seconds and then link it with misdeeds of our rivals, so that people connect to the hard-hitting message that such creatives would deliver. It is clear that Sanjog has understood the agenda very well, as he says: “Humm, so broadly the concept is clear.”

He goes on to reiterate: “Hindutva packaging Shrimad Bhagwad Gita ke umbrella mein second direct hit nahi karna hai mujhe … packaging kar dena hai ([First] We have to do the packaging of Hindutva under the Shrimad Bhagwad Gita umbrella. Second, we don’t have to hit directly [your political rivals] … we have to make a packaging).” Yes you got it right, the journalist tells him. This has to be done in an innovative way. Seeking a sample creative from the client the journalist, Sanjog says: “So I will have to find iska mujhe ye aap jo creative doge isase mujhe badi help milegi abhi nahi main jab bhi aap doge iske basis pe mein ek brief nikaal loonga … kyonki mera jo banda hai artist hai usko mere ko brief dena padega. I will make him listen them seriously he will figure out ki kya hai and quote lekarke kaamn karna hai got it (So I will have to find … it will help me a lot when you will give me this creative, not right now but whenever you will give me. I will make a brief on the basis of this [creative] … because I will have to give this brief to my artist. I will make him listen [to] them seriously. He will figure out how it is going, and we have to work on it using quotes [from the Gita]. I got it).”

When their prospective client the journalist tells him to handle the campaign cautiously, Sanjog reveals his loyalty in these words: “As a client BJP maine apne paas hee rakha tha. I believe in those Hindutva (As a client I kept the BJP campaign with myself only. I believe in those Hindutva [values]).”

But ensure that none of our rivals’ campaigns is given space on Radio One after we have bought the slots, the journalist demands. Agreeing, Sanjog describes how such a strategy has brought rich electoral dividends to the BJP: “Haan obviously jab ek naam farq toh padata hai … bilkul padata hai BJP ke campaign jitney bhi kiye hain maine usmein jo last ke chaar din paanch din … itni bhayankar advertisement har break khatam tha har break mein do-do spot open and close it was great strategy … strategy bahut acchi thi no doubt paisa daala uska result mil gaya (Yes,  obviously when there is only one name it sure makes more impact … it sure makes more impact … all the campaigns that I have done for the BJP, there used to be very heavy [back to back] advertisement during those last four-five days … as soon as a break was over, there would be two commercial spots immediately after and before that break, open and close. It was [a] great strategy … It was indeed a very good strategy. No doubt, they spent a lot of money [on this campaign] but got the result [in the form of victory in elections]).”

Before the meeting draws to a close, the journalist seeks assurance from Sanjog that while giving his agenda the required editorial support, Radio One will also not give any weightage to alliance partners like TDP who have now started to blackmail the government at the centre.

In his zeal to bend himself backward to clinch the deal, Sanjog not only agrees to do so but also asks the client the journalist to send him guidelines for Radio One to follow:  “Bilkul nahi denge Sir. Aap in fact ek guidelines kar na agar aapke samajh mein aaye toh main aapko abhi ek mail drop kar doonga test mail aapke paas ID purani wali varna pata nahi kahan doondhoge aap aur ussi tareh kee guidelines bhi daal dijiyega aap toh kya hoga main internal all India mein sab ko bhej doonga (Never Sir. In fact, you may make some guidelines [for us for us to follow] if you can do so. I shall send you a test mail, maybe you have my old ID and it may not be easy for you to locate that one, and so you can send me those guidelines. What will happen after that I shall send those guidelines internally to all our stations across India [to follow]).”

The meeting ends on this promise.  


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