Social advertisements prop up the Indian media

A tweet about the relatively tiny job advertisement for a major public sector company looking for the important post of Chairman and Managing Director got me thinking about the huge number of government newspaper ads (job ads, tenders, notices, government campaign ads) that I have been noticing in newspapers of late.

A Google search came up with this article in a business newspaper that reported ad trends in the ad world comparing snapshot numbers from 2001 and 2012.  The article reported TAM media research’s Adex data on ad volumes measured in seconds for TV and CCMs for print and sought to answer the following questions:

“Who are India’s biggest advertisers? Which are the product categories that dominate advertising spend and which media are they spending money on?”

The answer to India’s top product category by ad spend confirmed my observation about government newspaper ads and revealed more. The answers to the above questions of India’s biggest advertisers and top product categories by ad spend is illustrated below:


As can be seen from the illustration above, it is “social advertisements” (ads related to social campaigns) in both print & TV that topped the category-wise advertisements in 2012. Social ads are essentially ads that typically serve the purposes of informing the public about the launch of a new welfare programme/project as well as reinforcing the benefits of an existing welfare programme while giving prominence to the benefactor (usually a political leader/government Minister/head of a public sector organization) usually by way of their mugshots.

The article also predicts that

“As social responsibility initiatives of companies increase and the government tightens its spending, the private sector’s contribution to social ad spends is expected to increase. So expect this category to maintain its presence at the top of the heap.”

Let me add to this prediction. The social advertisements category is going to remain at the top of heap for as long as a centre left government such as the current UPA dispensation stays in power. A government that pursues an active policy of redistribution through such populistic schemes as MGNREGA, cash transfer scheme will regularly keep reminding the public of its good work (even more so with the general elections just over an year away) through social advertisements that will also find its way on the digital media in addition to the current print and TV media routes. And also, as long as this social advertisements category and the government tenders/notice/job ads category (that is not covered in the TAM survey) exists, the media will continue to place government interests before the public interest for they know not to “bite the hand that feeds”.