The Election Commission’s decision to restrict large election rallies ahead of the 2022 state elections has ensured media spends cross all the previous records. But in spite of a digital focus, television channels continue to get the biggest chunk of the advertising money ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly election 2022.As per records available publicly, a total of Rs 5,500 crore was spent on UP elections in 2017. “This time the spends would go up by at least 20-22 percent in the state,” says Ramsai Panchpakesan, SVP and national lead, integrated media buying, Zenith.Panchpakesan tells Storyboard18 that "we are heading towards a maddening time” in terms of media spends by political parties and individual candidates.It is safe to say upward of Rs 6,500 crore will be spent on elections in the state this time around, as per industry estimates.Media executives say the ruling party will be the highest spender. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) is said to have a media spend budget between Rs 725 crore and Rs 800 crore, followed by the Samajwadi Party with a budget of Rs 250 crore and then Bahujan Samaj Party at Rs200 crore and the Indian National Congress at Rs 150 crore.Clearly, the BJP is taking the lead when it comes to media spends. Even as per TAM data, the party took a lead with more than 95 percent share of political ad insertions on both national and regional television channels in the last three months of 2021.In fact, in the first half of January 2022, BJP was the only party doing advertising on both regional and national channels.Popularity of TV in Uttar PradeshWhile it is said most elections these days are “fought” on social media, why is the focus on TV for Uttar Pradesh?“Close to 65 percent of the state’s population is rural and in spite of the internet penetration, television enjoys greater reach and popularity. News channels have a major role to play in political messaging which is a combination of organic editorial communication as well as paid messaging in the form of political advertising,” says Panchpakesan.The reason behind TV seeing the maximum media spends is also simply because of its expensive inventory. While election time will see ad rates going up by at least 20-30 percent, according to experts television is an expensive platform overall pushing media spends when used on a mass scale.“In spite of not having the engagement of digital media, television spends are always higher because of the inventory pricing. While digital has seen a substantial increase in spends and will continue to contribute aggressively to the AdEx, 50 percent of the spends still go toward TV in Uttar Pradesh when it comes to political messaging,” says Pradeep Gupta, chairman and MD of Axis My India, market research agency also known for their exit polls.Focus on language media and the printed wordExperts also suggest a massive focus on language media and alongside regional channels, print media will also benefit from political advertising.The dialect and language in India change every 60 km or so and UP is the largest state with a diverse population hence language media has a vital role to play in paid political messaging.“Newspapers, for instance, in Uttar Pradesh, especially the regional language ones, still enjoy huge popularity for their longer shelf life and credibility factor. Bulky editions with ad jackets, ad insertions and all other innovative formats will be back on regional newspapers,” Panchpakesan adds.Talking of print, TAM data shows the Samajwadi Party dominated the segment with 13 percent and 9 percent share of political ad insertions between October- December 2021 and the first half of January 2022, respectively. The BJP on the other hand was the second among advertisers with 11 percent and 8 percent share of ad Insertions in the same periods.Facebook leads the political spends game on digital“As per reports, digital advertising will exceed 60 percent of global ad spend in 2022 and in India the same trend will follow. Thanks to the elections across Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa, digital spends will see a huge surge,” says Neeraj Sharma, Vice President - Global Business at Globale Media.The seeds of digital were already sown in 2014, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi extensively using social media and holographic projections for election campaigning, notes Chirag Bhatia, SVP – Account Management, DDB Mudra Group.The trend definitely continues. TAM AdEx reports show that in January 2022 BJP dominated the advertiser's list on digital with the lion's share followed by the Indian National Congress.“This year, with restrictions enforced by the election commission due to Covid (now extended till Jan 22), digital as a medium will be further propelled to another level for election campaigning, both at the party and candidate level,” says Bhatia.“Usage of social, display and video ads at the party level has already been seen in the past. But now with restrictions on traditional ways of election campaigning, digital will be used the way SMEs use digital self-serve mediums like Facebook, Google and Youtube ads to promote businesses locally. Election candidates will be seen doing the same at the booth level as well using their personal profiles,” he adds.Facebook Ad Library shows Uttar Pradesh to be the highest spender on the platform in the last 30 days.Between December 20, 2021, and January 18, 2022, the state alone has seen ad spends to the tune of Rs 2.65 crore wherein the BJP Uttar Pradesh page alone spent Rs 76.39 lakh.Priyanka Gandhi’s project Ladki Hoon Lad Sakti Hoon has a page on the platform and is the second-highest spender on the platform, spending around Rs 38.55 lakh on 400 odd ads about social issues, elections or politics in the period.The Indian National Congress’ Uttar Pradesh page on the other hand spent another Rs 3.30 lakh on the platform in the last 30 days.While Google ad reports do not break down spends to specifics, the ad transparency report shows Uttar Pradesh spending Rs 2.87 crore toward political advertising between February 19, 2019, and the present date.Elaborating on digital campaigns, Bhatia says terms like digital dangals, digital marathons are being used for virtual rallies via not only social handle live streaming but also usage of huge LED screens plus VR technologies to further amplify the intended message to be sent out.‘War Rooms’ with armies of people are being set up from ORM perspective to engage with people. WhatsApp is another channel, which is being used extensively at every level, down to the booth to influence people via group formations. Also, conversation marketing via the use of chatbots will be introduced to leverage the chat mediums.“The popularity of audio messaging is seeing a prominent trend in election campaigns in UP with the aggressive use of Video Raths,” says Gupta.Use of OOH and DOOHRajesh Radhakrishnan, chief marketing officer, Vritti Solutions explains the usage of out-of-home and digital out-of-home advertising in the election campaigns in Uttar Pradesh.“The campaign will be majorly hybrid with mostly traditional OOH and a bit of Digital OOH. Digital OOH will be mainly limited to the LED vans or Cantilever Vans, affixed with a LED screen, where the content is run in the form of success stories, speeches, rally coverage etc. The entire route of the vans is mapped ensuring it touches all the electoral areas, and strategic points such as Chowks and markets,” he explains.As for the content, candidates will talk about their achievements, election manifesto, party promises and mandates, announcement of forthcoming meetings and rallies, telecast key rallies on LED Vans, especially the ones attended by dignitaries such as PM Modi.