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Purposeful spending

V Sridhar (Pops) 

‘And sometimes we should stop to think about our campaigns and their true purpose and the difference they are making to the lives of our people.’

The seeds of this thought were borne into my head when I was going home through roads lined by of multiple mug shots of smiling ministers and their party members. At that instant, my mind went back to ‘India Shining’. I asked myself the purpose of that campaign and its outcome. Barring being a ‘feel good’ campaign by the government, at the end of the day it meant nothing to anyone. People questioned the ‘shining of India’ at that point of time and the campaign gave way to sarcastic humor and caustic remarks. Needless to say, ‘India Shining’ backfired.

It’s not that the first time something of this sort has happened. The government uses advertising to talk to people and communicate to them but the point is what are they talking about? If they are talking about work then it’s only superfluous. It is stating the obvious, like a detergent brand saying that I clean therefore you should buy me!

One of the few good campaigns that the government has come out with was ‘Incredible India’ (2002). launched a campaign to promote India as a tourist destination by showcasing different aspects of Indian culture and history. The campaign went global and received kudos from tourism industry observers and travelers alike. The campaign has attracted 432,000 foreigners in June this year as compared to 412,000 in the same period last year registering a 4.8 per cent increase (The Economic Times July 2012).

The government’s ‘Pulse Polio’ campaign was commendable in getting everyone together to help eradicate polio from the country. Previous to this was the family planning campaign which again proved to be efficacious. Our government should utilize money to communicate and tackle issues that will transform the lives of people as governments of countries like Singapore, Malaysia etc. Countries like Germany, France, The United States, Australia etc. all advertise social issues and communicate about tackling them as opposed to blowing their trumpets on their own progress.

If our biggest issues are illiteracy, poverty and generating more income and jobs then we should be tackling them upfront. The government should talk about how a small farmer can get government aid and transform his life. It is the job of newspapers to talk about the progress report of the government and not the government itself.

While the medium and initiative to talk to its people is fine, it is the purpose that should be right. Shouldn’t public money be used for the welfare of public vis-à-vis self-patting on its back by the government?

The author is National Creative Director, Leo Burnett

First Published: Mon, October 08 2012. 00:00 IST