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Media peddles fake news about BJP becoming the top advertiser on television

As per BARC data, BJP is not even in the top ten advertisers for the week ending November 16.

On 23rd November, Economic Times ran a story titled Ahead of polls, BJP becomes the number one advertiser on television. It claimed that according to the latest data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become number one advertiser on Indian television in the week ended November 16.

The story said that BJP was ahead of other advertisers like Hindustan Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, Amazon and others. The story mentions that BJP ranked as number one advertiser across all channels, up from number two in the previous week.

The story was soon followed by other media houses and all of them published the same story. It soon became viral on Social Media, and leaders from opposition parties were quick to spread the same.

As per some reports, the Congress party went ahead and demanded a probe by the Election Commission into BJP becoming ‘top advertiser’.

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The claim that BJP has surpassed traditional advertisers like HUL was a surprising news, so we decided to check the source of the news. The weekly television advertising and viewership data are uploaded on the BARC website, so we headed there to verify the report. When we selected to see the top 10 advertisers for the week ended November 16, we were presented with the following table.

As you can see, forget being the number 1 advertiser for the week, BJP is not even in the top 10 list. As per the BARC data, Hindustan Lever Ltd (they are still using the old name for the company) is the top advertiser for the week ending November 16. HUL is followed by Reckitt Benckiser, ITC, Procter & Gamble, Ponds India, Wipro, Cadburys, Brook Bond Lipton, Godrej Consumer Products and Marico in the list of ten, all predictable top advertisers on television, with BJP nowhere to be seen.

From the BARC website, it is clear that BJP has not become the top advertiser in the country and it is a fake news.

But why a media house like Economic Times publish such a baseless news? On the BARC website, there is one more category for advertises on television, top 10 brands. And on that list, BJP is occupying the top place for the same week, followed by Netflix and Trivago. So, BJP is the top advertised brand on TV for the week, but it was not the top advertiser as media reports claiming.

If companies like HUL are in top advertiser list, why they don’t feature in the top brand list, you may ask. The answer is simple, FMCG behemoths like HUL, ITC etc have dozens of products for which they advertise on TV. This means, although they spend the highest amount on advertisements, that amount is divided among various brands. For that simple reason, BJP has emerged as the top advertised brand as the party’s advertising is not divided among numerous brands like consumer goods companies. That is also the reason why Netflix and Trivago are on the list because these companies do not have multiple brands to divide their advertising.

There is a fundamental difference between becoming a top advertiser and top advertised brand. And to claim one as the another is definitely a fake news.

The BARC data is publicly available online, even then how and why the media houses spread this fake news, that is a big question. One media house may have done a mistake, but it can’t be believed other media houses covering the story didn’t check the source website even once. This must be a deliberate attempt at spreading misinformation regarding BJP ahead of elections. On this issue, Congress is perhaps right, Election Commission should inquire into the matter to find out the root of this fake news.

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Raju Das
Corporate Dropout, Freelance Translator

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