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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why the government's social message advertising does not work...

I joined DAVP yesterday, after 2 years and four months as Director (IEC) in the Ministry of Rural Development.
For those who are curious, IEC stands for Information, Education and Communication. Despite there being a lot of money ( 52 crores this year, for instance), it was virtually impossible to carry out effective publicity and awareness campaigns for the Ministry's programmes (NREGA, for instance) due to continuous interference from  the senior levels of the Ministry. I found that everybody claimed to be a specialist in fhe field, and my experience or expertise counted for nothing: despite an Annual Plan, adhoc expenditure was the order of the day.
I now realize why the social message advertising of our government is largely a failure: there is no consistency, and at the end of the day, the whims of bureucrats and politicians for various TV channels and newspapers ensures that effective publicity of progamme messages remains an impossible task. If one Minister likes to put out full-page advertisements across the country's newspapers at the cost of one crore rupees a day, another Minister wants to put advertisments aimed  at Below Poverty Line families in pay-TV satellite channels!!
All this is in sharp contrast to private sector advertising, where, if your publicity is not well-researched, well-planned and effective, your product just does not sell, and your company goes broke, and you lose your job.
In the government, even if the publicity is ineffective, and even if the social "product" is not sold, nothing much happens, and there is the next budgetary allocation of huge piles of money to look forward to...
In addition to political interference, there is the bureaucratic ineptitude: in most Ministries , IEC is a minor function, looked after by a Deputy Secretary or Director who is given additional charge. Since most of these officers are not from the Information Service, they think of this as just an additional irritant, and carry out the work without flair or interest.
With this kind of systemic weaknesses, even if the funds increase, the poor are largely likely to ignore the goverment's poverty alleviation schemes, and remain,  untouched and  unaware...


  1. nice to browse your blog. more later - shiva

  2. Am happy to see someone who has worked closely in the field voice opinions in consonance with what a professional communicator would say.Crores are spent without achieving basic objectives-spreading awareness about the programmes meant for people!Sometimes I feel this is the way it is meant to be-no awareness means no pressure on the system to deliver and taht suits all.

  3. Instead of soul searching, the Govt may hound you!