NEW DELHI: Brands across India are set to take advantage of the upcoming national elections, redirecting adspend to news channels whose audiences are forecast to increase by up to 30% over a six-week period.

With the new government likely to have a major impact on people's lives there is a high level of interest in the outcome, with 60% of television viewers expected to be watching a news channel on May 16 when the votes are counted. Estimates from media buyers suggest there could be Rs. 250 crore spike in advertising expenditure on these channels during April and July.

"Everybody is looking at the elections as a media opportunity," Sanjay Dua, chief executive officer at Network18 News Media, told Livemint. "It is sort of like a festival of democracy."

The extent of that opportunity was highlighted by his claim that one of the channel's sponsors had locked in half its annual marketing budget for the election, although he declined to name the brand or amount involved.

But the station has signed deals with motorcycle manufacturer Hero MotoCorp, oral care brand Sensodyne, and consumer durable maker Panasonic.

Another news channel, New Delhi Television (NDTV), also revealed deals with Hero MotoCorp, among others, and said ad rates had increased as much as 15 times normal.

"Election-related brand advertising is not new but there is definitely a spurt this year compared to previous elections," said C.V.L. Srinivas, CEO (South Asia) for media buying agency GroupM.

He added that 200 million citizens on digital media were "talking, sharing, listening and posting comments every minute. All this adds up to elections becoming a high impact platform for brands to leverage".

ZenithOptimedia CEO Satyajit Sen was more specific, describing elections as a "tactical opportunity" for "male-centric and mass-market brands".

But normally at this time of year male-oriented brands would be looking to advertise on sports channels as the India Premier League cricket tournament gets under way. Some split is inevitable, with brands' choice of channel depending on their target audience.

Data sourced from Livemint; additional content by Warc staff