Six things you didn’t know about how the government spends its ad money

11 December, 2014

In our December data special, ‘Paper Routes,’ the analysts at mined publicly available data sets for insights into government advertising spend and newspaper revenue at five of the country’s largest dailies. The data were extracted from the websites of the Department of Advertising and Visual Publicity (the DAVP) and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Here are a few things they found.

1. The DAVP spend increased most significantly when elections were imminent.

Between 2008 and 2013 the highest spike in spending (35.3 percent) occurred in fiscal year 2008–2009, ahead of the general elections. The pattern is repeated at the state level: all the states that went to polls in 2009 (including Sikkim, Haryana and Odisha) and 2011 (including Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu) witnessed a sharp spike in spending ahead of their assembly elections.

2. Most of the DAVP’s money went to English advertising.

English-language publications commanded 37.7 percent of the DAVP's spending, although only 12.2 percent of the population speaks the language, as per the latest available figures. Hindi, spoken by 53.6 percent of the population, received 33.4 percent of the total amount spent. All regional languages also received a smaller share of the spend than the share of the population that spoke them.

3. Delhi dominated every other territory in ad spend.

Though it is home to only 1.4 percent of the country’s population, 27.1 percent of the DAVP’s spend over the past six years went to publications in Delhi. Maharashtra received the next highest share, at 10.4 percent.

4. Secunderabad was the most expensive city to advertise in.

Surprisingly, the metros were not the most expensive cities to advertise in. When we measured the average cost of advertising per column centimetre across different cities over the past six years, we found that Secunderabad was the most expensive city to advertise in, at Rs 130 per column centimetre; Thrissur followed, at Rs 101 per column centimetre.

5. The most expensive publication to advertise in was Punjab Kesari.

When we measured the maximum cost of advertising per column centimetre across publications in any one year, the most expensive publication to advertise in the past six years was Punjab Kesari, at Rs 5,445 per column centimetre in the fiscal year 2009. Next was Aj, a Hindi-language broadsheet headquartered in Varanasi, where it cost Rs 4,130 per column centimetre to advertise in the same year. Industry leaders such as the Times of India, Hindustan Times, Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar were not among the top ten publications in this list.

6. A publication of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting received the third highest share of the DAVP’s spend.

In the six-year period between fiscal years 2008 and 2013, the DAVP released advertisements worth Rs 1,960 crore to around 5,300 publications. Of these, the Times of India received the most money. The third highest recipient of money from the DAVP, which falls under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, was a publication of the same ministry: Employment News, a weekly published out of Delhi in Hindi, English and Urdu and with a declared monthly circulation, across all languages, of 16 lakh.

The 2014 media issue’s data special also includes an analysis of the print media business, based on the MCA filings of leading media companies. Read the piece in full here.