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Government plans to advertise on social media platforms, comes with policy guidelines

The Information & Broadcasting ministry issued draft policy guidelines for empanelment of social media platforms with the Bureau of Outreach and Communication, the nodal organisation for centre’s paid outreach campaigns. As per the new guidelines, social media platforms with 25 million monthly unique users will be eligible for the government ads.

Last Updated: May 14, 2020, 10.13 AM IST
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The platforms are defined as web-or mobile-based applications which allow the creation, access and exchange of user-generated content in the form of text, audio-visual, graphics or animation.
NEW DELHI: The Information & Broadcasting ministry, on Wednesday, issued draft policy guidelines for empanelment of social media platforms with the Bureau of Outreach and Communication, the nodal organisation for Centre’s paid outreach campaigns.

The policy also aims at reaching out to more young people with its awareness campaigns, according to an official.

"Particularly at a time like this, we want more and more people to know what the government is doing with respect to relief measures. Right now, while the government has its own social media handles, it reaches out only to people following them. We want to expand that base and be more visible," said the official.

As per the new guidelines, social media platforms with 25 million monthly unique users will be eligible for government ads.

The platforms are defined as web-or mobile-based applications which allow the creation, access and exchange of user-generated content in the form of text, audio-visual, graphics or animation.

As social media platforms operate on dynamic pricing/auction basis, the new policy stated that the Bureau of Outreach (BOC) will participate in the bidding process to buy inventory or space for government messaging.

“In a way, the new policy guidelines reflect the growing importance of social media and growth of digital in India. It is good to have a standardised policy, which prevents ad hoc decisions. But as they say, God lies in the details, it needs to be studied in-depth to see if there are any pitfalls in the process,” said Ashish Bhasin, CEO – Asia Pacific and chairman – India at Dentsu Aegis Network.

An official said the policy would include social media companies with offices and operations in India.

It is mentioned that ministries and departments would have to place 100% funds in advance with the BOC for the campaign to be run.

“This is non-negotiable as default in payment by one ministry or department may adversely impact social media campaigns of other ministries and departments of the government. If the actual expenditure exceeds the planned expenditure, the balance shall be paid by the client ministry or department to the BOC,” stated the guidelines.

ET had earlier reported that BOC itself is awaiting payments of Rs 350-450 crore from over 60 central government ministries and departments.

Officials said multiple agencies are involved in the production and release of advertisements on behalf of the Centre, which has to be checked now.

A top executive from a leading digital company said it seemed that the central government was keen on boosting its digital advertising and explore options, other than traditional media for its outreach.

"But the points made in the draft are largely mundane...It is like the government thinks it needs Tata and Maruti both, so be it... One has to see how they go about it."

Till now, government ads on YouTube and video streaming sites were released through private empanelled agencies.

Meanwhile, MyGov had experimented with ads in the social media space. Some over-the-top (OTT) media services offer advertising packages for both TV and digital content, an option that some government departments have been using. In the last one year, the I&B ministry had asked government departments to increase their digital presence, field publicity events and also explore ways to reduce expenses on outreach
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The policy guidelines were drafted after the ministry officials met executives from social media and IT companies, another official said.

Models used by Google for YouTube ads were analysed before framing the draft. “Auctioning is predominant for booking space on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We are going with that,” he said.

The new guidelines come at a time media and entertainment sector is already facing the brunt of the slowdown, with advertisement bookings having shrunk significantly.
(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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