Union ministries are hiring private advertising agencies for their signature programmes, which they feel their own publicity wings are not adequately equipped to promote.
The urban development ministry is set to engage a Delhi-based public relations firm, Quantum Communications, to design and create promotional material for big-ticket programmes such as Smart City and Swachh Bharat. The cost: over Rs 7 crore for a three-year contract.
Last year, the tourism ministry appointed McCann Erickson at Rs 8.8 crore to handle publicity for the Incredible India campaign. Before that, Ogilvy & Mather handled it.
The commerce ministry’s department of industrial policy and promotion engaged the India subsidiary of a US advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy, for six months last year at Rs 4 crore for its Make in India programme.
“You realise your capabilities may not be state of the art, so you go to specialists. Look at the Make in India campaign. Could a government agency come up with something like that?” said Piyush Pandey of Ogilvy & Mather.
Information and broadcasting minister M Venkaiah Naidu tried to strike a balance, saying private agencies were engaged to complement the efforts of the DAVP.
But ministry officials admit government publicity wings – the DAVP and PIB – don’t have the manpower and expertise to carry out high-profile campaigns.
“Professional agencies have experience and exposure … They bring their expertise and I don’t see anything wrong in it,” said Prasoon Joshi of McCann India.
Critics accused the government of plugging its schemes through publicity blitzes, though there is not much to show on the ground.
Naidu, who is also the urban development minister, dismissed the allegation and said promoting the government’s work does not amount to creating a hype. “Government needs to explore all options to reach out to the people.”