Union ministries are rushing to hire advertising and public relations agencies for the publicity of their signature programmes, according to sources. The hiring of such agencies by most of the high-profile ministries is being seen by experts as a move to counter the “negative campaign” being run by the Opposition parties at the ground level.

According to sources, over 20 ministries are in the process of hiring private advertising agencies or PR firms to highlight their signature initiatives and the work carried out by the ministries concerned, which they feel their own publicity wings are not adequately promoting.

The sources confirmed that several ministries, including the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources; River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation ministry; Women and Child Development; Petroleum and Natural Gas; Skill Development and Entrepreneurship; and Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) ministries, besides other ministries, have started the process of hiring PR agencies.

“The Ministry of Urban Development has recently engaged a Delhi-based public relations firm, Quantum Communications, at a cost of Rs 7 crore for a three-year contract to design and create promotional material for signature programmes such as Smart City and Swachh Bharat,” a senior ministry official told The Sunday Guardian.

“The government’s own advertising wings—the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity and Press Information Bureau—are facing a manpower crunch.”

“Last year, we awarded a contract to McCann (formerly McCann Erickson) for Rs 8.8 crore to handle the publicity work for the Incredible India campaign of the Ministry of Tourism. Previously, the campaign works were in the hands of Ogilvy & Mather,” the same senior ministry official cited above said.

Recently, a three-day open session was held by the MHRD for hiring a private PR agency; however, the selection process is underway. A senior MHRD official said: “Seeing the negative campaign run by the Opposition parties, the MHRD has decided to hire a reputed PR firm to advertise its work and signature programmes.”

On the move to hire private PR agencies, the ministry official accepted that the government’s own advertising wings—the DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity) and PIB (Press Information Bureau)—are facing a manpower crunch. “Also the levels of expertise of these agencies are comparatively lower than private PR firms,” the MHRD official said.

Soumitra Chatterjee of Ogilvy & Mather told The Sunday Guardian: “Doing good work and charting out best plans alone are not sufficient to win the hearts and minds of citizens; it is a well-crafted campaign that can help a lot to win them over. Nowadays, ministries have realised the importance of campaign and therefore they are hiring PR experts.”


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