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Why did Facebook and WhatApp, No 1 on social media, have to advertise on Indian TV channels?

By Rajiv Shah
For quite some time, sitting at home amidst coronavirus pandemic, I have been watching Facebook and WhatsApp advertisement on TV. I am bewildered: Why did Facebook, or for that matter WhatsApp, bought over by Facebook in 2014, need to propagate their business? They are, from all indications, No 1 on social media. So, why did they need to advertise?
The ads tried to suggest how the two social media have helped "those in need" during these adverse times. One of the Facebook ads showed an elderly couple of our age telling us that their daughter, living in another city, organised for them vegetables and other daily necessities with the help Facebook friends so that they didn't need to go out. 
Another ad showed a woman doctor stating that, thanks to Facebook, lots of "doctors, nurses, ward boys" have not been able to go back to their home, but none of them as homeless, as they to able to find house near the hospital, often without any rental, as they didn't want their family to get infected. 
Similarly, a WhatsApp ads showed a mother keeping in touch with her nurse daughter living in another city, keeping the latter informed about drawings she was doing sitting alone at home; while another one was an interaction between two sisters, with the younger one helping her married elder sister to have haircut  sitting at home.
I have no clue as to why Facebook or WhatsApp suddenly began giving ads on TV, as really they don't need to. There is no social media platform which is as popular as these two. 
All that occurs to me is, these ads began with the "Wall Street Journal" exposure on how a top Facebook executive helped propagate BJP during the last Lo Sabha elections in 2019 -- a news item which went viral and became the main cause for embarrassment to Facebook, so much so that the top social media site was forced to remove several of BJP-supported Facebook pages from its site.
It also caused as much embarrassment to the ruling BJP too -- making Union information and broadcasting minister pen a letter to Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg stating that Facebook's operations against BJP are one-sided, attacking the social media site's top India operator of being partisan and anti-BJP!
Be that as it may, as an employee of the "Times of India" between 1993 and 2013 -- first as assistant editor in Ahmedabad and retiring as political editor in Gandhinagar -- suggested the roles ads pay in "blocking" certain types of news. This was more than apparent during the biennial Vibrant Gujarat summits, involving top Indian businessmen.
Ahead of each of these summits, I would be told not to file any stories that would "embarrass" the powers-that-be in Gujarat. Immediately after the summit, I would again be told to begin filing stories as before. 
Another instance was Ratan Tata's decision in 2008, when he decided to accept the Narendra Modi offer of shifting the Tata Nano plant to Sanand in Ahmedabad. At that time, the "Times of India" was not getting any ads from the Tatas because of a certain news item which had embarrassed the Tatas. Everyone was told to file stories in support of Tata Nano.
I remember filing a story in 2008 quoting the Duchess of Milan, who had handed over a short letter to a Gujarat government official. The letter said, she would the first to buy the first Tata Nano car soon after it is manufactured. To my surprise, the story appeared on the front page. 
This was not the only story. My colleagues in Ahmedabad did stories like how, once Tata Nano begins rolling down on Ahmedabad streets, there would be huge traffic jams -- such would be its popularity because of the car's proposed price, Rs 1 lakh!
When Ratan Tata came down to Ahmedabad for giving final touch on the deal for the Nano plant, a top editor came flying down from Delhi to interview Rata Tata, and the paper published a full page interview, with summary as lead on the front page.
Soon thereafter the Tata ads began appearing in the "Times of India."

Comments

Unknown said…
Media does Play Influential Role in Elections whether in India or in other Countries. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad on Whatsapp Number 9409475783. Thanks.

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