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Data: In the last four years, RBI spent 44% of its public awareness campaign expenditure on high profile sports events & KBC

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RBI spent a significant amount of money on public awareness in the last four years. Between 2017-18 & 2021-22 (as of November 2021), the RBI spent more than Rs. 600 crores on a public awareness campaign. Most of this was spent on TV commercials during high profile sports events like IPL, FIFA, Olympics, and KBC. More than Rs. 100 crores are spent on KBC so far. 

RBI spent close to 650 Crores on a public awareness campaign in the last four years, most during high profile sports events

A wide range of awareness campaigns has been the mainstay of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) outreach and consumer protection strategy. This includes advertising campaigns, publicity through newspapers and radio, Town Halls events, live and interactive Television programmes, documentary films, etc.

In an RTI response to Factly, RBI has furnished details on the total amount spent on consumer awareness activities through various media platforms between 2016-17 and 2021-22. In this article, we look at the trends of RBI’s expenditure on publicity/advertisement activities between 2016-17 and 2021-22 via various mass media platforms.

Earlier outreach campaigns of RBI included field visits by executives, joint advertising

Some of the earlier forms of outreach and customer awareness generation are outlined in Annual Reports on RBI. For instance, the RBI Annual Report 2012 highlights that the outreach programmes of RBI involved top management i.e. Governor, Deputy Governors and Executive who would visit villages across the country to encourage banks, financial institutions and local government to boost economic activities by involving rural masses in particular. The RBI officials would interact with villagers to understand their problems and expectations, and spread awareness on the advantages of being linked to the formal banking sector through lectures, skits, posters, short films, pamphlets, quiz, comic books on financial literacy, etc. The target group included students, Self-Help Groups (SHGs), farmers, NGOs, bankers, government employees, senior citizens, housewives, panchayat members, daily wage earners, etc.

In the three years preceding 2012, RBI executives undertook outreach visits in 115 villages spread throughout the country. An analysis presented in the annual report demonstrated progress in financial inclusion in these villages with 73% of the villages receiving banking services through ICT based BC (Business Correspondent) model and the remaining villages were covered through branches.

Meanwhile, about 718 Financial Literacy Centres (FLCs) were set up (by the end of March 2013) and a total of 2.8 million people were educated through indoor and outdoor activities such as awareness camps/choupals, ghostis, seminars, and lectures between April 2012 and March 2013, as per the RBI Annual Report 2013.

In the coming years, the National Strategy for Financial Education (NSFE) was prepared and displayed on RBI’s website for wider circulation. The report describes that the focus strategy at the base level was to create awareness about basic financial products through the dissemination of simple messages in vernacular languages through large campaigns across the country. The NSFE was to be implemented in a timeframe of five years and aims to establish initial contact with 500 million adults and educate them on key savings, protection, and prudent financial decisions, as well as consumer protection and grievance redressal mechanisms available in the country.

Documentary films, publicity through newspapers and radio, setting up stalls at various melas (exhibitions), Town Halls events, live and interactive programmes on Doordarshan were also some of the measures initiated by RBI and the offices of Baking Ombudsman over the years, as highlighted in various Annual Reports.

As per the Annual Report 2014, the RBI undertook a joint advertising campaign in mass media with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to increase public awareness and ensure clarity on legislative reforms and their effective enforcement.

A new range of customer awareness programmes undertaken post-2016

To popularise electronic payment products among stakeholders like merchants and consumers, Electronic Banking Awareness and Training (e-BAAT) programmes were launched by the RBI along with other banks. Under e-BAAT, structured campaigns were undertaken by the RBI, in collaboration with stakeholders, to enhance customer awareness, as per the RBI Annual Report 2016.

The report also highlights that RBI, jointly with the Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs conducted awareness campaigns on currency under the “Jaago Grahak Jaago” campaign. The campaign was undertaken in 13 languages in three different design sets in 1,055 newspapers all over the country.

The year 2016 also marked the beginning of new consumer awareness programmes of the RBI in coordination with concerned departments. To create awareness at a large scale on key topics, the RBI decided to observe one week in a year as ‘Financial Literacy Week’ starting from 2017. For 2018, the Financial Literacy Week was observed during June 4-8 with the theme ‘Consumer Protection’. The Financial Literacy Week 2021 was observed from February 08-12, on the theme of ‘Credit Discipline and Credit from Formal Institutions’. The messages disseminated during the week focusing on

  1. Borrowing from Formal Institutions (poster) (leaflet) (video) , 
  2. Responsible Borrowing (poster) (leaflet) (video), 
  3. Timely Repayment (poster) (leaflet) (video). 

Since 2018-19, several initiatives have been launched focussing on financial literacy as a crucial prerequisite for the efficacy of financial inclusion initiatives of the Reserve Bank.

RBI’s expenditure on publicity increased dramatically in 2018-19 

As illustrated by the RTI response, RBI’s total expenditure on publicity and advertisements (via various media platforms) for the purpose of public awareness has risen dramatically since 2016.

For the fiscal year 2016-17, the total expenditure on publicity and advertisements stood at Rs. 6.54 crores. Between 2016-17 and 2017-18, the total expenditure increased slightly from Rs. 6.54 to Rs. 7.2 crores.

However, in the fiscal year 2018-2019, the expenditure increased to Rs. 158.5 crores – registering a dramatic increase from Rs. 7.2 crores in the previous year. Thereon, the expenditure has seen a progressive trend with Rs. 206.7 crores in 2019-20 and Rs. 201.84 crores in 2020-21, despite the limitations caused by COVID-19 restrictions. For the fiscal year 2021-22, the expenditure on public awareness through media platforms stood at Rs. 71.8 crores as of November 2021. 

High TRP events like IPL and FIFA targeted for campaign-related commercials

During 2018-19, the RBI conducted country-wide awareness campaigns through print and electronic media on various topics such as fictitious offers, Basic Savings Bank Deposit Accounts (BSBDA), safe digital banking, and banking facilities for senior citizens and persons with disability (PwD).

As per Annual Report 2018, RBI also undertook a public awareness programme through Short Message Service (SMS) followed by a 360-degree campaign. The campaign started in November 2017 through SMS cautioning the public about fictitious offers purportedly send out in the name of RBI. The SMS campaign also had a unique missed call element. Upon giving a missed call to the designated number, the caller would receive more information on the subject through a pre-recorded Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS).

The second segment of the campaign saw the release of a television commercial during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Season 11 in April 2018. The commercial spoke about the opening of the Basic Savings Bank Deposit Accounts (BSBDA) which obviates the requirement of minimum balance in the bank account provided certain limitations on the account operation are acceptable to customers.

As per RBI’s annual report, the television commercial, which featured the Reserve Bank’s six cricketer employees became quite noticeable. The message on BSBDA was also released in other media, viz., print, other television channels, radio, digital and hoardings during May-June 2018. 

Another advertisement with a message on customer’s liability in case of fraudulent transactions in one’s bank account was aired during the FIFA World Cup matches. The advertisements were released in print media and were also released in other media, viz, other television channels, radio, digital and hoardings.

High publicity/advertisement expenditure share in TV, Print & SMS mediums

RBI’s total expenditure on publicity and advertisements on public awareness between 2016-17 and 2021-22 across different media can be seen below. The highest proportion of expenditure i.e., 64.81% (Rs. 422.93 crores) has been spent on publicity via Television (TV) medium.

This was followed by Print medium with 12.11% expenditure share (Rs. 79.01 crores), SMS medium with 7.29% expenditure share (Rs. 47.55 crores), Radio with 6.27% expenditure share (Rs. 40.94 crores) and others.

The lowest share of publicity/advertisement expenditure was on Cinema medium (0.64%), followed by OOH (Out-of-home advertising) medium (2.84%), and Digital medium (2.88%).

Awareness content broadcasted on popular shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) &Pro Kabaddi League

A multi-media and multi-lingual flagship public awareness initiative called “RBI Kehta Hai/ RBI Says” was launched to educate the public about baking regulations and practices. The campaign link was enabled on the RBI website for people who want to know more about the messages being broadcast on various media, as highlighted in the RBI Annual Report 2019. In addition, the RBI released digital awareness material through its flagship programme, “RBI Says”. To enhance public outreach, all authorised payment system operators and participants were advised to undertake targeted multi-lingual campaigns by way of SMS and advertisement in print/visual media to educate their users on the safe and secure use of digital payments.

The public awareness campaigns grew further in 2019-20, using 360-degree mass media awareness programmes. RBI’s Department of Communications (DoC) conducted country-wide campaigns through print and electronic media. As per the annual report, the RBI SMS handle ‘RBISAY’ was also used extensively to send text messages on these issues. The IVRS was further strengthened for awareness generation efforts. Additionally, the offices of Ombudsman conducted 26 town hall events and 113 awareness/outreach programs, mainly in Tier-II cities, as per the RBI Annual Report 2020.

Under its 360-degree mass media awareness campaigns, RBI also broadcasted awareness materials on popular shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), Pro Kabaddi League and Road Safety Series on Television. Films on Safe Digital Banking, Limited Liability, Banking Ombudsman, and banking facilities were broadcast on these platforms.

Films on financial education and other useful areas, featuring cricketers and badminton players, who are employees of the Reserve Bank, were also released on Doordarshan and All India Radio as part of a year-long campaign.

For instance, the expenditure on broadcasted awareness materials on popular shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) is provided in the following chart. 

The various forms of publicity/advertisements expenditure on KBC have risen over the years. While in 2017-18, the expenditure on KBC is absent, it increases progressively in the coming years. (Data for 2021-22 fiscal year is only as of November 2021)

Similarly, RBI’s RTI response also provides information on its publicity/advertisements expenditure in other high TRP (target rating point/television rating point) for various sports events such as Asian Games, Euro & Olympics 2021, FIFA 2018, Wimbledon 2019, ICC World Cup 2019, and IPL (Indian Premier League) in 2018, 2020, and 2021.

Virtual modes of awareness campaigning due to COVID-19

The RBI undertook financial education programmes through virtual mode and leveraged local cable TV and community radio to spread financial awareness messages during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, in a special video message to the citizens, the RBI Governor advocated the increased use of various digital modes of payment as part of the social distancing measures.

Popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook were used for two-way communication to ensure wider dissemination, lengthening the life of each campaign, and to engage with the youth. In February 2020, RBI also undertook a centralised mass media campaign to disseminate essential financial awareness messages to MSME entrepreneurs. Films on farmers and MSMEs were broadcast on All India Radio and Doordarshan. As per the RBI Annual Report 2020, the Reserve Bank’s Twitter handles (@RBI) with its 8,92,000 followers as of 30 June 2020, is the largest among the central banks of the world.

A special campaign on “Pay Digital, Stay Safe” starring Amitabh Bachchan was released on digital and social media in April 2020, as part of the COVID-19 public awareness measures. It was followed by the dissemination of Graphics Interchange Formats (GIFs) and caricatures on social media handles conveying messages in English, Hindi and eleven regional languages. 

As per the RBI Annual Report 2021, the Banking Ombudsman conducted about 154 awareness programmes during 2020, mostly through digital mode on account of pandemic related restrictions. Of these, 34 awareness programmes were conducted in educational institutions. During the year, the RBI actively used its second Twitter handle and Facebook page (@RBIsays) to ensure wider dissemination of public awareness messages in Hindi, English and 11 other regional languages. As per the annual report, the ‘RBI Kehta Hai’ microsite is regularly updated with material on public awareness campaigns as and when they are released via television, digital and social media platforms.

Featured Image: RBI Campaign Expenditure

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