Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Labour spending on Advertising

I read an article in the Evening Standard a few days ago, which on reflection was probably nicked from this article in Guardian.

It stated two things I found quite interesting, one that the Government was now the largest spender on advertising in the country, beating P&G. The other was that this spend had risen 43% in the last year.

I've seen a few of the adverts the Government has placed and often they appear to be doing little more than telling people what a great job the Government are doing. Is it any surprise that spending on this rises before an election?

I've had a look at Government spending on advertising thanks to the COI (Central Office of Information). The Mission Statement for the COI is:

"The aim of COI is to enable central government and public sector bodies to secure policy objectives through achieving maximum communication effectiveness and best value for money."

Ah, that old trick: If no-one sees you do anything, it doesn't actually happen. If you tell everyone you're doing a great job, then even if the act itself was a failure, you've achieved your 'policy objectives'.

Well, with some serious digging I was able to pull up a few Annual Reports for the COI (some were obvious, other required entering likely URLs) which I've used to produce the following simple graph showing total spend for the COI from everything from consultancy to traditional adverts.

As you can see, total COI spend has risen from around £100m in 1997-1998 to over £500m this year. Yes, Labour are spending five times more on government propaganda now than they were at the beginning of their regime.

Does anyone really think that we should be wasting £500m just telling people what a good job the Government is doing? Couldn't that money be better spent, on Hospitals, Teachers, or Body Armour for our troops (As I pointed out here, this would be enough to buy over 300,000 sets of armour for our troops!)?

Another, possibly more pertinent point is looking at the timing of the spikes in spending. As mentioned above, spending has risen by 43% in the last year. On the graph I've marked on in black the years when elections took place. In every year before an election this Government's spending on advertising how good it is increased a lot before settling back down again the next year.

In 2000/2001 spending rose by 48%, more than even this incredible rise. The only reason this year is particularly obvious is that spending overall has risen by such an incredible level (16% year on year on average!).

Labour are not only wasting another vast pile of public money, they are actually using that vast pile of public money to promote themselves in the run up to elections! Is this actually legal?

Oh, if anyone wants the source data, drop me an email, address over there --> somewhere.

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