Battle to save PR campaigns as Cabinet Office reduces marketing spend

A 'spend to save' directive is behind the Government's move to pull the plug on a number of PR campaigns.

Life saving: The Department of Transport campaign
Life saving: The Department of Transport campaign

The Cabinet Office last week announced a 52 per cent reduction in marketing and advertising spend, and 287 redundancies.

This week, a Cabinet Office spokesman would not reveal how many campaigns had failed the internal assessment by its efficiency and reform group.

Among the few government PR campaigns to be exempted from the Cabinet Office cull are the Department for Transport’s THINK road safety campaign, HM Revenue & Customs information on paying business taxes and the National Savings and Investments programme.

But many more campaigns are likely to be stopped in their tracks. One former Government comms director said: ‘Departments will need to convince ministers that any PR or advertising they do will be a "spend to save". So, for example, THINK will save lives and save NHS care for road injuries, and inland revenue will raise tax and save admin time.’

The key battles are expected to be fought over potentially life-saving Department of Health campaigns. One former comms chief said: ‘I think the bottom line is quite easy to read – if it is about safety or ensuring revenue for the Government, it’s fine. Anything else is in trouble. Health is the more int­eresting area to debate where the line should be drawn.’

 

How I see it

Simon Francis
Board director, Band & Brown

The exemptions granted by the Government show that where marketing can prove a demonstrable behavioural change, provide information about key government operations or is vital to the future of Britain, a case can be made.

As with previous announcements, last week’s news about the COI was greeted by silence from the industry – despite national media coverage.

It is up to departments, industry bodies and agencies to make the case louder and stronger that marketing and PR have a vital role to play in creating a better Britain as well as delivering immediate, effective comms for government services.

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