Communications disease

Government ads jump 43% to £540 million


In recent years I have been tracking government spending on advertising by looking at the turnover of the government’s Central Office of Information (COI). The COI was formed in 1946 out of the remnants of the wartime Ministry of Information. Their mission statement is sure to make you reach for your gun:

COI is the Government’s centre of marketing and communications excellence. It helps government departments and the public sector meet their policy objectives through procurement and delivery of marketing and communications services that achieve maximum effectiveness and best value for money.

The COI aggregates government spending on advertising and makes good sense in terms of getting value for money by buying centrally. As a side effect it shows up just how much the state spends on big advertising campaigns. They published their annual report today and in the last financial year they charged their government customers £540 million, up 43% from the previous year.

In the past I had thought that the doubling and trebling of government advertising under Tony Blair was bad enough but it seems that Gordon Brown’s government is just out of control. If anyone doubts that Gordon Brown is set on a scorched earth policy, driving the public finances into the dust in the hope that the Tories take the blame for his fiscal laxness when they take power next year and have to deliver the strong medicine, this graph is all the proof you need.

7 replies on “Government ads jump 43% to £540 million”

Have you noticed how 2001 and 2005 were both peaks?

What did they have in common, I wonder?

And how high will the 2010 peak be?



I pointed out last year that there were peaks preceding the 2001 and 2005 general elections and that Brown’s aborted election peak was even higher but this year’s number just blows all of that out of the water. We are running at 5 times the honest John Major run rate.



The statistic is fascinating as it is horrifying.

State spending on self promotion also includes concerns at a local level which has strongly exercised a number of local residents.

Can you impress us with stats which track the ups and downs of Ealing Council’s spend on similar activity?



You are lazy. You know full well that there are 8 years worth of Statements of Accounts on the Council’s website here:

If you look at them (hint search for “publicity”) you will see that we have been consistently spending £3 million a year for this. This is a wide definition and includes the printing of council documents and job ads. Believe me the Tory group does not relish giving money to the Guardian but the hard fact is if you want to recruit local government officers they buy the Guardian on a Wednesday to scan the jobs in Society Guardian. They might buy the Telegraph the rest of the week!

If you think we should not send out guides to holiday activities for children in the summer, explanations of how council tax is spent, the festival programme, parking information, etc or if you want us to close down the website please let me know which one you would seek to cut. Some people grumble about the ads on the side of Perceval house but these cost a few £100 so let’s get it in perspective please. The fact that people notice them does kind of justify them you have to admit. You might not like the messages but that is a different matter.

Meanwhile the COI bill does not include all the basic leafleting, etc that all parts of the government do, probably rightly in many cases. It is just a slice of the government communications bill which will run into some billions. Just on the COI’s high profile media campaigns Gordon Brown is spending five times as much as John Major did.


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