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.