Government readies £120m media buying review in marketing shake-up

The Government is preparing to review its media buying business, currently handled by WPP's M4C and expected to be worth in the region of £120m next year, as part of a shake-up in its approach to its marketing activities.

Grey: 'There is an opportunity to take a more holistic view of how communications campaigns and activities could dovetail'
Grey: 'There is an opportunity to take a more holistic view of how communications campaigns and activities could dovetail'

The media review will form part of the coalition's new approach to communications, which was outlined at the Agile Government Communications Conference for suppliers in Westminster yesterday.

It is not clear when the review will officially take place, but it is expected to happen towards the end of 2012 to enable the process to have been completed in time for the 2013 /2014 financial year.

The review will focus on "ensuring that best value is delivered through the current framework, using lessons learned to inform the future strategy".

Last year, Government advertising from its various departments commanded in the region of £70m, those close to the situation expect this to edge nearer to the £120m mark next year, as the Government now looks to harness advertising to stimulate economic growth in the UK.

Martin Sorrell's WPP Group created the bespoke M4C in February 2010 to handle what was then £250m of centralised media spend from the Government. The contract started in April 2010 and was initially set to run until 2014. How this has been brought forward remains unknown.

No one was available for comment from the Government at time of writing.

The Government's own figures show it spent £77m on advertising in the year to March 2012, up from £48m the previous year.

All Government tenders are now handled through the Government Procurement Service and in a statement it said it plans to review its central media buying account as part of its programme of "future activity".

Elsewhere, the Government plans to tender for agencies to provide creative services and delivery and execution services (including direct marketing and digital media) in July. Appointments for both will be made in October 2012.

In September, the Government will tender for its second framework including market research, communications planning and strategy and planning. A decision will be made in November 2012.

The Government Communication Centre (GCC), led by executive director of government communications Jenny Grey, picked up some of the duties of the Central Office of Information after its closure at the end of March.

Under the programme of future activity promoting economic growth will be a priority and activity will include targeting entrepreneurs and business and encouraging people to take up apprenticeships.

Grey said: "There is an opportunity to take a more holistic view of how communications campaigns and activities could dovetail, particularly where there are overlapping audiences and potential channels to reach those audiences.

"That is one of the major reasons why we are working together across departments and arms length bodies to produce the Government’s first ever proactive communication plan summarising the planned activities of each group of departments and arms-length bodies for the coming year.

"There is much more to do, but collaborating in this way has already enabled us to identify priorities for future efficiency and improvement.

"It also means we can be more confident that we are extracting the maximum value from every pound spent on communications, while continuing to deliver high quality communications programmes."

Follow Maisie McCabe on Twitter @MaisieMcCabe

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