MCBD and Zenith pick up £25m pension task

Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy and Zenith Media have beaten Lowe and Naked to land the £25 million launch of the Department of Work and Pensions' payments modernisation scheme.

The two partnerships were shortlisted for a head-to-head pitch for the business in May, a month after COI Communications was asked to find a launch team for the task. The review continued COI's current policy of pairing creative and media agencies to pitch for government business that followed the creation of the COI media planning roster one year ago.

The appointment is Zenith's second success since it was appointed to the strategic planning roster last summer, following its appointment to handle the Food Standards Agency earlier this month. In March, the agency pulled out of the breakaway media pitch for the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions amid fears that it would damage its relationship with COI.

It is MCBD's third consecutive COI win this year. The agency has won assignments from the Inland Revenue and the Small Business Service since it was added to the COI creative roster in September.

MCBD and Zenith will be tasked with explaining a complex raft of changes aimed at generating savings for the department while reassuring claimants that benefits will not be restricted as a result. It is a three-year contract.

The scheme calls for 85 per cent of claimants to have benefits paid directly into their bank accounts by 2005, a proposal which will lead to the department offering help to those who have difficulty setting up accounts.

The Benefits Agency and Employment Service have also been replaced by Jobcentre Plus, which combines the servicing of job seekers and benefit claimants.

The details of the initiative were ironed out by the DWP minister, Alistair Darling, before he departed the role last month to replace Stephen Byers as transport secretary. The launch will be overseen by Andrew Smith.

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