NEWS: O&M takes voucher scheme national as political row looms

The Government is to promote its nursery vouchers on television for the first time as the scheme prepares to go nationwide next April.

The Government is to promote its nursery vouchers on television for the

first time as the scheme prepares to go nationwide next April.

Ogilvy and Mather, which handled a pounds 700,000 pilot scheme in four

areas this year, has been retained by the Department of Education and

Employment for a national push.

Government sources say the campaign, due to break next Monday, will have

an advertising budget of ‘under pounds 1 million’.

The use of TV will provoke a political row, with Labour claiming that

the move is designed to win votes at the general election.

David Blunkett, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said: ‘This is very

close to political advertising. It is a very big campaign.’ The

Opposition may call for the spending to be deducted from the election

expenses of Tory candidates.

But Whitehall officials insisted the move did not breach the guidelines

on government publicity. They said the use of TV would ensure the

campaign reached its target audience, particularly mothers.

O&M, which won the pilot scheme as a standby agency for the Central

Office of Information, produced posters, local press and local radio ads

when vouchers worth pounds 1,100 for four-year-old children were tested

in a trial scheme in Norfolk and three London boroughs.

Research by BMRB International for the COI found that almost all parents

in the test areas were ‘aware of the scheme but most had limited

knowledge and were unsure of the facts and logistics’.

Two in five parents had seen ads for the scheme; a ‘very respectable’ 22

per cent had seen the most recent local press ad, while 12 per cent had

heard at least one of the radio commercials. Posters were mentioned by 9

per cent of parents, although 7 per cent claimed to have seen television

ads, which did not exist.

Six in ten parents felt there had not been enough information about the

vouchers and seven in ten expressed a desire to know more about the



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