NEWS: Whitehall puts brakes on ad budget

Agencies are to miss out on the surge in Government spending they have traditionally enjoyed in the run-up to general elections.

Agencies are to miss out on the surge in Government spending they have

traditionally enjoyed in the run-up to general elections.



Spending plans by Whitehall departments suggest the Government’s ad

budget will total about pounds 63 million in the current financial year

- the same as last year.



The figures are in sharp contrast to the periods before the last two

elections. In the year before the 1987 election, the Government spent

pounds 104 million on advertising, which dropped to pounds 88 million

the following year. In the 12 months before the 1992 election, Whitehall

spent pounds 83 million, which fell to pounds 47 million a year later.



Government sources believe this year’s standstill budget is partly due

to a stricter interpretation of the rules which govern party political

advertising at the taxpayers’ expense.



Sources say ministers are determined to avoid further allegations of

‘Tory sleaze’ by Labour before the election. Asked to explain the

absence of a pre-election ad blitz, one minister said: ‘The Opposition

is watching us like a hawk.’



Privately, Whitehall advertising chiefs admit some previous multi-

million pound campaigns, including the ‘action for jobs’ programme,

would not be given the go-ahead today. ‘There has been a sea-change,’

one said. ‘But we had to go through that period in order to define the

boundaries.’



More evidence of a clamp-down emerged in the annual report of the

Central Office of Information, published last week. It shows that the

Government’s adspend is running at only 62 per cent of its level in

1989-90.



The COI claims the big discounts it won on buying obtained a media value

of pounds 82 million from an actual spend of pounds 57.6 million -

saving taxpayers pounds 24.4 million.



The discounts cut the cost of press buying by 39 per cent, radio by 29

per cent, television by 19 per cent, and posters by 17 per cent, the

report says.



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