This year marks 100 years of government communications. From 1920s Empire Marketing Board campaigns urging people to "Buy Empire", to helping people become sugar smart through Change4Life and saving lives with the Think! road safety campaign.
Throughout our history we have delivered some of the UK’s most memorable and impactful communications campaigns and partnered with some of the world’s most talented media agencies.
With the help of our agency partners we have adapted and thrived in a media world that has changed with ever-increasing speed. As we look to renew one of our most valuable agency partnerships – our cross-government media-buying framework – keeping ahead of this pace of change will be at the forefront of our minds.
We will also be focused on how this partnership will enable us to deliver improved campaign outcomes as well as helping to find solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing government and the wider industry.
The challenges the advertising industry faces over the coming years are numerous and complex. In a world of increasing volumes of content and diverse channels, how do we maintain meaningful relationships with our audiences? How do we build trust with audiences who are increasingly becoming disengaged? How do we fully take advantage of data and audience insight to strengthen planning and enable more flexible media buying? These are the questions being asked by every industry chief marketing officer and government is no different.
We have to find a way to harness the power of digital, yet retain the value traditional channels provide. We are also looking at how we move to measurement model based on 100% viewability for digital media, an issue many others in the industry are currently looking at. We must also tackle head on the risks around the programmatic supply chain described by Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard as "murky at best and fraudulent at worst."
Yes, there must be contractual ways to support this, and we will be using ISBA’s new media buying frameworks as inspiration – but equally important is being a good and intelligent client that works in partnership with its media buyer.
We want to play a leading role in tackling the biggest challenges facing modern advertisers. Through the process of renewing this framework and throughout the working relationship with our strategic media-buying partner we hope to find solutions that begin to address these issues and help the wider industry to move forwards.
Trust and transparency
As with any other advertiser we’re accountable to those who have a stake in our success. The biggest difference for government is that, instead of shareholders, we answer to around 65 million taxpayers. We have a duty to ensure they get results and that any money we spend is used as effectively as possible.
In 2010 our overall media buying contract value was up to £800m. Now around £140m is spent each year through the framework, supporting campaigns across government and the wider public sector, including local authorities and charities. We have continued to deliver results, despite the reduced spend, by being more focussed and efficient with our campaigns.
Looking at how we can gain more value from media and improve outcomes is central to what we do. Recently, we found that by reducing our whitelist for programmatic advertising, to just over 1,000 sites, we saw campaign performance actually improve across a range of metrics.
Our cost-per-acquisition went down by 63%, cost-per-click fell by 23% and our click-through rate was boosted by 50%. Our future relationship will require an agency that is able to work with us to identify, and take advantage of, opportunities to deliver more cost effective, better performing campaigns.
Spending taxpayers money also comes with added responsibility, not only deliver outcomes that save lives, improve living standards and increase the reputation of the UK, but also a responsibility to be open and transparent about how those outcomes are achieved.
Transparency will sit at the heart of our renewal process. We believe that by building a relationship based on openness and transparency we can set a strong example of how this model can deliver results. By doing so, I believe we can go a long way to addressing many of the challenges facing the industry, as well as restoring some of the trust that has been lost.
To work effectively transparency has to go both ways. That is why we are working to engage with wider stakeholders as early as possible to share our strategic thinking and provide an opportunity for it to be shaped in collaboration with industry and trade bodies.
Our procurement will go live in February 2018 with a view to appoint the new agency by May 2018, allowing time for a transition period before official commencement by the end of the year. Prior to going live we will provide multiple opportunities for industry and trade bodies to engage, discuss and challenge.
This is an exciting challenge and a very important one but I am looking forward to the many discussions to come as we drive this forward and build a media partnership for the future.
Alex Aiken is executive director for Government Communications