MullenLowe wins back government Covid-19 work

Cabinet Office was contractually forced to move responsibility to Engine after original contract expired.

Covid-19: MullenLowe created campaigns including one to promote the troubled test and trace scheme
Covid-19: MullenLowe created campaigns including one to promote the troubled test and trace scheme

MullenLowe Group has been reappointed to the creative account for the UK government’s Covid-19 public information campaigns, four months after the agency’s original contract expired with no plans in place to follow it.

The IPG shop pitched last month against fellow government roster agency M&C Saatchi for the business. MullenLowe, the lead contractor, pitched alongside partner agencies Freuds, 23 Red and MMC. They have been awarded a 12-month contract with an option to extend for a further 12 months.

MullenLowe was originally appointed last April on a six-month contract, with an option to extend for a further six months. Once this time was up, responsibility for creating Covid-19 campaigns was handed on an interim basis to Engine, which is contracted as the government’s standby agency. Some staff are understood to have transferred from MullenLowe to Engine under TUPE as part of the switch.

Tom Knox, chairman of MullenLowe, said: “We are pleased to be working again with the Cabinet Office team and our excellent partner agencies.”

The appointment comes amid an unclear picture of what impact coronavirus will have in the coming months. After peaking on 20 July, new cases of Covid-19 fell rapidly until 3 August, but the trend has since reversed – though slowly. 

Almost 90% of UK adults have now received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, with 76% fully vaccinated. But vaccine take-up is significantly lower in many urban areas, in particularly several inner London boroughs. 

Encouraging those who are hesitant to get the vaccine is likely to be a key priority for upcoming campaigns. While older people and those with other health conditions continue to be at the greatest risk from the disease, stories such as that of 42-year-old weightlifter John Eyers, who died of Covid-19 after declining the vaccine, illustrate that fit and healthy younger people are not necessarily safe from the disease.

Cabinet Office data shows that in June, Engine was paid £2.95m for work for the Covid-19 comms hub, while MullenLowe was paid £1.4m. These sums are both considerably larger than the equivalent amounts in May, though do not necessarily correspond to campaigns created in those months.

Combined with sums paid to MullenLowe last year and in the first quarter of 2021 (it was not paid anything in April), this brings the total paid to the agency for Covid-19 work to £22m.