New era for government media-buying will benefit citizens, improve transparency and fight fake news
A view from Alex Aiken

New era for government media-buying will benefit citizens, improve transparency and fight fake news

The UK government believes it has transformed its approach to media-buying - with lessons for the wider ad industry, Alex Aiken says.

I am pleased to announce that we have now officially awarded our new media buying framework contract to Manning Gottlieb OMD.

Manning Gottlieb OMD – part of Omnicom group – will take over from Carat to become the sole media buying partner for the UK government for the next four years.

We have worked successfully with Carat over the past four years, and have valued their support in delivering some of most impactful campaigns including PHE’s Sugar Smart, NHS Blood and Transplant’s Missing Type, and the Made in the Royal Navy and EU Referendum voting registration campaigns.

We will continue to work with their parent company, the Dentsu Aegis group, on our media planning framework.

Our approach moving forward

Government’s relationship with Manning Gottlieb OMD will be based on an entirely new media framework, one founded on transparency and quality of outcome rather than lowest unit price.

As we outlined in our recently published Government Communications Plan, this year we plan to deliver 143 campaigns to audiences both in the UK and overseas.

The task Manning Gottlieb OMD has taken on will be a significant challenge as we try to reach audiences in an increasingly fragmented digital media environment.

Government faces more challenges than ever

This framework, which officially begins in November, is not a static agreement.

Four years is a very long time in the world of media, so it has been purposefully designed to allow us to flex and adapt as the media industry and technology changes, and new government challenges emerge.

Recent events with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica prove that we must remain vigilant and responsible in a complex digital world, and not become too reliant on any single channel.

GDPR regulations have the potential to create a seismic shift in audience targeting and how we use data for our campaigns.

The industry is also being forced to look hard at itself and its structures. Many commentators are questioning the old agency models, which are coming under increasing threat as more advertisers demand transparency from, and insight into, previously murky supply chains.

Our media buying partner will be critical in enabling us to navigate these shifting sands and ensure that we continue to be a leader in delivering innovative and effective communications.

When we first published our principles for this framework, we put emphasis on delivering campaign outcomes right at the top of the list. 

These outcomes can vary from ensuring people live healthier lifestyles and invest in their retirement, to countering terror.

Recent geo-political events have also demonstrated the vital role media has played in the UK’s fight against disinformation and fake news.

The challenges faced by government communications are varied and often unpredictable, but with a relentless focus on outcomes we are well placed to deal with any incidents that arise.

A new transparent future

In February, I wrote in Campaign about the need for a greater focus on transparency in the advertising industry.

I put transparency at the heart of our new media buying framework because I believe it’s the duty of government to be leaders in this area  not just for the benefit of taxpayers, but also to move the wider industry onwards.

Today’s announcement represents a big step forward in meeting those commitments.

Together with our new agency, Manning Gottlieb OMD, we have put in place a new transparency charter, which will form the foundations of our approach as we strive to build a new and progressive partnership based on mutual respect, in order to deliver maximum impact and drive outcomes for the taxpayer.

Intelligent client

To fully deliver on our ambitions we must fulfil our end of the bargain and ensure we are responsible, intelligent clients.

This involves reacting quickly, continually up-skilling our own professionals and using our data to best possible effect.

All of these areas are being developed through our new "Accelerate" project to improve digital capability and our "Engage" programme to develop real-time campaign reporting and analysis as well as transforming the way media is managed within government.

We look forward to working with Manning Gottlieb OMD and our other communications partners over the coming years to deliver improved campaign outcomes, and contribute to changing the media industry for the better.

Alex Aiken is executive director of government communications