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