Opinion: Rise in Govt budget will prove if public ads work

Whether or not public issue advertising can produce significant changes in people’s behaviour will always be open to debate because results are hard to quantify.

Whether or not public issue advertising can produce significant

changes in people’s behaviour will always be open to debate because

results are hard to quantify.



How much is the steady decline in drinking and driving because of

regular hard-hitting TV campaigns or more effective policing? And who

can say, unequivocally, that the Government’s anti-drugs push - soon to

be spearheaded by St Luke’s rather than Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters -

has saved taxpayers the millions of pounds that have been claimed?



Indeed, it might be argued that diverting the ad budget into increasing

the number of drug counselling centres would have been equally, if not

more, effective.



Soon though, the Government and the ad industry may move closer to

answering this question. Over the next three years, the Department of

Health will be backing its anti-smoking campaign to the tune of pounds

50 million, most of which is going into above-the-line advertising.



Never before has a campaign aimed at producing a massive swing in social

behaviour been given such sustained support. Central Office of

Information agencies know to their cost what a fickle client the

Government can be. Public service advertising is notoriously vulnerable

to changes of ministerial whim.



What’s more, any new official initiative invariably precipitates an

agency review irrespective of the incumbent agency’s performance.

Duckworth Finn may feel justifiably aggrieved to have fallen victim to

what is an occupational hazard when working for the COI.



A lot rides on the anti-smoking campaign. Not so much in determining the

future of public information advertising, but in whether other

initiatives could benefit from a massive amount of extra support.



It is already accepted that even if the millions of pounds being spent

persuading people to quit smoking precipitates only a small percentage

change, the saving to the NHS will more than outweigh the adspend.



St Luke’s faces a mighty challenge. How can drugs be demonised without

making the habit seem more attractive? How can the message be made

relevant to teenagers confronting the menace daily? For everybody’s

sake, let’s hope it succeeds.



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