Thursday 14 December 2017

ADVERTISING: Public ad campaigns 'in need of shake-up'

With all the calls for making changes to improve the efficiency of the public service, the boss of the ad agency appointed to handle next year's Census campaign has called for a revamp in how the Government commissions its advertising.

Keith Murray of Language said a major rethink is needed in the way public service campaigns are run.

Murray told Campaign Brief: n The current procedures are at best inefficient and at worst a waste of taxpayers' money;

  • The Government's advertising policy wastes public servants' time and resources by duplicating tasks across departments and campaigns;

  • The Government wastes agencies' time with poor briefs and "flabby pitches".

Public service campaigns in Ireland are usually commissioned by individual departments or State bodies, with few of them having proper marketing departments. Murray said the result is that these campaigns are often poorly prepared, executed and evaluated.

Contrast that with the UK, Murray added, where government campaigns are run through a central resource known as the Central Office of Information (COI). The COI works with government departments and the public sector to produce information a wide range of campaigns, from health and education to benefits, rights and welfare.

When such campaigns are done right, they can deliver a staggering return on investment.

For instance, the vehicle crime prevention campaign in the UK yielded savings of £590m. The Inland Revenue campaign to encourage online filing yielded a return of £8.22 for every £1 invested.

Murray said the emphasis should be on public bodies having strong, value-for-money communications. While it's difficult to get accurate figures on government campaigns in Ireland, the Comptroller and Auditor General annual report estimates that last year, €65m was spent by 307 publicly-funded bodies.

Michael Cullen is editor of Marketing.ie magazine; cullen@marketing.ie

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