Whitehall 'Ad Council' lined up to replace COI

COI: currently handles government advertising
COI: currently handles government advertising

The Cabinet Office is drawing up controversial plans to launch a new model for government advertising in the UK, which could replace the COI with a US-style "Ad Council".

This week all Whitehall departments published business plans as part of the government's transparency and accountability drive. The Cabinet Office's submission included details of its review of government advertising.

It reiterated its intention to explore a payment-by-results model and use government channels for advertising. However, it also pledged to look at the potential for an "ad council".

The US Ad Council, established in 1942, describes itself as a "private, non-profit organisation that marshals volunteer talent, the facilities of the media and resources of the business and non-profit communities", to produce, distribute and promote public-service drives on behalf of not-for-profit bodies and government agencies.

In 2007/08, $2bn-worth of media space was donated to the Ad Council. Its campaigns garnered 102.5bn media impressions in 2009.

Ian Twinn, the public affairs director of ISBA, said experimentation with advertiser industry involvement was already underway, citing Business4Life and the drink industry campaign: "Why let good times go bad?".

But he added: "It is unlikely however that UK business will want to pick up a ‘voluntary’ tab to fund government messaging across the board."

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said: "The future of the COI is still under consideration."

US Ad Council work

  • This year, President Obama appeared in ads to raise awareness of disability issues. The ads, created by Proof Integrated Communications, used donated airtime.
  • Disney's Bambi features in a series of wildfire prevention ads; Tinkerbell promotes energy efficiency.

Source: Ad Council

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