Campbell’s Power Exposed as UK Government Adspend Falls 15%

29 July 2002

As expected [WAMN: 08-Jul-02], the latest figures show that the British government poured a colossal £162.6 million ($255.8m; €257.6m) into media advertising in the year ended April.

The annual report from COI Communications (the administrative interface between the government and its roster of advertising and marketing agencies) is likely to spark fresh outcry over the governing Labour Party’s alleged devotion to ‘spin’.

Last year’s adspend was in fact 15% down on the £192.4m outlay in the 2000/2001 period - coincidentally an election year. However, it is higher than expected and considerably more than in 1999/2000 (£113.5m), 1998/9 (£105.5m) and 1997/8 (£59m).

Total COI marketing spend fell less steeply last year, dropping 7% to £295m.

The new COI figures are bound to fuel claims by political opponents that the Labour government is overly reliant on style rather than substance.

Such claims will hardly be quashed by Friday’s revelation that Alastair Campbell, the government’s director of communications and strategy (and widely perceived to be the most powerful governmental figure behind the prime minister), has the power to intervene in COI affairs.

In February, Campbell gained a new wide-ranging role, as part of which the chief executive of COI (Carol Fisher who has since tendered he resignation) reports to him – a change so far played down by the government.

However, Mike Granatt, head of the Government Information and Communications Service, revealed when speaking before the Wicks Committee on standards in public life that Campbell has the power to instruct civil servants to override the COI chief.

But Granatt opined: “What I do not think is going to happen, or I am sure has not happened, is that the director of communications and strategy has issued, or will issue, instruction to the head of the COI about a campaign being conducted by the COI on behalf of the department of state.”

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff