UK Conservative Party Vows to Slash Govt Adspend

13 October 2003

The Conservative Party – the main opposition to Britain's governing Labour Party – is promising to scale back state-funded advertising if it is elected.

At its annual conference last week, the Conservatives unveiled a 'war on waste', attacking the Labour government for its alleged profligacy with taxpayers' money.

Shadow culture secretary John Whittingdale seized on new Nielsen Media Research figures that show a 34% hike in state adspend to £62.6m ($104.6m; €88.4m) in the first eight months of 2003 [WAMN: 30-Sep-03].

"Labour is once again using taxpayers' money to try to dig itself out of a hole. Taxes are going up, public services and pensions are in crisis, violent crime is rising; so what does Labour do? It squanders an extra £15m on advertising to give the impression of action."

The level of government adspend has been a popular target for political opponents. According to Nielsen, COI Communications (the administrative interface between the government and its agency roster) became the biggest advertiser in Britain in 2001, before sinking into second place last year with ad outlay of £121.5 million [WAMN: 28-Feb-03].

As well as scaling back the level of spend, the Conservatives are also promising to cut down on what they regard as Labour propaganda. "We will run campaigns based on factual information," sniffed a party spokesman. "We will stop the political propaganda."

COI refutes the Nielsen figures, claiming its actual spend in the first eight months of this year was £119m. Although this is far higher than the research group's estimates (reportedly due to Nielsen's exclusion of advertising by certain government bodies), it is less than the £128m COI says it spent in the same period last year.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff