LONDON: The UK government increased its marketing expenditure by 43%, to £540 million (€622m; £882m), on an annual basis over the last financial year, making it the country's biggest single advertiser, Nielsen says.

According to the research firm's figures, the British government outspent Procter & Gamble, the FMCG giant and its nearest competitor in ad revenue terms, by £38m for the 12 months to March 2009.

The Central Office of Information, which is responsible for the majority of governmental media activity, invested £232m in "traditional" advertising over this period, amounting to 43% of its outlay, down from 54% five years ago. 

By contrast, it increased its online advertising budget by a total of 84%, to £40m, compared with the previous fiscal year.

Mark Lund, the COI's chief executive, said there "is a growing realisation in government that legislation that is supported by good communications is more effective."

In particular, campaigns covering issues related to "health and CO2 are such huge societal problems that the amount spent is comparatively small against the potential benefit."

The organisation also reported that it saved almost 50%, or £241m, on rate card and industry media price estimates as a result of its strong bargaining power.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff