High profile London agency M&C Saatchi was innocent of blame for the drastic shortfall in Millennium Dome visitors, adjudged Lord Falconer, the hapless minister currently taking the rap for the debacle.

Maintaining that negative media coverage rather than advertising incompetence was responsible for the Dome’s disastrous financial performance, Falconer said: "We banked in part on lots of publicity for the Dome which would not depend on advertising. But the ups and downs of the Dome depend more on editorial coverage than advertising. It tends to swamp the advertising."

Although Saatchi’s efforts were not directly criticised by the National Audit Office’s no-punches-pulled report, Lord Falconer observed that some of its ads – those showing a flock of sheep, for example – achieved higher visibility through their adverse editorial coverage than as ads: “I am sure we could have done it differently in some respects,” he conceded, “but I wonder how much effect it would have had?"

Following a Saatchi ad campaign in the summer, a survey by NOP for Dome organiser, the government-owned New Millennium Experience Company, found that 71% per cent of respondents knew little about the Dome’s content and only 23% per cent believed a visit would be good value for money.

NMEC accordingly decided that discounted tickets would be more effective than advertising in boosting visitor numbers, and promptly axed marketing spend by £1.5 million.

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)