The total marketing expenditure of the UK government in the twelve months ended March 2005 was a record £333.6 million ($595.6m; €492.3m), reveals Nielsen Media Research.

Of that sum £203.2m was channelled into media advertising via COI Communications, the administrative interface between the British government and its roster of advertising and marketing agencies - also a record.

And in the first quarter of this year, COI outspent all other UK-based advertisers, including the mighty Procter & Gamble, ploughing £67.2m into the media. Cynics suggest it is no coincidence that this profligacy with public money preceded the general election in May.

During the same period, Unilever spent £53.7m in measured media and P&G £41.7m.

A COI spokeswoman denied any relationship between the election and the Blair administration's urge to advertise. "The Phillis Review [of government communications] recommended more unmediated public communications, she said. "Tight checks ensure that government ads are not political."

Seasoned obervers note the absence of the word "overtly" between "not" and "political".

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