The UK's largest advertiser, its government, has notched a record spend on public information ad campaigns.

The Blair administration spent more than £158 million ($297m, €225m) of public money between January and November 2004 to keep the British taxpayer in the loop, outstripping the previous year's total of £146.4m, according to latest figures from Nielsen Media Research.

This cascade of cash will likely maintain New Labour in pole position as the nation's top-spending advetiser in 2004 - a position it also occupied in 2003.

The Central Office of Information, the administrative interface between the British government and its roster of advertising and marketing agencies, is likely to further increase its advertising budget in the approach to a general election, widely believed to be slated for May this year.

Nielsen figures show the COI's overall spend has tripled since New Labour swept into power in 1997.

It has aired a "number of wide reaching campaigns" in the last few years including police and armed forced recruitment, social welfare changes, tax and anti-smoking.

Says a COI spokeswoman: "Our role is to ensure that the money that's available is used efficiently and effectively, but we don't set the budgets. The government has a duty to explain policy and inform the public."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff