LONDON: The UK government is making greater demands of its agencies, not only in terms of demonstrating greater return on investment but also in "co-owning" the issues being addressed.

"We're looking to put up problems which agencies can come together and solve collectively," explained Conrad Bird, the Downing Street civil servant tasked with delivering major cross-government campaigns and ensuring spending is efficient and cost-effective.

"It's about us saying to our partners 'we have an issue here and we need your imagination and your creativity to actually help us come up with innovative solutions'," he told The Drum.

In the past the slow speed at which government typically operates hampered such an approach.

"Many agencies say to us that actually sometimes they're brought in too late [to the creative process] so we want to bring them earlier," Bird said. "We challenge them to come and help us solve this problem, rather than help us deliver against this brief."

"We're moving away from asking agencies for a TV campaign," he added. "We want them to co-own the business problem with us."

And while government spending has always had a spotlight on it – cost has been one factor in a shift towards greater use of digital communications – the current environment means the need to demonstrate effectiveness is greater than ever.

"I need ROI, not eyeballs," Bird stated, as he emphasised the need for the government's marketers to measure effectiveness properly.

"We're making great strides here but I'm not sure we're there yet given that we face the challenges that any commercial company would face plus some of the social aspects, which make it harder to measure," he said.

Next month, the government will announce the 20 suppliers that will join its Creative Solutions Framework for the next four years, with each being allocated to one or more of six different areas: Strategy Development, Creative for Campaigns, Digital Marketing and Social Media, Public Relations, Direct Marketing and Partnership Marketing.

Data sourced from The Drum; additional content by Warc staff