WCRS wins 5m Railtrack sell-off

WCRS has been appointed by the Department of Transport to handle the controversial 5m Railtrack privatisation campaign. The Labour Party claims the move is a waste of tax payers’ money.

WCRS, which will not comment on the account win, saw off competition from GGT, D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Leagas Shafron Davis Ayer and BMP DDB Needham.

Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Meacher says: “I shall be writing to the Secretary of State to ask how much tax payers’ money the Government proposes to waste on this particular advertising agency and campaign. Railtrack has no real future in the private sector and the money should have been spent on improving services.”

The Liberal Democrat Party has called on Labour to join it in a campaign to deter subscribers to the Railtrack privatisation. (Railtrack is the track and station end of British Rail.) Both parties will use the politically sensitive sell-off to embarrass the Government in the run up to the next General Election.

Details of the privatisation campaign – and its starting date – are still under wraps. However, there is a commitment to privatise before the next election.

The privatisation programme could be delayed by as much as six months because the engineering and structural parts of British Rail still have to gain Health & Safety Executive approval before a hand-over to the private sector can be agreed.

A second tranche of Railtrack ads will be awarded later this week to either J Walter Thompson, Saatchi & Saatchi or Mustoe Merriman Herring Levy. The business, thought to be worth 5m, will cover corporate ads for Railtrack in the run-up to privatisation, and beyond.

The chosen agency’s task will be to smooth the way for privatisation by improving public awareness of the Railtrack brand. Agency sources say the British public is largely ignorant about the company and how it operates. The successful agency will become Railtrack’s long-term partner. WCRS will only be handling the privatisation programme.

Railtrack is WCRS’ third piece of privatisation business. The agency ran the second part of the Powergen sell-off and the third phase of BT’s privatisation.

WCRS claims its previous campaigns have been the most cost-effective of all privatisation advertising.

Citing figures from PR company Dewe Rogerson and Register-MEAL, WCRS says its BT work had an advertising cost per share registration of 1.90, while Powergen cost 2.70. This compares with Collett Dickenson Pearce’s 8.30 for the privatisation of water and Young & Rubicam’s 7.50 for British Gas.

Government statistics show 136m has been spent advertising privatisation share sales over the past ten years – ranging from the 1.1m campaign for Northern Ireland Electricity in 1993 to the 21.4m spent on British Gas in 1986.

Last year, the Liberal Dem-ocrats attacked the Government for spending millions of pounds of public money on a series of ad campaigns, which included a 6.2m electricity conservation scheme through CDP that cost 200 per response from the public.

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