Gov’t asks Portman Group to bail out drink strategy

The Government is planning to allocate part of its £4m anti-binge-drinking advertising budget to drinks industry body the Portman Group, after what is being seen as failure to reach a strategic consensus.

The Government is planning to allocate part of its &£4m anti-binge-drinking advertising budget to drinks industry body the Portman Group, after what is being seen as failure to reach a strategic consensus.

The issue could be highly sensitive if taxpayers’ money is involved.

Until now, the campaign has been spearheaded jointly by the Home Office and Department of Health. It is thought that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, responsible for the liberalisation of licensing laws which will come into effect in November, is also trying to get involved. Insiders say that with three different departments drawn into the process, the Government is struggling to decide what shape the advertising campaign will take. For this reason, the Government is considering asking the Portman Group to help run the campaign.

The campaign is scheduled to run in early 2006.

A spokesman for the Home Office does not rule out the “possibility” of the Portman Group being involved, but adds that “no details have been finalised to date.” The ads, he says, will target chronic binge-drinkers.

The Portman Group was set up in 1989 by the UK’s leading drinks producers. Between them, its members supply the majority of the alcohol sold in the UK.

The organisation is already talking to agencies about its autumn campaign to tackle binge-drinking among men (MW August 18). Last year, M&C Saatchi created a television campaign for the Portman Group, featuring a chimpanzee that behaved as if drunk. The ad was aimed at curbing binge-drinking among young adults. Later in the year, the group launched a cinema commercial targeting women.

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