Money’s tight but the Government should play the long game

The World Cup brings with it both joy and exasperation for fans of the participating nations as dreams are made and dashed. As the tournament progresses, some direct marketers also have reason to despair and cheer, although not necessarily for football reasons.

Among those expressing anger could be the DM agencies on the Central Office of Information (COI) roster and those civil servants previously tasked with developing campaign materials for Government marketing activity.

The reason for their ire? Confirmation that all marketing, advertising and communication costing over £25,000 needs to match a set of criteria that would have put paid to the majority of what has been developed in recent years.

To summarise the report, unless the DM material is communicating matters of national security, corralling tax revenues or saving the nation from a public health disaster (or, puzzlingly, promoting museums) then you better have a persuasive argument for the Cabinet Office or the campaign will be black balled.

One of the criteria is that there must be “unequivocal” evidence that the campaign will “deliver measurable benefits relating directly to immediate public health and safety”.

The first half of that condition will be familiar to most direct marketers, what company would not insist on evidence of “measurable benefits” before investing. However, the need to show immediate results is a trickier sell for those producing marketing materials for the likes of the Department of Health’s three-year anti-obesity initiative, Change4Life or activity aimed at changing attitudes to drunkenness.

Those campaigns were designed to achieve long-term shifts in attitude and are therefore difficult to sell as initiatives that have immediate public health and safety benefits.

As the Prime Minister and Chancellor have been keen to point out of late, the need for austerity is unprecedented but the Government should not lose sight of the benefits of long-game public health campaigns such as Change4Life that might not swell the Treasury’s coffers right now but will lessen the burden of obesity and cost to the NHS in years to come.

On a lighter note, here is one of those reasons to be cheerful I promised you, although the sunny side might not be immediately apparent.

Last week, the Fundraising Standards Board announced that the most complained about issue made about charities last year was about direct mail sent.

Not the bummer it appears to be as this represents just 3 in every 100,000 contacts made. Proof positive of better targeting? Undoubtedly a factor.

Now, come on England!

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