Cabinet Office explores “US-style” Ad Council

The Cabinet Office is exploring the possibility of introducing a “US-style” Ad Council as part its review of Government communications.

The Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group is currently reviewing the role and future of Government marketing communications.

The news again raises questions over the future nature of the Central Office of Information. As part of that review, the Central Office of Information’s role is “under consideration”.

Details of the review were outlined in the Cabinet Office’s business plan, published online yesterday (9 November) as part of the Government’s drive to increase transparency.

Among details of the Office’s current review of marketing communications, it restates its commitment to the “potential for payment by results model, using government channels” and “a US-style Ad Council”.

The Ad Council was set up in 1942. On its website, it describes itself as “a private, non-profit organization that marshals volunteer talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities to deliver critical messages to the American public.”

The Ad Council’s nature and stated aim lends itself to the Government’s Big Society idea of collective responsibility.

Its dedication to effectiveness, it claims “the results of our campaigns testify to the power of the Ad Council’s messages to make lasting and positive social change”, would also be welcomed by Cabinet Office minster Francis Maude, who has demanded that marketing spending be more accountable.

Departmental spending over £25,000 now has to pass strict criteria to be cleared by the Cabinet Office.

Tim Lefroy, chief executive of the Advertising Association, says that the possible introduction of an Ad Council-style body is misguided.

“These proposals are interesting but I’m not sure that government really understands what the Ad Council is.  It is a charity, not a government body, and it does not exist to deliver government advertising.

“To be effective and avoid damaging, unintended consequences this review must involve industry. The Advertising Association has already offered to bring together advertisers, media owners and agencies all of whom have a big stake in the future of government advertising to make this review a meaningful one.”

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