Forced marriages will end in divorce

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If a government is to be effective it must communicate with the electorate. It needs to inform, it needs to advertise and it needs to drive positive change to behaviour along with acceptance and activation of its policies.

Recent research conducted by industry think-tank Credos demonstrates the public’s appreciation of the value of government communications.

Of more than 2,000 individuals surveyed, 67% agreed that advertising is vital to the success of government campaigns on issues of public concern. The majority also agreed that communicating on issues such as drink-driving (77%), benefit fraud (60%) and healthy eating (55%) are worth spending on.

Just as a reduction in government advertising about the dangers of smoking would more than likely end up with more pressure on the NHS as it seeks to deal with a rise in incidences of lung cancer, the disappearance of recruitment campaigns for the armed forces and the NHS would result in a lack of qualified people to run our essential services. Or so the argument goes.

“Big Society doesn’t mean a government abrogating its responsibilities and asking entire industries to do stuff for free”

I’m writing about this because the deadline for submissions by the industry to proposals by cabinet office minister Francis Maude for media space and advertising services to be given up for free as a contribution to the Big Society, has now passed.

The coalition government’s plan is for media owners and advertising agencies to give up their respective space and skills for nothing under the banner of Big Society.

The submissions, made by the Advertising Association and IPA among others, have taken the form of a firm rebuttal of the proposals.

That isn’t a sniff at the general concept of Big Society. It is good that in a climate of public services being cut we all look for ways to contribute more in order to sustain the fabric of our communities. But Big Society doesn’t mean a government abrogating its responsibilities and asking entire industries to do stuff for free.

There is no shortage of creativity in the many ways that brands, agencies and media owners already further the causes of socially useful causes, often on a pro bono basis, to the tune of many tens of millions of pounds.

This works because such work is viewed as a partnership, a bespoke collaboration set up between a business and a cause, a social need, a charitable or voluntary organisation or a government scheme.

The coalition government should not expect the media and marketing industries to give up their products and services by way of a centralised requirement.

Mark Choueke, Marketing Week editor.

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