Call it coincidence, but events are conspiring to make COI spend – pre-election – a hotter topic than it should be.
First there was the unfortunate reminder that public information advertising expenditure has soared to pole position in the past year, comfortably ahead of Procter & Gamble’s. COI increased its spend by 13%, while P&G has cut its own by an identical percentage, according to Nielsen. All in the public, as opposed to the Labour Party’s, interest no doubt: but scarcely proof positive that HMG is cutting back in these straitened times, unlike the rest of us.
Then there was the news that the Advertising Standards Authority has had to admonish a department of state for the second time in a few days. On this occasion, it was Honest Al at the Home Office who had transgressed.
Apparently, he has been putting it about that neighbourhood bobbies will be spending “80%” of their time on the beat (especially in marginal constituencies). Not so, says the ASA, which banned the broadcast ad on three counts – observing in passing that it “does not make clear the commitment would not necessarily be delivered” – ie, the claim is pure propaganda.
The ban comes hot on the heels of another ASA reprimand, this time to Ed Miliband’s department of energy and climate change (DECC), which had been caught sensationalising climate change. A related broadcast ad, highlighting the apocalyptic effects of excessive CO2 emissions, is currently being investigated by Ofcom on the grounds that it looks suspiciously like a politically motivated campaign being aired just before a general election.