April 17, 2001
10:47 PM   Subscribe

"Big government is good for you, and we'll spare no expense making sure you know it!" New figures show the largest advertiser in the UK is now the British government, with the government blowing about 2 1/2 times as much on ads per year as it did before before Labour's rise to power. This is far more than than any other country's government spends. Dissemination of truly important information, or taxpayer-funded plugs for Labour?
posted by aaron (16 comments total)
I don't know about the UK, but here in Australia i get upset everytime i see a government add. My tax money should not EVER be spent on ads.
posted by Zool at 10:59 PM on April 17, 2001

What are they advertising? Are we talking about buying ad space to inform the public about government programs, services, and changes in policy? Who is this anonymous "Labour Party Spokesman" being quoted? I need some sample ads and more details to put this in a context.

If the government is spending more to inform its citizens than Proctor & Gamble is spending trying to sell them toothpaste and peanut butter, I can't say that sounds like such a terrible thing.
posted by techgnollogic at 11:15 PM on April 17, 2001

"The biggest government campaigns [the month it was the biggest advertiser] aimed to encourage families to claim the new children's tax credit, to recruit more nurses and to urge people to plan their pensions."

I'd say that's money well spent.
posted by pracowity at 11:20 PM on April 17, 2001

to urge people to plan their pensions

Is that a government or a babysitter?
posted by owillis at 11:22 PM on April 17, 2001

> Is that a government or a babysitter?

If large numbers of people are neglecting to do something that would benefit them and the nation, then surely a helpful reminder isn't out of the question? If such a reminder is babysitting, then babysit away.
posted by pracowity at 11:37 PM on April 17, 2001

Dissemination of truly important information, or taxpayer-funded plugs for Labour?

Yes, probably a bit of both.
posted by lagado at 12:22 AM on April 18, 2001

As a rather cynical UK citizen, I'd say:-

encourage families to claim the new children's tax credit

Which is available to those who work (and vote), not the people who really need it - the poeple without jobs, living on an ever shrinking and overly complex benefits system. Nothing wrong with encouraging people to work, in fact it's something I wholeheartedly agree with, but to penalise and marginalise those people who can't, no fair.

to recruit more nurses

Why not pay the nurses we already have the money spent on advertising (oh yeah, that might not make the headlines) or invest it in our slowly deteriorating National Health system? Nurses in the UK are among the lowest paid, yet they do a highly skilled job. The government are publicising a few, better paid nursing jobs to try and entice people into the profession, however the vast majority still earn pitiful amounts.

urge people to plan their pensions

Because the national pension fund (the fund most of our over 65's have paid into all their lives) can't support the population any more - if we don't all take out private pensions, when we reach 65, the amount available for us to live on won't be enough.

This may sound like someone from a nanny state sounding off about how hard it is being asked to stand on our own two feet. But we pay National Insurance on top of income tax to the government all our working lives, yet the government, despite having a huge budget surplus does not provide for it's people. We're being short-changed, and rather than acting on it, the government would rather try to convince us with advertising that everything will be OK. It probably seems odd to most Americans, who pay health insurance and plan pensions etc. but many people don't in the UK, National Insurance is supposed to be what it sounds like, insurance against sickness and poverty.
posted by Markb at 1:04 AM on April 18, 2001

"obsessed with spin," he sez ...

posted by dukejohnson at 1:53 AM on April 18, 2001

I'm more upset that governments spend huge amounts of money on the bland advertising companies like Saachi and Saachi, who think a jivy mexican beat and a big gruff black guy collecting porcelin or crying over a missed lotto ticket is smirkworthy. It ain't. And actually, I'm quite upset about this all.
posted by holloway at 5:03 AM on April 18, 2001

Props to Aaron for spelling Labour right, though.
posted by Mocata at 9:00 AM on April 18, 2001

"Bit of both", yep.

It's part of the standard argument between those advocating universal benefits and those favouring targetted, means-tested payments. Should Fergie be able to claim child benefit for her kids, just because a universal benefit ensures the poorest parents aren't put off from claiming for theirs? I'm not decided either way: though if the cost of advertising targetted benefits keeps rising, you might as well just go back to universal provision.

National Insurance is supposed to be what it sounds like, insurance against sickness and poverty.

Well, sort of. The strict parity between NI payments and the benefits received ended less than a decade after it was introduced by Lloyd George. Now, like most welfare systems, the young support the old, and the healthy support the sick; and as with the US Social Security fund, there is no magic pot of money with your name on it.

owillis: the "pension planning" stuff isn't really babysitting. It's a way of introducing the government's "stateholder pension" scheme, which offers a lower point-of-entry than traditional commercial schemes. In short, it's targetting the fairly large, non-professional sector of the population that has never made pension contributions, and would never really think about doing so. (Such as my parents, who are both less than ten years away from retirement age.)

One last thought: with the fragmentation of local communities, even in Britain where there's not as much mobility as the US, large-scale advertising becomes one of the few ways that the govt/ can guarantee getting the message out. As recently as twenty years ago, there were plenty of community centres and other groups which filtered things down from local authorities: now, we have to be sold our information.
posted by holgate at 9:46 AM on April 18, 2001

Also, while it occurs to me: does this figure include spending on web development, or just traditional "ad spend"?

Just because simple chronology has meant that the current government (1997-) has been the one to invest into its online services. And while they're not perfect, they definitely point the way to a new means of disseminating information without the costs of traditional advertising campaigns. Give it a few years, and your freshly spun NewLabour message will appear on the digibox.
posted by holgate at 10:06 AM on April 18, 2001

When the opposition party in the UK plans to reduce taxation whilst simultaneously claiming an ability to improve public services, I think the UK government has a right to try and inform the people that they have the opportunity on election day to make a big mistake.
posted by ecvgi at 10:58 AM on April 18, 2001

>> to urge people to plan their pensions

>Is that a government or a babysitter?

You forget. The United Kingdom has a modern socialist economy, unlike the U.S. Nearly everyone in the country will get a pension paid directly by the government. Private pensions have only started to become popular in the last ten years.

Of course the government -wants- you to get a private pension so that you don't demand a state pension when you hit 65. And they still get your National Insurance Contributions! So it's certainly in everyone's best interests to convince people to get private pensions in the UK.
posted by wackybrit at 11:16 AM on April 18, 2001

Last night I saw a commercial for the US social security. It was a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" takeoff, and said essentially the same thing as the Brit version. It also told people to be on the lookout for the form that tells them how much money they will supposedly get out of the system (in the unlikely event SS survives the baby boom) when it comes time to collect.

I am trying to get over being angry about social security, and all the money it steals from me. I don't want to totally freak when it implodes and all my money is gone. Maybe it will happen soon, and our children can grow up in a world free of Ponzie schemes.
posted by thirteen at 12:47 PM on April 20, 2001

thirteen: I concur.
It would be a whole 'nother ballgame if you could opt out somehow.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:54 PM on April 20, 2001

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