Who controls Government ad spending?

The Government’s Central Office of Information, essentially its in-house advertising agency, spent £193 million on advertising in the financial year 2009-2010. The year before, it spent £211 million, making it the UK’s single biggest media buying desk.

Is it appropriate for the Government to be spending taxpayers’ money propping up the deeply discredited News of the World and its mates in Rebekah Brooks’ Augean stables? In the light of 10 Downing St’s creepily close relationship with News International – hiring workplace bully Andy Coulson as press spokesman, meeting Rebekah Brooks under MP-constituent privilege to avoid public scrutiny – doesn’t this spending constitute a worryingly inappropriate use of public resources?

I don’t think so. Perhaps you don’t either. Or perhaps you’re cool with it. Either way, perhaps the top management team at the COI should be aware of your opinion. Fortunately, the COI’s top management team is on their website! So I’ve loaded it into a Google spreadsheet for convenient reference.

Obviously, there’s the CEO, Mark Lund. But think like a civil servant. Who’s in control? Mark Cross is in charge of “communications planning for all campaigns” so it looks like he’s a key node. The org chart bears that out – might be nice to get Graham Hooper, director of client service and strategy, too.

Don’t be abusive. They are public servants after all. But do be firm.


  1. AFAIK the COI’s being shut down and responsibility for ad spend will be dispersed among govt depts, so there may be limited appetite for action on this…

  2. chris y

    Lund has quit (press release, 7th March) so they’re a headless chicken now. They won’t appoint a successor quickly under conditions where they’re sacking 40% of their staff.

    I’m not quite sure what you’re suggesting here. If it’s that they shouldn’t buy space from NI, then desirable as that might be I’d expect there to be guidelines across the Civil Service about who gets to carry government ads that they might well not be able to go up against without ministerial approval (Francis Maude in this case).

  3. 1) That’s as maybe. It hasn’t happened yet, though.

    2) Who do you think decides this other than the *Central* Office of Information?

  4. chris y

    Who do you think decides this other than the *Central* Office of Information?

    The Central Office of the Conservative Party? Obviously the COI will have a big input into how this is done, but ultimately it’s a political question and it will require a political sign off. At the moment, i’m inclined to think the quickest way to deal with it is to lean on the organ grinder rather than the monkey.

    Whoever you address your enquiry to, in point of fact it will be responded to by a 25 year old graduate with no freedom of action whatsoever. However, if you address it to the minister, he will at least have to append his signature to it, and will probably read it first.

  5. You’re not getting this are you? The COI *does all the government’s media buying*. If anyone issues guidelines to departments, *it’s the COI*. In fact it doesn’t because, for the time being at least, it *does the media buying itself* on behalf of the whole of government.

    On other points, well, I gave you the COI directors’ direct phone lines.

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