Oops. This is Embarrassing

Oops. This is Embarrassing

Simon QuarendonChief Commercial Officer, Selbey Anderson
Oops. This is Embarrassing

Most agencies will recognise the moral dilemma clients sometimes put them in when asked to run a campaign the agency knows in their heart of hearts is either doomed to fail or plain daft. Do they (a.) accept the money, swallow their pride and run the campaign (hoping none of their friends notice) or (b.) push back then explain the consequences of having lost the account to their FD (amongst others).

The Government Communication Service (GCS) may be going through similar somersaults as it rolls out a (tax-payer funded) campaign urging businesses to cut spending on marketing and use the savings made to cut prices and so do their bit to address the cost of living crisis.

According to a recent BBC report, the government-appointed cost of living Czar, and former Just Eat Chief Executive, David Buttress, has confirmed the campaign will be "rolling out the official name with branding and logos shortly".

The initiative has been – rightly - widely lambasted across the marketing industry but what most commentators have failed to pick up is the likely involvement of the government’s in-house ‘agency’, the GCS.

As agencies go, it’s pretty big employing 7,000 professional communicators across the UK, ‘supporting and promoting the work of 25 ministerial departments, 21 non-ministerial departments and over 300 agencies and other public bodies’.

And it’s pretty good too. (Or was). Before setting up Selbey Anderson with my colleague Dom Hawes, I delivered some training courses to junior staff that the GSS had enrolled into a PR Apprenticeship scheme. That scheme was an attempt to widen the talent pool beyond traditional recruiting sources such as Universities and was indicative of the smart thinking that the GCS is renowned for.

Under the leadership of its former head, Alex Aitken, the GCS also took the lead on addressing things like campaign measurement and planning. Its Evaluation Framework 2.0 document is a must-read whilst it’s ‘Guide to Campaign Planning: OASIS’ is, in my book, a superlative piece of work that most agency staff would do well to read.

(OASIS stands for Objective, Audience insight, Strategy, Implementation, Scoring/evaluation so you can see where I’m coming from).

Given that the GCS (probably) are closely involved in devising this campaign, I wonder if they feel a similar sense of embarrassment like other red-faced agencies working on iffy campaigns? After all, the GCS is the cheerleader-in-chief for UK marketing (in 2020 it outspent the traditional advertising big spenders Unilever and Sky splurging a whopping £164m of, err, our money).

To be fair, the campaign is only hoping ‘to “amplify and channel” the efforts of brands looking to curb rising costs amid the rising cost of living’ (Marketing Week).

So presumably hats off to all those consumer brands who are shrinking package sizes faster than a reservoir in a heat wave and high fives all round to  the likes of Lidl, Aldi and Tesco’s, whose intense price-led campaigns over the years have kept food inflation to a minimum.  Until, that is, the Bank of England took its eye off the inflationary ball. Luckily for the  GCS it isn’t responsible for the Bank’s communications (more’s the pity).

Simon Quarendon
Simon Quarendon
Chief Commercial Officer, Selbey Anderson

Simon brings a wealth of agency management experience to his role as Group CCO. During a 30+ year career, Simon has built boutique agencies and managed global agency teams. He supports each agency’s senior leadership team by providing advice and guidance around agency commerciality. Simon also acts as Managing Director of Drumhorse, Selbey Anderson’s shared service centre that provides a range of back-office services to the group from Skopje, North Macedonia. He also acts as the ‘C-suite’ sponsor to Selbey Labs.

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