AA’s Tim Lefroy blows well-deserved raspberry at UK government’s Ad Council plans

The latest notion from the coalition government’s chief procurement officer, cabinet office minister Francis Maude, floats the idea of a UK ‘Ad Council’, based on the US Ad Council established in 1942 when all good Americans were pulling together to get back at the Japanese for Pearl Harbour.

Advertising Association boss Tim Lefroy, a former agency account man who spent most of his time trying to justify the excesses of his creatives to disbelieving clients, seems to have taken some pleasure in delivering what is, for an account man, a pretty stinging rebuke to Maude and co who seem determined to get their advertising for nothing.

Lefroy points out that UK government communications are not charitable exercises (at least for the agencies) and therefore the US Ad Council model is hardly relevant. When the US government wants to mount a proper ad campaign it pays up just like everybody else.

Maude, who is not the most clubbable of politicos, seems to think he can abolish the Central Office of Information, which used to pay and still officially pays for government advertising/propaganda, and get agencies to do it for nothing and media owners to run it for free.

This is all in the line with his plans for the BBC to give over airtime to run government ads, something that would compromise the Beeb’s rather battered credibility and reputation for impartiality still further.

Maude needs to get real. But with boss David Cameron cheerfully hiring his own personal photographer and film maker (plus about 20 or so hairdressers, stylists and valets) at the taxpayer’s expense that’s hardly likely.

Ad agencies turn on the Tories (because it’s the Bullingdon boys who are at the bottom of all this). There’s something you thought you’d never write.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.