M&C Saatchi’s £100m Visit Britain win shows the politics of advertising under the coalition

For a start there’s the appointment itself, one would expect M&C Saatchi, proprietor Tory peer Lord (Maurice) Saatchi, to pick up business from a Tory-dominated coalition government. As indeed it already has with a new cancer awareness campaign.

Then there’s the budget, £100m sounds a hell of a lot from a government that is in the process of cutting public expenditure, partly by taking a knife to its ad spend (the COI’s budget has been halved already and may reduce further).

But the Government is obviously intent on getting as much money back from tourists as it can given that it is in the process of spending billions on the 2012 Olympics. And while Visit Britain’s budget is reported to be being reduced by 34 per cent (in truth it goes up and down like a yo-yo anyway) we learn that various tourist-focussed companies like British Airways, P&O and DFDS are going to make up the shortfall.

And, most exciting of all according to Campaign, M&C is going to work pro bono for the first five months. Now pro bono means ‘for the public good’ and is generally taken to mean free. In fact it’s become quite common for hard-driving clients to ask their agencies to put in the first month or three free, to save money obviously but also to reflect the fact that little or no work is likely to emerge in this period so why should a hefty creative fee be paid?

Now we’ve got that out of the way it is a good win for M&C and one which the agency will no doubt merchandise to other clients with its usual skill. It will also bring the odd BA executive through its doors which might prompt a suspicion or two just up the road in Kingly Street where BA agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which won the account from M&C, resides.

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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.