Public Health England spends £43m in just three months to combat Covid-19

Public Health England, the government body supposed to be keeping us out of the clutches of Covid-19, spent a staggering £43m on advertising during the UK’s March 23 to June 30 lockdown period, according to new figures from Nielsen. This is a yearly increase of sone 5,037%.

As a whole lockdown saw 48% decline in traditional ad spend, a drop of more than £1.1bn.

McDonald’s had the biggest reduction in year-on-year advertising spend (-97%), followed by Sky (-60%) and Amazon (-77%). Unilever was the second biggest spender after PHE with nearly £30m, Procter & Gamble spent almost £28m.

All traditional media (TV, radio, press/magazines and Out of Home) were hit hard, Out of Home especially so although the medium almost doubled its May spend of just £14m to £25m in June as restrictions eased.

The headline number, though, is PHE’s massive spend, mostly on admittedly capable MullenLowe campaigns. PHE has been widely criticised for its response to the pandemic and such a massive spend is bound to be analysed. Omnicom’s Manning Gottlieb OMD is the UK government’s media agency.

Nielsen UK commercial director Barney Farmer says: “There was no guidebook on how to navigate advertising during the lockdown period, with customers restricted to home environments and an unclear exit strategy. As a result, we have seen varying approaches to advertising, with some increasing spend while the majority cut back.

“Public Health England ran an effective campaign to encourage lockdown compliance and raise awareness of best health practices, and its incredible increase in spend reflects the importance of advertising as a communication platform for any public or private body. As we transition into a less restricted environment, we expect spend to pick up significantly as brands vie to be front of mind.”

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About Stephen Foster

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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.