It’s Covid ad review time in the UK – Belong’s research hardly helps matters

The UK government is reviewing its Covid-19 agencies: MullenLowe for creative, which is pitching against M&C Saatchi, and media agency Manning Gottlieb OMS which will probably end up pitching against everyone as the process is reported to be taking a year – which sounds a touch excessive. So far hundreds of millions have been spent.

MullenLowe’s case won’t have been helped by some research from Belong – the Cohesion and Integration Network (a new one on me) and the University of Kent, funded by the Nuffield Foundation (which I have heard of somewhere.)

The research is actually called “Beyond ‘us’ and ‘them, societal cohesion in the context of COVID-19” and is from be the University of Kent’s Centre for the Study of Group Processes. Who may not be ad experts.

Anyway, the study among 9000 people purports to show that half the public (52%) thinks the Government’s Covid communications are lacking in “honesty and credibility,” with just 20% saying they score highly in these two categories.

One in five (20%) of the British public attribute high honesty (whatever that may be) and credibility to UK Government communication, with more than half (52%) saying that Government communication is lacking in these two areas.

The report says: “The evidence here shows that, despite continual updating through television and other mass media, generally a third of respondents perceive the clarity, honesty, empathy, and value to their community to be low. Moreover, on all of these aspects they find communication from the UK Government to be of lower quality than that from local government.”

But are the respondents actually assessing the communications themselves (which most seasoned observers think did a good job) or government actions and policy? There the record is mixed, to put it mildly, with regular reports of muddle, confusion and delay in implementing the various anti-Covid measures.

And I don’t know which local government communications these respondents had seen but in London they’ve been chiefly conspicuous by their absence, just predictable moans from London’s sidelined mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan.

As with much research, a large pinch of salt seems needed here.

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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.

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