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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Lost in marketing

Today's Times contains the news that the Labour Government's celebrations of the NHS's 60th birthday cost a little bit more than they should have done thanks to the change in the logo that accompanied the event.

I think that it is reasonable to argue anyway that, whatever the merits of the anniversary celebrations they were designed as a party political event with the sole objective of promoting Labour as the party of the health service. This completely ignores the fact that the concept of the Health Service was thought up by a Liberal Party member, even if it was implemented by a Labour Minister, who later resigned due to a change in policy direction by his own party, when they introduced prescription charges for dental care and spectacles in 1951.

In this context another £12,000 on top of the bill taxpayers have already incurred for this party political propaganda seems small, but the principle is important as are the choices Ministers make as to how to spend our money. Once again the Government seems to have had the wool pulled over their eyes by marketers.

I am shocked, but not surprised that in adding the number 60 to the NHS logo especially for its anniversary the government employed two designers who took ten days and then sent taxpayers a bill for £12,000. As the paper points out projects like these cost tens of thousands of pounds and yet one department admitted that it could produce logos in-house for £648:

Spending revealed under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act includes £153,522 on branding and logos to launch FERA, an agency that inspects plants and bees, and a £21,090 rebrand that changed the colours of the HomeBuy programme’s logo only months before one of its key schemes ran out of money.

Many departments refused to respond to FoI requests for branding and logo design costs over the past five years or withheld details relating to subsidiary agencies. But even with full disclosure from only three departments, the bill is more than £1 million, a fraction of the true total. Thousands more were spent on printing updated stationery.

In the current economic climate, minding the pennies becomes more and more important. That is a lesson that Government Ministers and their top civil servants need to learn when authorising these rebranding exercises. Maybe next time they will follow the example of the Ministry of Defence and do it in-house.
Let them use the NHS before shouting about how great it is. trying sitting in waiting rooms for five or six hours. Then being moved to another room for two or three more. Trying waiting on a trolley for hours, trying getting onto the waiting list, I have just waited six months to get a letter to tell me the consultant is now retiring, I had to go back to my GP who had to write again to ask to be placed on the new consultants waiting list, so that will now be a year.

The problem with Labour or New labour is the spin is now becoming the truth to them.

I have been told I need my heart checked again, so I need a blood test, but I refused to bother because sitting waiting three or four hours in a crowded room to have the test off people who rather not be doing the job is getting bloody annoying. why are blood tests not carried out at GP's anymore.
This seems a bit hypocritical Peter. Didn't you, as an Assembly Commisioner, approve the 'rebranding' of the Assembly, using outside marketers, at some ridiculous cost quite recently? I'm not saying that wasn't a good thing but it hardly puts you in a position to preach about minding the pennies?
There is no hypocrisy here. I believe that in the Commission's case as much of the work as possible was done in-house on this branding.

It was not a rebranding in any case and there were certainly no new logos involved, it was the development of a house style based on and so as to make best use of the current brand.

My point is that where there is capacity to do this work in-house then that is what should be done. Clearly the UK Government has that capacity.

There was a wider point too about how the 60th anniversary celebrations were used for party political purposes.
Peter, the Assembly's own website says, in response to a Freedom of Information Request, that in "2008/9, £28,140 was paid to a professional design agency for the creation and development of the new brand to be used across the Assembly." Two points to emphasise: 1. £28,140 and 2. New brand. Perhaps you could reconsider your comments?
No, that is perfectly consistent with what I said, which is that we did as much in-house as we had the capacity to do (which was the point of the blog post) and that it was the development of a house style rather than a new logo or a re-branding. The description in the FOI is misleading.

The actual report that commissioned this work is here: http://www.assemblywales.org/abthome/abt-nafw/abt-commission/abt-commission-agendas.htm?act=dis&id=95959&ds=7/2008

Again, this is significantly different to paying £12,000 to add '60' to an existing logo for party political purposes.
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