Feature Medicine and the Media

Public health marketing campaigns: who profits?

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h514 (Published 29 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h514
  1. Chris Mahony, freelance journalist, London
  1. chris.mahony{at}cjmedia.biz

For several years the UK government has used corporate advertising agencies to deliver public health campaigns. But how do we know whether they work and offer value for money, asks Chris Mahony

National public health advertising campaigns are coming thick and fast. Although funded by Public Health England (PHE), the messages are being delivered or overseen by well known corporate advertising agencies.

A “dry January” campaign launched by Alcohol Concern before Christmas1 was followed by similar campaigns to reduce tobacco2 and sugar3 consumption, launched on 29 December and 5 January, respectively.

The advertising agency Freuds, whose clients include the alcoholic drinks conglomerate Diageo and the fast food chain KFC, has delivered much of England’s public health marketing since a 2008 contract for the Change4Life anti-obesity campaign.

That arrangement seemed to be in jeopardy in December when the contract ended and technical changes prevented the agency bidding alone in the tendering process. Freuds was not on the new Government Procurement Service roster for public relations work worth over £100 000 (€135 000; $150 000). So it paired up with M&C Saatchi, which won the new tender after a “formal procurement procedure” …

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