Blair's pounds 80m ad spend is more than McDonald's

IT PUT the Big Mac on the map, did wonders for Levi jeans and made John Cleese a millionaire. As every company chairman knows, if you want to sell something, advertising is the answer.

The message has not been lost on the Prime Minister who has taken his lead from the likes of Coca-Cola, Volkswagen and McDonald's. Except he spends more than them. The Government is now the UK's fourth largest spender on advertising.

Ministers plan to devote pounds 80m to promoting their policies in this financial year, equivalent to pounds 1.5m a week. The advertising budget puts the Central Office of Information - the Whitehall publicity machine - in fourth place in the league table of advertisers, above businesses including Mars, Boots, Sainsbury and Peugeot. Only British Telecom, Procter & Gamble and Vauxhall Motors spent more last year, according to Campaign magazine.

It also represents a 35 per cent increase in advertising expenditure on the previous financial year, when the Government spent pounds 59m, putting it in eighth place. The last Conservative government spent pounds 69m in the year before the general election in 1997.

This week, the Home Office launches a campaign on how to get a passport, following the fiasco at the Passport Office.

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