Government's Twitter spin proves costly

The cost of government tweeting almost doubled as its spin doctors tried to follow citizens and reporters through cyberspace, a report revealed today.

The cost of government tweeting almost doubled as its spin doctors tried to follow citizens and reporters through cyberspace, a report revealed today.

Following audiences online boosted its digital marketing expenditure 84% to £40m, the Central Office of Information (COI), the government's in-house marketing communications agency, said in its annual report this morning.

The report showed that government departments and public sector bodies spent £540m on marketing and communications through COI during 2008/09, up 43% on the previous year.

The COI said this was despite a 49.9% reduction worth £241m in media costs "against recognised industry benchmarks" from centralised buying. It also claimed £50m in savings in publications, direct marketing and events.

Spending on advertising was up 35% to £211m, but adspend dropped as a proportion of COI's overall turnover, it said. During 2008/09, there were campaigns tackling issues such as obesity, smoking, road safety and climate change.

Mark Lund, COI's CEO, said government campaigns help save lives and save money. Smoking rates and road deaths were now the lowest on record. The online tax returns campaign generated savings of £547m, he said.

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