US Government | The Ad Council advertising & marketing assignments

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Selected US Government advertising

The United States Government is, inevitably, one of the country's biggest advertisers, although its actual expenditure is significantly lower than that of leading commercial companies. In 2019, for example, the US Government was ranked #47 by advertising expenditure, well below the likes of General Motors, Procter & Gamble, McDonalds or Amazon. In this the US varies from many other countries, for example the UK, where the Government was until comparatively recently among the top five advertisers. However the reason is that much public service advertising in the US is privately funded by independent non-profit associations and foundations and produced and distributed "pro bono" - in other words for no cost or fee - by advertising agencies and media companies. Much of this latter work is coordinated by The Ad Council, a body custom-built for exactly that purpose at the beginning of World War II. Lisa Sherman is CEO. In 2019, the Ad Council launched its own inhouse strategic consultancy, Edge, to offer research, strategy development and training to nonprofits, foundations and corporations. Meanwhile, most government departments coordinate their own marketing independently of one another, dealing directly with advertising agencies. However, the labyrinthine bureaucratic process has led to several high-profile rows with agencies over spending levels and allegations of inflated billing. One of the most contentious has been the US Army's marketing budget, which was the subject of a long row with Leo Burnett in the early 2000s, and then again with McCann in the 2010s. Military departments generally are the most consistent high spenders, primarily for recruitment, along with Health & Human Services. In 2019, the US Army was the single biggest spender overall, and the US Air Force #4. USPS was the second biggest spender ahead of Health & Human Services.

Capsule checked 12th March 2021

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Historical profile information for US Government

Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Jun 2020: "Fight For Freedom". The US Ad Council gives further support to the Black Lives Matter movement with a stirring new campaign from R/GA. It falls under the banner of the Ad Council's well-established 'Love Has No Labels' campaign promoting racial and gender quality for all. The film is careful to reference the suffering of George Floyd and other recent victims of racial injustice without specifically naming them. "We wanted to use idyllic images of America and traditional symbols of freedom to hold a mirror to the simple acts of freedom often celebrated and taken for granted," says Ad Council chief campaign development officer Heidi Arthur. "The goal was to reveal the stark contrast of those freedoms with the way Black people in this country endure systemic racism and injustice."

Adbrands Social Media 10th Apr 2019: "Us vs Every Day". Grey New York compiles a selection of everyday nightmares to illustrate the benefits of National Parks Day on April 20th, when you can get away from all that daily grind because America's most beautiful open spaces will be offering free entry. (Shouldn't they be free every day? you might ask. Well, I guess someone has to keep them as beautiful as that). Highlight of the spot really has to be that parking sign. That has to be real: which genius dreamed that thing up? American bureaucracy can sometimes defy the imagination.

Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Nov 2018: Ads of the Week "Rising". R/GA has already won a shelf-full of awards for its 'Love Has No Labels' campaign for the US Ad Council, encouraging acceptance and inclusion across all racial, religious and gender barriers. This latest campaign, from director David Nutter, deserves to take home a few more. It's an immensely powerful moral tale that reminds us that a community needs to stick together in the face of appalling odds: "Why does it take a disaster to bring us together?" It's a fine piece of film-making, with excellent effects and performances. If we have a reservation - yeah, you know us, we always have a reservation - it would be: enough of the music already. The film is strong enough to get its message across without needing the soaring orchestration and especially that final song to put a saccharine cherry on top.

Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Nov 2018: Omnicom was awarded the advertising contract for the US Army after a long and fractious review. The ten-year $4bn contract covers all marketing services and will be led by DDB Chicago, with support from OMD, Critical Mass, The Marketing Arm, FleishmanHillard, Rapp and others. Multi-year incumbent McCann Worldgroup said last week, before Omnicom's win was announced, that it will file a lawsuit against the Army after it was eliminated from the contest. The review was first launched in 2015, with McCann defending against challenges from Omnicom and WPP. It was further complicated by a government audit which found evidence of millions of dollars of "ineffective spending" on the Army's part and possible over-charging by McCann (which the agency denied); and also by the discovery that the Army's marketing director had been involved in a romantic relationship with a McCann account executive. The Army sought to eliminate McCann from the review, but was forced to reinstate the agency following an official protest to the Government Accountability Office. A second elimination was also challenged by McCann, but this time the protest was denied, prompting the agency to say it will seek a legal solution through Federal courts because the elimination was caused by a technical error on McCann's part not any quality issues.

Adbrands Weekly Update 9th Aug 2018: Ads of the Week "End Family Fire". Prepare to be chilled to the bone by this stunning and essential spot from Droga5 NY for the US Ad Council, on behalf of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. It presents an all-too-believable dilemma for American families under current gun ownership laws. No matter how sensible you are yourself and how well you think you've hidden your family firearm, it's almost certainly not hidden well enough from a curious kid. The film is all the more compelling for containing no violence, nothing more than suggestion. Fine work from an agency at the top of its game.

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