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Wednesday 29 August 2007

Response to COI

Well, to Seb anyhow ;] - [The COI is the Central Office of Information who do big government marketing stuff]
Seb said...

Hi Paul,

Just for clarity I'll repeat these: Firstly, I'd better declare my interest - I work for COI. Very quickly secondly, I had better state that these comments are my own personal views only, not those of COI, but I felt it only fair for readers to know the context of my response.

Clarified! It's easy to forget that this is the public web and given past experience who knows who might take Seb's words out of context to whack not Seb but someone else. Easy to forget when Seb's a colleague in the wider and real sense.

On to Seb's points, in response to my post UK Gov goes backwards on net marketing and comment in Milton Keynes betrays Keynes.
I'm not quite sure what you mean when you say:
The disconnect between their new world and the land of the OPSI's and most politicians is vast and agencies like OPSI and the COI are letting them down.

I think COI are trying to help as much as possible. However, we have little influence and no control over these things. COI has to persuade other government departments to do things, but only if they choose to use us. COI does not have any policy making role in this are or funding to make these things happen (yet?).

The COI has influence, of course. It's been the COI quoted throughout the Facebook episode, that's what I started from.

'Letting them down' was about how the media of choice for youth has now changed so revisit the rules, if necessary, to follow them and be where they are. Otherwise we're letting them down.

I can imagine the embarrassment ahead - in game ads? - and someone needs to start facing the MSM down.
Sorry, it's take a while to get around to responding to this.

Firstly, I'd better declare my interest - I work for COI. Very quickly secondly, I had better state that these comments are my own personal views only, not those of COI, but I felt it only fair for readers to know the context of my response.

So, to my substantive points:
1) don't believe everything you read in the press. There has been a lot of mis-information about this story; although in substance what you link to and state is generally accurate, as I understand it. The Times did rather a hash of it in a later story posted a few days later.
The press is generally crap at reporting these issues. I may have mentioned how they don't challenge and in fact promote ignorance.
2) To say that COI pulled the advertising isn't quite fair. It was only suspended while some question regarding the issues were explored; it was always the intention to re-introduce once satisfactory assurances were made.
That's the point really, what could be a 'satisfactory assurance'? All the options being offered by marketeers are really sticking plasters over the main problem - social networks means different contexts. Plus throw up other potential problems.
3) Tom's report certainly has reached COI. Unfortunately, he doesn't have complete knowledge of the machinations of government and the status of COI. COI on its own cannot do much of what was recommended as we are not funded centrally, like other government departments. We have to convince those central government department to spend their money in ways we recommend, not an easy task - especially in the digital world, which is still typically an after thought last minute thing.
So convince :] More power to you Seb. Your boss? [Let's run that mug shot again] Not so sure.
4) Not all the key players have a good understanding of these technologies as we do. They have to react in a way that our client's wish us to in reaction to concerns raised by press/public. So, while we may understand that context is not the same in digital as it may be in print or on TV our clients and other civil servants don't necessarily. The imperative is to go into damage limitation mode, rather than lose trust in the medium altogether and therefore harm potential future digital communication activity, while we work behind the scenes to persuade and sooth.

So, overall I don't disagree with your post/points, but I don't entirely agree with your angle. I think it is to the benefit of society that we take steps forwards and backwards as necessary to ensure the integrity or the messages we are conveying to the users in all appropriate mediums.
Thanks for "as we do"! I hope to understand at least some but I know technologies have amazing power to transform in a positive way. That I know.

To answer your main point - yes, there is a balance but what's really important is effectively reaching audiences - that's your job.

Thinking 'appropriate mediums', well Games is a challenge and probably a good way to reach certain audiences, certainly it would have more metrics attached than doing Second Life would — but government ads run in titty mags Nuts and Zoo. As they should.

If tabloids and others are making your life difficult your bosses, and that eventually means Ministers should support you, not undermine you. Their public words would tend to suggest they're on your side but not when the Sunday Times/BBC/ScotlandOnSunday have 'exposes' to make.

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