POLITICS

Royal Mail Sale: Ministers Plan Ad Blitz To Get Public Buying Shares

08/08/2013 12:20 BST
Getty
A logo sits on a sign outside Royal Mail Group Ltd.'s postal sorting office in Romford, U.K., on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. The U.K. government will sell a majority stake in Royal Mail Group Ltd., the 360-year-old state postal service, through an initial public offering before the end of March, Business Secretary Vince Cable said. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ministers will splash out potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds of public funds on an advertising campaign to urge the public to buy shares in the Royal Mail.

The Department for Business revealed that it has awarded a contract to ad agency Engine Group to promote its part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, which is being prepared to float on the stock market for an estimated £3 billion valuation.

However, officials refused to reveal how much the advertising contract was worth, pleading commercial confidentiality, but it is estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“It’s not going to be a Tell Sid style campaign. It will be just an awareness-raising campaign that’ll let members of the public know about the opportunity," a spokesperson told the Huffington Post UK, referring to the 'Tell Sid' campaign in the 1980s which promoted the privatisation of British Gas.

Officials denied there was any special privilege being given to the Royal Mail campaign given the government's crackdown on advertising in the past, as represented by its closure of the government's ad agency, the Central Office of Information, in 2012.

"It doesn’t mean the Royal Mail campaign is more important than anything else we’re doing, which is to let members of the public know how they can get involved."

The campaign has drawn criticism from the Communications Workers Union.

Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said: “The Government is splashing taxpayers’ money on a deeply unpopular privatisation programme.

"More than two-thirds of the public are against privatisation – a clear majority in any system.”

A YouGov poll conducted last month showed 67% of the public were opposed to privatising the Royal Mail, with only 20% in support.

Julian Hough, a founding partner of Engine, said: “We’re delighted to have been appointed to this highly prestigious piece of business.”