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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Inland Revenue to get make-over
Hector, the Inland Revenue's former advertising icon
Hector the tax inspector was retired earlier this year
The Inland Revenue has appointed top advertising agency M & C Saatchi to transform its image.

The Revenue wants to be seen as the taxpayer's friend rather than an object of suspicion.

M & C Saatchi, which has handled the Conservative Party brief in the past, is expected to move on from the image of the pinstriped tax inspector, epitomised by cartoon character Hector, who was retired from TV ads earlier this year.

The agency is no stranger to difficult briefs having handled advertising for the Millennium Dome last year.

Nick Montagu, chairman of the Inland Revenue board, has said he wants to portray paying tax as a "badge of good citizenship".

Increasing complexity

The Revenue is thought to spend about 9m a year on advertising and marketing.

It has come under fire in recent years for the increasing complexity of its collection system and, in particular, self-assessment.

Its first ever director of marketing, Ian Schoolar, has vowed to redefine "customer perception" of the agency.

Campaign magazine's top ten impossible briefs
The Millennium Dome
Government kill your speed campaign
Government teenage pregnancy campaign
Nurses recruitment
Teacher training
Single currency
Government anti-drugs campaign
Skoda cars
Iceland supermarkets
Government anti-smoking campaign
He is thought to have asked M & C Saatchi and image consultancy The Corporate Edge to improve the design of its leaflets and the letters it sends to taxpayers.

The Hector character, which was voiced by the late actor Alec Guinness, was introduced six years ago for a self-assessment campaign and was meant to re-assure taxpayers.

He was retired earlier this year, to the relief of some members of the Inland Revenue's staff, who disliked his bowler hat and pinstripe image.

Unfashionable brands

Advertising has been used to turn round unfashionable brands such as Skoda cars and Marmite.

But agencies have had less success persuading people to do things they don't want to - or trying to prevent them breaking the law.

Government-sponsored campaigns, including attempts to cut down on teenage pregnancy, persuade people not to smoke and stop speeding, were among those singled out last year in Campaign magazine's "top ten impossible briefs".

Critics of the current tax system, including the Liberal Democrats and the left-wing Fabian society, have suggested hypothecation - explicitly linking revenue to what it is being spent on, such as schools or hospitals - would make people happier about paying up.

M & C Saatchi also handles advertising for police recruitment and is best known for its ad campaigns for the Conservative Party during the 1980s.


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See also:

14 Jun 01 | Business
Inland Revenue image: Your views
10 Jan 01 | UK
Hector the Taxman RIP
07 Feb 01 | Business
Tardy taxpayers face 92m fines
02 Jan 01 | Entertainment
WWI poet target for taxman
02 Apr 01 | Business
Q&A: IR35 - a tax on enterprise?
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