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Advisers slam DWP’s £8.5m ‘Sesame Street’ ad campaign

workplace pensions

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Advisers have slammed a new marketing campaign from the Department for Work and Pensions to encourage awareness among small businesses about workplace pension schemes.

The campaign, which was unveiled this morning, centres on “Workie”, a monster designed to represent workplace pensions.

The DWP has budgeted £8.54m for the campaign for 2015/16.

The initial TV advert will air for the first time between Emmerdale and Coronation Street tonight on ITV at 7.25pm.

Rowley Turton director Scott Gallacher says: “Whilst the message might be correct, a completely untargeted national primetime TV advert is simply a monumental waste of taxpayers’ money.

“Those that are ignoring this will continue to do so. It would have much better, and no doubt cheaper, to simply have The Pension’s Regulator send a couple more letters to each employer.”

Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners managing director Robert Reid says: “The DWP has gone for clever over engaging. This advert will have zero effect on the target group.

“I’m sure they will get more contact over where to get the Sesame Street pension toy than over workplace pensions. It’s a waste of money.”

Informed Choice managing director Martin Bamford welcomes the creation of “Workie” to help promote awareness of workplace pensions.

But he adds: “The character lacks a little bit of originality and the timing of the initial TV advert during Coronation Street on a Wednesday evening is questionable, but no doubt the DWP have done their homework and confirmed this is when their target audience will be watching television.

“The cost of such a campaign is always a worry, but as long as the Government sticks with its workplace pensions project for the very long-term, it’s important they get it started right with smaller employers and do this awareness-raising exercise now.”

However, others are more positive, and Master Adviser partner Roy Mcloughlin describes a television campaign to help raise awareness of pensions as “a no brainer”.

“I don’t really care about the format – if it resonates it works. Advertising execs will tell you that many successful adverts work due to humour or sex. Clearly the latter isn’t at work here but the former is,” he says.

“It could become very ‘catchy’ and therefore it deserves a chance to work. It’s not a waste of money at all.”

Lucian Camp Consulting founder Lucian Camp agrees that the DWP is right to be seeking to build awareness, and that the central message of “don’t ignore it” is the right one.

But he warns: “An awful lot of people who see this will be left with some awareness of a large and amusing creature – the monster in the park rather than the elephant in the room – but won’t have much of a clue what he’s actually advertising.

“I assume that the commercial will connect to a whole load of other elements in an integrated campaign all featuring Workie, and that will help.  But it would be better if the commercial told its story in a more powerful and effective way.”



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There are 11 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. “The initial TV advert will air for the first time between Emmerdale and Coronation Street tonight on ITV at 7.25pm.” – Do typical business-owners watch Emmerdale and then Coronation Street without leaving their sofa ?

  2. Hmmm….wonder what Lord Sugar would have to say about that one if the Apprentice candidates had come up with it?

  3. Tim 21st October 2015 at 4:00 pm

    It works for me. But then it’s voiced by Tim Key and I’m huge fan.

  4. You needn’t target business owners directly so long as you make enough of their employees start asking them questions.

  5. What tosh. Yes it is a monster. The Govt. is crapping itself as it is worried that the small and micro firms will not join. They are hardly likely to fine them as it would put them out of business. Anyway people ignore all sorts of legislation (A recent ‘Moral Maze’ covered this). Talking on mobiles, in cars, smoking in cars, smoking cannabis, shoplifting etc. The police no longer bother.

    Do the numpties in Westminster really and honestly believe that those in the better off suburbs are going to auto enrol their gardeners, daily helps, window cleaners and odd job men? They must be out of their tiny minds. Most of these are cash in hand anyway.

    This is the nanny state gone raving mad. If they were really concerned about pensions they would raise taxes (which is what AE is after all) and pay a decent State Pension. In fact the UK pays the lowest state pension in the whole of the OECD when measured against national average earnings. (that’s 34 countries including the likes of Mexico, Estonia, Poland and Slovenia). That’s a pretty disgusting record. And they expect private employers to fill the gap. I guess it doesn’t occur to them that private firms are not benefit agencies and need to concentrate on the day job. Their employer responsibilities should be to provide a competitive wage and decent working conditions – and that’s where it should stop.

    Unfortunately our industry buys into it all in the hope that they can make a few bob.

  6. Andy Robertson-Fox 21st October 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Remember “Don’t tell Sid” iın the 1980s? That was ridiculed initially but look how successful that became. Think we should give this a chance as it could be a massive winner and it certainly ıs more ınterestıng than pensıon adverts usually are !!!

  7. Rt Hon Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling 21st October 2015 at 10:20 pm

    Bang on the money, Harry.

  8. £8.5m? Well, no doubt that’ll keep a bunch of London creatives in acid for the next few months.

    Robert Reid has hit the nail on the head. The obsession in adland at the moment is to create the next “Meerkat”, a cutesy mascot that children will pester their parents to buy and will then sit on shelves throughout the land, providing the company with free advertising. Hence Gocompare’s annoying robot and several other mascots whose names escape me (annoyingly as it means I can’t support my point, but I suppose I should be glad that my memory is prioritising correctly).

    Obviously this has nowt to do with auto-enrolment because no-one is going to pester their parent to auto-enrol their employees so they can get a cheap imitation of Sulley from Monsters Inc. But this is why if you chuck £8.25m at a bunch of Perfect Curve types they suggest basing the advert around a cuddly toy. That it does nothing to promote auto-enrolment is irrelevant, the point is that it’s, like, so /now/. Creative industry types are the least imaginative people on earth.

  9. Andy Robertson-Fox 22nd October 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Some people seem to think that the £8.5 million is the cost of producing the cuddly mascot and rather forget just how expensive advertısıng and especıally through TV actually is; this fıgure covers the whole campaign whıch wıll run for months. Over a period of time it will be seen in almost every home and if you don’t advertise as those in the trade should know you won’t sell. In an earlier post I suggested it is given the chance…and perhaps the uncomplimentary remarks are part of the Minister’s plan…people are at least talking about it!

  10. Sesame is also a network. I wonder what they think about the “monster” tag.

  11. The fact that everyone is ignoring the monster makes me want to ignor it aswell. It makes no sense ?

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