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.”