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DWP to spend £44m on ‘Workie’ auto-enrolment campaign


Whitehall officials have budgeted almost £50m for a high-profile campaign to promote automatic enrolment, Money Marketing can reveal.

The Department for Work and Pensions announced the campaign featuring “Workie”, the workplace pensions monster, in late October.

At the time, the DWP said it would spend £8.5m on the campaign for the 2015/16 year.

However, Money Marketing can now reveal the Government plans to spend at least £9m a year on the campaign until 2018/19.

Provisional budgets for the campaign will see the DWP spend £9.6m in 2016/17, £9m for 2017/18 and £9.9m in 2018/19.

The final year of the campaign, 2019/20, will see the budget cut down to £6.6m, meaning the total spend could reach £43.6m over the course of the Parliament, or £8.72m a year on average.

By comparison, the final three years of the DWP’s previous campaign, which used the likes of Karen Brady and Theo Paphitis, cost an average of £8.27m per year.

Hargreaves Lansdown head of pensions research Tom McPhail says: “The DWP would argue that this is too important to get wrong, and I have some sympathy for that.

“But £44m sounds like quite a lot of money, so I would certainly want to see some good metrics of success for that.”

Informed Choice managing director Martin Bamford says: “It’s a massive amount of money.

“If it was a modest spend over the life of the Parliament then I’d almost say ‘fair enough’, but they’re throwing millions at an awareness campaign when no-one will know for years if that will be worth the cost.”

However, Lucian Camp Consulting founder Lucian Camp argues the bill is still likely to be smaller than similar efforts from commercial firms.

He says: “The thing about mass-market advertising is that it is a very expensive game, and there is not much point in doing it if you don’t do it well.

“However, the option might have existed to build on their previous work and refresh that, rather than just dropping it altogether and starting again. I’m not sure that campaign was worn out to the extent that it needed to be dropped.

“But it would seem the DWP thought that because auto-enrolment had moved on to a new phase, it was worth trying something new to create basic awareness for the small businesses.”



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There are 7 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. The incredulity and vitriol directed at the Pension Furby shows that a £50m awareness campaign is needed to re-educate advisers and consultants until they understand it is actually a brilliant idea.

    If this nightmarish offspring of My Little Pony and Satan is what awareness looks like then Lord, grant me ignorance.

  2. Absolutely ridiculous, just like the whole concept!

  3. DWP may be smarter than we think.. the under seven age group think ‘Workie’ is great even if the rest of us may not, so perhaps DWP are planning ahead and catching them young? Perhaps cuddly ‘Workies’ will be next years Christmas hit toy, just think of the pester power.

    • You may jest but this is the obsession in adland at the moment (there was an article on the subject in Private Eye’s “Ad Nauseam” a few months ago). Everyone wants to create the next Meerkat toy, something that children will ask their parents to get which will then sit in living rooms and bedrooms providing free subliminal advertising.

      Hence the DWP go into Perfect Curve and say “We want an advert that grabs people’s attention” and they say “How about we base it arond a cuddly toy?” because that’s what they’ve said to everyone who’s walked in the door for the past two years. At this point the DWP could say “Don’t be bloody stupid” but a) that would mean having their own opinion, and opinions are dangerous b) they’ve got a budget to spend and the quickest way to spend it, while deflecting any responsibility for spending it badly, is to do whatever the expert says. So a cuddly toy it is.

  4. If ever you needed proof that those in power regard the public as complete morons, this is it. Using an outsized Gonk is supposed to encourage people to join this naff scheme?

    To me the campaign screams the message: “We know this is a naff scheme, but please, please join” .

    No attempt to explain the advantages (are there any?), justify it or otherwise validate the concept. Spending another £44 million of tax[payers money doesn’t seem to worry them a jot. How much as been spent so far? Let us be generous and say only £20 million. The this brings the total to £64 million. The full time working population is around 29 million. But there are 4.6 million self employed. So one can assume that the full time employed working population (for which this campaign is targeted) is around 24.9million. However the larger firms are already enrolled. Firms with over 500 employees employ 8.9 million. So we are left with a residue of 16 million.

    Therefore the expenditure on this nonsense equates to around £4 per head. That would be not unreasonable if they could quantify the success rate, but the can’t. So £4 per head is going down the loo.

  5. Andy Robertson-Fox 3rd December 2015 at 1:36 pm

    The DWP has rightly been criticised over its failure to communicate and publicise both the frozen pension policy (which should be abolished anyway) and the adjustments to the State Retirement Age for Women….and now it is being criticised for trying to educate employers and employees about auto enrolment.
    Ever felt you can’t win?

  6. Why do we need to “promote” auto enrolment in this way?

    The employer has to take part, so will “promote” their scheme internally via the obligatory communications laid down via TPR. Most staff will then be dragged in to the scheme, end of story.

    Those that don’t wish to stay in and are prepared to opt out to save a few pounds won’t change their decision because of DWP’s adverts. This is all to prove that the Government knows best and to keep the opt out rates at a level all can claim as a “success”.

    It would be far better to spend the money on a voucher system so employers/employees could get a few hours of face-to-face advice, £44m would then add a good amount of value to the end users pension fund, rather than spending it on advertising agencies.

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