Is Workie working? TPR figures cast doubt on £44m auto-enrol comms campaign


Experts have questioned the effectiveness of the Government’s £44m auto-enrolment ‘Workie’ communications campaign after figures from The Pensions Regulator revealed less than a quarter of employers have been encouraged to act by the adverts.

The Workie campaign was unveiled by the Department for Work and Pensions in October. Although the DWP initially said it would cost £8.5m, Money Marketing subsequently revealed that Whitehall officials had budgeted almost £50m for adverts running to 2019/20.

A survey published by The Pensions Regulator shows that while large proportions of employers recalled the campaign, few were directly encouraged to act by the adverts.

TPR surveyed just over 1,000 employers and intermediaries between November and December last year, asking for reactions to the campaign.

It found that 79 per cent of employers and 90 per cent of intermediaries spontaneously recalled the key message that “all employers need to comply.”

However, only 23 per cent of employers said seeing or hearing advertising was the main trigger for them to take action to prepare for auto-enrolment.

Instead, 76 per cent cited correspondence from the TPR.

Lucian Camp Consulting founder Lucian Camp says the response figures are “impressive” but questions the value for money of the campaign.

He says: “The figures that do give some food for thought are the ones that say correspondence from TPR was the main trigger for 76 per cent of employers to take action, whereas advertising was the main trigger for only 23 per cent.

“This does make me wonder whether the cost of the advertising was really essential, when the mail activity was working so well.”

Advisers are similarly sceptical. Rowley Turton director Scott Gallacher says: “Most people were never going to get involved in auto-enrolment early, and for many they will be reminded to do it when the letter from TPR hits the doorstep.

“In my experience they will still likely do nothing until the last possible minute.

“These figures show that there’s no need for an additional DWP campaign to tell people what the TPR is telling them anyway.

“Nobody is going to see Workie walk on screen during Coronation Street and think they need to do something. It’s when the letter from TPR comes through that they will start taking action.”

Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners managing director Rob Reid adds: “It’s great doing this campaign, but unless it is making someone do something it’s not really worth doing.

“They needed to do something far more in people’s faces. If they had a picture of a guy in prison saying they wish they had done auto-enrolment, then that would have worked better.

“As it is, the difficulty with this is that you are starting from a point where people aren’t necessarily aware of what is happening and you are almost distracting from the message with something like Workie.

“It was always destined to have a problem, and from a cost-benefit point of view, it can’t ever work.”