DWP spent over £12.2 million on four advertising campaigns in 2017

Once again I came across another random DWP Freedom of Information Request (FOI) on the website WhatDoTheyKnow.com. The DWP had asked for information regarding their use of Facebook adverts. After a lot of back and forth the Department for Work and Pensions – DWP released the information on not only Facebook costs that but all advertising costs for 2017.

I often look through the vast amount of DWP FOI’s that are available to view on WhatDoTheyKnow.com. If you dont know it’s a website where anyone can submit a Freedom of Information Request – FOI to any public body in the UK for free. The condition being that all requests are public and the content is available for all to use.

DWP Advertising Costs

Whilst looking through the DWP requests I noticed someone had asked for the amount they’d spent on Facebook adverts in 2017. At first the DWP had attempted to invoke section 12 stating that it would cost too much to collate the data. However they had then came back with the figures.

They say that they only had four ad campaigns that year although I’m not so sure on that but I will look into that some more. What did surprise me was that as well as the Facebook statistics they then released the data for all ad platforms for these four campaigns.

The figures

I have split a table I made in two so as to make it more clear. It shows that for these four campaigns over £12.2 million was spent.

As you can see I have broken it down into the campaign and the platform in which it was delivered.

TV is the most popular method they use and I do myself remember one about a Workplace Pension running at some point. Twitter seems by far the least likely option they use with just under £11,000 being spent on it.

Universal Credit far behind the rest

What I do find very interesting about these figures is just how little was spent on their flagship policy Universal Credit compared with the rest. With only £96,332 spent on advertising the fledgling benefit last year, it is dwarfed by next lowest; “Helping people understand their State Pension entitlement” at nearly £2 million.

The campaign was titled; “Explaining how Universal Credit removes barriers to work.” Of course we all know that what that really means is; classing as many people fit to work regardless of how bad their health actually is.

I just find it very odd that so little was spent on it when the Tories have forever been harping on about how good it is.

Cost effective for the Taxpayer?

Whilst TV and Radio advertising almost guarantees the viewer or listener will see or hear it, search engine and social media campaigns don’t give that. They charge not by how many times the ad is clicked but how often it is seen.

Of the nearly £1 million they spent on search engine ads, how many people actually clicked or even saw the ad for that matter. With more and more people using mobile devices to browse the web I find that ads are less noticeable.

Whilst I understand that government departments need to advertise public services to inform the public, they must also ensure that they do so in a way that is the most cost effective. In the case I’m not so sure.

Who did they target and did they employ a company to do it?

With the ongoing scandal with Cambridge Analytica and their misuse of data, what I would like to know is what were the advertisements targeting parameters for online ads and furthermore did they employ an outside company to carry out the work?

For example; The Pension Wise ad campaign only needed the location as UK and age parameters as 50+, nothing else. This is because the service is for those aged over 50 only. Any other parameters set would unfairly discriminate against part of the demographic.

Moreover the data that can be harvested just from people clicking an ad is massive so have they kept any of this data? If so why and for how long?

I have put all of that in writing to the DWP and will keep you updated with any progress I make.

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