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Monsters, Parks and why we should give ‘workie’ a chance….

Next time I take my daughters to the park I’m going to be extra vigilant. 

The reason?

I’ve heard there’s a new monster roaming in parks near you, me and all across the UK.

However I’m not too worried. The monster in question seems to be quite a friendly fluffy bright looking chap. He also seems to be harmless enough (although I’ve heard he’s got relatively expensive tastes!)

The monster I refer to is of course “Workie”, the new physical embodiment of the workplace pension which hit your telly and mine for the first time this week.

Unfortunately Workie in the advisory community hasn’t gone down particularly positively. There seems to be a bunch of disparaging comments over the cost of the campaign, the content of the advert and the fact that Workie looks like a multicoloured monsters inc. character (if he actually existed I’m sure that some of the comments would have hurt poor old Workie’s feelings!)

However for a moment let’s take a step back and consider with a degree of nuance the fact that actually whilst many of the concerns are valid there are also a bunch of positive things about the new campaign.

But before I do let me be clear. Whilst I’m broadly positive about the new campaign I’ve got a couple of misgivings.

Let’s get them out the way first…

With only a couple of months before the first huge influx of employers I reckon the advert should have been a bit more direct with a greater sense of urgency.

The message that everyone is ignoring workplace pensions (which is an important point to make) and highlighting that it’s now the law to comply (which again is another important point to make) is then followed by a business owner ignoring ‘workie’ and the only comment being “Oooh….that’s a shame!” seems to me that it’s implied that ignoring automatic enrolment legislation is acceptable (which clearly due to the potential penalties for non compliance simply isn’t the case)

Now I’m not suggesting that ‘Workies pleasant walk in the park” should have turned into a scene from “American Workie in London”, “Workie metal jacket” or “The Workie Witch project” (these might be a step too far for an prime time advert!).

I’m just suggesting that the message about the implications of non compliance could have been significantly stronger and clearer.

Also, the campaign seems to be focused on more traditional relatively expensive methods of communication. Whilst ‘workie’ might be on the telly and being discussed on social media could the campaign have used modern techniques designed to spread the message further and wider for a lower cost.

Many modern organisations understand that if you make an idea ‘shareable’ enough it’ll spread on the web. A ‘workie’ game or a ‘workie’ app which allows for social sharing could have been developed at a fraction of the advertising spend. I reckon there was decent potential to get the message to spread further and wider on a similar sort of budget by exploring other methods of message distribution.

So there’s no denying that the money could have been spent smarter to have a wider reach. The advert could have clearly also been ‘stronger’.

However let’s look at the potential positive impact and start by considering the reported ‘spend’….

A lot has been made of the 8.5 million pound spend and the fact that this money has been spent when tax credits are impacting many families across the UK.

For most of us (including me) it’s a lot of cash however when you consider that our annual government spend, or even the amount the government is suggesting they’ll save by cutting tax credits it’s a drop in the ocean.

I’m not suggesting the welfare cuts are fair by the way…I don’t think they are! They’ll impact many low earning families who as a society I believe we should help.

However when you consider the advertising spend is 0.07% of the proposed cuts to the welfare state it’s obvious that if the money wasn’t spent on this campaign but instead put back in the pot to provide welfare support it won’t have had much of an impact.

Now lets consider the scope and scale of the upcoming automatic enrolment challenge…

The DWP and the Pensions Regulator still has to ensure that 1.8 million employers need to comply. Many of those employers are ignoring their obligations so it’s clear that they need to ensure that there is work to be done to spread the message that automatic enrolment can’t be ignored.

The DWP also estimate that automatic enrolment will result in people saving 15 billion a year…

So a 8.5 million marketing spend… 

To reach 1.8 million employers whose…

Employers are estimated to save 15 billion per year and has massive potential to relive the burden on the state over the longer term.

When I look at these stats and the potential ‘end result’ a eight and half million quid spend if it does it’s job (and I know that’s a big IF) seems relatively low.

There’s also been comments about a £8.5 million pound spend on a ‘giant furby’. However the real story as if often the case is a bit more complex

My understanding is that the £8.5 million is the cost of the entire ad campaign. This means not only creating ‘workie’ and creating the content but also spending the money to pay for the TV advertising space and whatever campaigns come next…

Also if you compare this with the ad spend on price comparison sites (estimated as £85 million as an industry in 2009 with £13 million spent on the original meerkat campaign) the £8.5 million looks like a relatively conservative spend when you consider the scope and scale of the automatic enrolment challenge over the next couple of years.

I reckon if the DWP disclosed how the money was broken down (and I reckon they should) I’d probably still consider whatever was spent on the creation of ‘workie’ and the creation of the advert as ‘too much’.

However all I’m suggesting is that if the campaign does it’s job it’ll be worth the cash….

….and there it is again, the “big IF”.

IF the campaign is a success it’ll be worth it….

There are a few doubts on how effective the campaigns are going to be. However the reality is that we don’t know how effective ‘workie’ will, erm, work for some time.

However if you consider the controversy ‘workie’ has already generated in a very short time and the column inches the campaign has already achieved I’d argue that it has a decent start to it’s ultimate aim…

To start to make hundereds and thousands of employers aware of their automatic enrolment obligations.

So, whilst ‘workie’ might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’ll hopefully get people talking about their automatic enrolment obligations…

…For me that’s a giant fluffy monster size step in the right direction.

What do you think?

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