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Our viewpoint

Government ad
spend: is it worth it?

Bob Scott asks whether ad campaigns featuring TV stars, furry monsters and workplace ‘mini-me’s are succeeding in getting the engagement message across.

When it comes to communicating the importance of saving for a pension, the government and industry’s work is never done.

Looking at government spending, it’s hard to pin down an exact total figure, but we know that £18 million has been spent on Pensions Wise (the free government advice service) and £25 million went into auto-enrolment awareness exercises, so it’s likely that the government has spent in the region of £50million on ad campaigns in the past four years or so.

Recent incarnations have seen the furry “Workie” monster replaced by workers and their workplace pension “mini-me”s, while celebrity ambassadors like Baddiel & Skinner, Dragon’s Den’s Theo Paphitis and First Dates’ Fred Sirieix have also been enlisted in to talk up the benefits.

Is it all worth it?

Whatever you think about the execution (and there have been plenty of detractors, with “Workie” proving particularly controversial), the ads are succeeding in getting noticed and getting talked about.

More importantly, it’s translating into action. The government says its recent “get to know your pension” campaign helped drive an upsurge of 9.4 million people taking up auto-enrolment.

If you believe, as I do, that getting the message out there and reinforcing it on an ongoing basis is essential to driving engagement among Future Pensioners, that doesn’t seem like a bad return on investment.

The next step is to join up all the dots, by being more ambitious about the proportion of earnings diverted into auto-enrolment and pushing forward in delivering greater transparency for savers over how fast their pensions pots are growing via the Pensions Dashboard project.