More eye-opening DWP spending is revealed. This time, social media ads.

The DWP logo and a shocked baby

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) just revealed how much it spent on social media “activity”. The figure is eye-opening in terms of an ad budget. But you have to ask, based on its track record – was it money well spent?

The DWP: softcore propaganda?

As the FT Adviser reported, Labour’s Tulip Siddiq asked a written question on social media ad spend. This was for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. On 23 October, DWP permanent under-secretary Justin Tomlinson replied:

We are the biggest Government Department with a day to day operation on which around 22 million citizens depend. However we are conscious that many people who want information won’t be aware of Government channels. In these instances paying to reach the widest possible audience is both necessary and responsible. This is in line with other Government Departments.

Between June 2017 and September 2018… [it] has spent £1,710,666 on promoted activity with these platforms through its media buying agency Carat.

Carat, in case you didn’t know, is a media buying/ad agency. The CEO of its parent company Dentsu Aegis Network was a Tory Party donor; specifically to Michael Gove. Both parties deny any wrongdoing, of course. Meanwhile, another Dentsu subsidiary does all the “digital performance marketing solutions” (whatever that is) for the Telegraph.

In fairness though, £1.7m is small fry in terms of the DWP budget. Still, just what has the ad money you helped pay for bought?

It needs it

It’s hard to tell, as much of the “activity” would be “promoted” tweets or Facebook posts; the kind that flash up on your timeline and make you think ‘FFS!’.

Read on...

But the DWP’s use of social media often verges on the ridiculous.

This tweet from 2016 came back to haunt it:

Then there was this from September:

Which quickly got shot down:

And this proud claim was also pulled apart:

Unfortunately for the DWP, it’s often the subject of Twitterstorms. These aim to highlight its faults and people’s experience of it. Sadly, £1.7m in promoted ads can’t stop these:

The DWP spending £1.7m on promoted ads maybe says more about the state of the government. Because if you’re struggling that much to get a positive message about your policies across, something’s up.

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