Auto Enrolment Advertising Campaign Slammed

21 December 2016

auto-enrolment-slammed Introduced in 2015 boost the presence of auto enrolment, Workie is the furry 10ft monster that the Department of Work and Pensions tasked the matter to. Featuring in a range of TV and other adverts, Wookie was designed to spread the message about auto enrolment amongst small and micro businesses and be a 'a striking physical embodiment of the workplace pension'.

The internal report by the Department for Work and Pensions was uncovered by the Mirror newspaper who obtained it from a Freedom of Information request. The report was based on over 400 interviews with smaller employers about Workie and six more in-depth interviews. Whilst the objective of the report was to look at tweaking some of the wording of the first wave of adverts, it also examined the overall role and effectiveness of Workie in the advertising campaign.

When launched, Baroness Ros Altmann who was the Pensions Minister at the time said about the Workie campaign:

"This is a fun and quirky campaign but behind it lies a very serious message. We need everyone to know they are entitled to a workplace pension – and we need all employers to understand their legal responsibility to their staff, but also to feel more positive about engaging with workplace pensions."

Workie was launched with an £8m budget peaking at £9,9m in 2018/19 and was a replacement for the previous campaign that starred Apprentice star Baroness Karren Brady and former Dragon's Den dragon Theo Paphitis.

  • 2015/16 - £8.54m
  • 2016/17 - £9.6m
  • 2017/18 - £9m
  • 2018/19 - £9.9m
  • 2019/20 - £6.6m

The internal Department of Work and Pensions report however has found that many people believe the campaign to be 'polarising, childish and patronising' and distracts from the serious message of the campaign. Only 34 per cent of those surveyed liked Workie while 35 per cent disliked him. The remaining 27 per cent were 'neither'.

The report revealed 25% of those spoken to were in the 'strongly dislike' category. The campaign rating didn't fare better, with only 28 per cent liking the adverts against 33 per cent who disliked them. A total of 38 per cent were 'neither'.

However, in a statement released in response to the report, former Pensions Minister and co-creator of Workie, Baroness Ros Altmann said:

"This new campaign was meant to be disruptive and catch the attention of those employers who did not even know they were employers – the businesses that would have people to help them we're going to know about auto-enrolment and more likely to comply. The idea of the campaign was to use a carrot first, not a stick. The fact that some people feel it is condescending probably represents that fact that many already knew about their duties and had done the hard work in setting things up – but they were not the ones the campaign was aimed at. Whether or not people 'like' Workie is less the point – it is whether they notice the campaign and take action they otherwise wouldn't have taken."

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