Government departments spent €1.3m on online campaigns last year

Taoiseach’s department was biggest spender with €437,000 on 18 different campaigns

With three of the biggest spending departments not submitting any data, the overall figure could easily exceed €1.5 million. Photograph: Jon Nazca/File Photo/Reuters

With three of the biggest spending departments not submitting any data, the overall figure could easily exceed €1.5 million. Photograph: Jon Nazca/File Photo/Reuters

 

Government departments spent almost €1.3 million on social media and digital advertising last year, according to information supplied by Ministers. 

Eleven of the 15 Government departments have disclosed details of what they have spent on platforms such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram as well as for pop-up ads and sidebars. 

The total spend for 2018 was €1,287,111. Only two departments, Defence and Rural Affairs, had zero returns. The information is contained in replies to parliamentary questions submitted by Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy. 

With three of the biggest spending departments not submitting any data, the overall figure could easily exceed €1.5 million, showing a clear strategy within Government of migrating to social media platforms for advertising and information campaigns.

The biggest spender by far was the Department of An Taoiseach, which spent more than €437,000 last year on 18 different campaigns. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the reason for its high spend was a decision in 2017 to run cross-Government information campaigns centrally. His department took responsibility. 

He disclosed that the purchase of digital and online space was managed through a media-buying company, PHD Media. Purchasing digital and online space includes advertising on search engines (to ensure the public is directed to the sites that deliver the services they are looking for) and social media. Social media relates to sponsored posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Global Ireland

The biggest single spend in the Department of An Taoiseach was for Global Ireland, which cost €283,000. The second-biggest campaign on social media and digital platforms was for Project Ireland 2040, which cost €95,000.

Almost €10,000 was spent on the unsuccessful effort to bring the Rugby World Cup to Ireland during 2017. Healthy Ireland involved spending of about €8,000, while Bliain na Gaeilge cost € 4,632.

The Department of Arts and Culture spent more than €140,000 in 2018, almost half of which was for the Culture Ireland programme. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs spent a total of almost €41,000. Its biggest spend was on a digital and social media campaign for online passport renewals, which cost €38,000. 

The biggest single campaign was an extensive campaign commissioned by the Department of Finance encouraging bank customers to switch their accounts from one bank to another. It cost more than €400,000, but Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe pointed out in its reply that all of the costs were recouped from the two banks with large State stakes in their ownership: AIB and Permanent TSB.

Domestic violence

The Department of Justice was also a big spender, its primary campaign being What Would You Do?, which was designed to raise awareness about domestic violence.

That campaign cost almost €140,000, broken down as follows: social media (€17,470), Google Adwords (€20,336), Video on Demand (€28,449), online content partnerships (€48,713) and digital display ads (€24,298). 

The Department of Employment and Social Protection spent more than €57,000 on social media and digital advertising, including for promoting its website mywelfare.ie

Four departments – Education; Transport; Children and Youth Affairs; and Housing – were not in a position to provide the information, as it had not been collated. 

SPENDING BY DEPARTMENT

Taoiseach: €437,347
Finance: €402,210
Justice: €143,564
Social Protection: €57,749
Foreign Affairs: €40,964
Public Expenditure: €18,372
Communications and Climate Change: €14,398
Agriculture: €14,084
Jobs and Enterprise: €13,413