Case study: DWP's pensions auto-enrolment push surpasses expectations

The Department for Work and Pensions' integrated 'Get to know your pensions' campaign used traditional, digital and social media to beat predictions and help drive a 9.4m auto-enrolment upsurge.

A still from the DWP auto-enrolment pensions ad
A still from the DWP auto-enrolment pensions ad

The joint DWP and Pensions Regulator multichannel campaign was designed to persuade millions more people to save for their retirement via auto-enrolment.

The primary aim of the campaign was to reverse a decade of declining pensions saving, building on 2012's "We're all in" campaign for auto-enrolment's launch. A 2015 push starring a 10ft tall CGI 'Workie' character targeted small and micro-businesses, warning: "Don't ignore it."

Get to know your pension

Launching in October 2017, "Get to know your pension" became the slogan that cemented together the campaign's various elements, created by ad agency M&C Saatchi.

Activity explained to employees eligible for workplace pensions that their pensions grew in value as they worked, and that their employer must pay into the fund too. Bosses at companies were reminded that it was their legal duty to provide a workplace pension, even if they employed just a single person, and that they could consult the Pensions Regulator.

The key message was "You work, your pension works", with "Get to know the benefits", "Millions of people are saving into a workplace pension" and "When you pay in, your boss does too" among the secondary messages.

Using a combination of paid-for marketing and earned PR coverage spanning digital, TV, press and outdoor, the comms messages were deployed across social channels Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, with employers encouraged to take part in the conversation using the hashtag #yourpension.

Radio advertising was deemed most effective for reaching employers, carrying the key call to action: "Get to know your responsibilities".

Several campaign films were seeded across social channels and YouTube. One depicted a chef working in a kitchen, helped by a mini version of herself. "Having a workplace pension is like having another you at work, helping earn money for when you retire," the voiceover intoned.

Activity directed people to an information hub dedicated to workplace pensions. The DWP worked closely with more than 50 stakeholders, including trade bodies, pension providers, advice organisations, bloggers and consumer groups to boost awareness and foster discussion. Influencers were invited to share content, advice and top tips.

On the PR front, the DWP sought to create a national story about workplace pensions using celebrity influencers — Dragon's Den panellist and retail magnate Theo Paphitis, builder and TV personality Tommy Walsh and First Dates star and restaurateur Fred Sirieix (see below).

Major impact

The campaign has contributed to an upsurge in auto-enrolment. As of the end of February, 9.4m employees of more than 1m employers had signed up.

The DWP said that the campaign's success was primarily measured against KPIs, which have "generally been exceeded". As of December, three-quarters (74 per cent) of employees affected by auto-enrolment agreed that saving into a workplace pension was a normal thing to do; those who viewed the ads were more likely to think this. Further, 69 per cent of those affected by auto-enrolment policy said they understood the benefits.

Digital tracking found that since the campaign launched, traffic to the microsite has resulted in a total of 2.7m sessions. On 31 October, the site achieved the highest number of visits it has ever had.

The video content on Facebook and Instagram outperformed forecasts, while owned channels and third-party channels performed strongly. The campaign advocacy by Welsh rugby referee Nigel Owens demonstrated the effectiveness of using third parties, with the Welsh language version of the video receiving 25,000 views and more than 370 engagements on #WelshHappinessDay – way above the account average.

Data tables to support the research can be found on Ipsos MORI's website.

Gillian Hudson, the DWP's head of pensions marketing, said: "It's easy to see pensions and retirement as being too far away to think about, and that's why communications are an important part of prompting people to plan for the future.

"This latest multiplatform campaign uses creative that brings pensions firmly into the present and this has helped us resonate with all audiences, especially younger people. As minimum contribution rates are set to rise in April, we will continue to emphasise the benefits of a workplace pension, and build on the success of the campaign so far."

The campaign continues until March 2019.

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