workie211015When it comes to puerile & patronising advertising, politicians have form. But Workie truly is the pits.

The Slog analyses why IDS’s war on waste has merely increased it. The Slog also apologises for this post being prematurely born: for once, it really was user error.

Workie is the fluffy new alien doomed to be the corporate character behind the Workplace Pension – the latest fantasy to emerge from Iain Dunkin-Smurf’s DWP. Workie is already a record-breaking commercials animation in that he doesn’t even appear on air until the first break on Corrie tonight [21st October 2015] but already every marketing and advertising agency from Aardvark to Zenith has panned him with a hitherto unknown level of blistering critique.

Advertising is a bitchy business at the best of times; but this time, the vituperation is richly deserved. In fact, on the whole, the media are being merciful: they’re calling it an £8m waste. In fact, since 2013 the total is nearer to £20m of waste.

I’ve seen the Workie launch commercial: there is an idea in it, and it’s basically “the elephant in the room” – probably by now holding the No 1 spot as the most worn and knackered cliché in Britain…although rapidly being caught up by Keep Calm and Carry On.

We are in a public park, and Workie – a gigantic cross between Sesame Street and Mr Blobby, but with far less style – wobbles about from park bench to pathway complaining that everyone is ignoring him. Bless: the elephant in the room begets the white elephant in the park.

Probably the biggest (hoho) reason people are ignoring him is that IDS’s cowboy outfit made a balls of explaining or raising awareness of Workplace Pensions last time around. That was in aeons past…oh, must’ve been, er, three months ago. That was when somebody finally suggested that De Pension Rap (If I forgot to menshun/de workplace penshun/Ah needs your attenshun/for de workplace penshun) launched in 2012  needed relaunching….when actually what it needed was resealing in the lead crypt from which it had somehow escaped. The campaign failed dismally….as will this one.


  1. Somebody has clearly decided the DWP can address SME employers and employees with the same vehicle. I have my doubts about that: but either way, this is not the vehicle. Workie is more Venutian Vamp than vehicle
  2. Once again, a client who needs specialist targeting has been sold First Break Corrie as the media spot in order to make his dick hard
  3. It carries all the wrong signals: big hairy monster (government) tries to get through to thick voters (us) – viz, it’s our fault if we screen out execrable advertising
  4. There is no delivered point of difference. That’s because there isn’t one: Workplace Pensions are just another Camerlot lip-service scam.

The general view of the media is that government advertising is a waste of money that should be spent on service, not moronic TV commercials. That view is a classic case of journalistic ignorance spotting a symptom without understanding the disease. Government campaigns can be a remarkable (relatively) cost-effective way of getting across a socially important innovation. They nearly always fail because first, arrogant Ministers don’t listen to communication experts; second, these days 90% of what they advertise is neither socially important nor innovative; and third, ever since the COI was first sidelined and then abolished, it has become thinly-disguised, content-free political advertising. Or put another way, a fraudulent use of taxpayers’ money on Party policy persuasion: the politicisation of the State.

Saying the DWP has suffered from vehicle St Vitus dance since 2012 – and the introduction of auto-enrolment in Workplace Pensions (WPs) – is fully justified based on the evidence. Before hip-hop-rap-crap and wonky Workie, we had Karren Brady from The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis saying: “I’m in”: the campaign cost £8m on media buying alone to promote what Camerlot called “the biggest shake-up in UK pensions for over 100 years”. The result? A ripple of indifference.

The aim at the outset was to get up to 11 million more people saving in a workplace pension.The long-term aim – as many commentators have already spotted – was to bring closer the point at which Government in the UK can obviate any and all responsibility for pensions….in fact, welfare in general. (Why else – The Slog asked last year – change the name of National Insurance to ‘Earnings Tax’? What is the difference between earnings and income? The answer is: it’s a scam).

Auto-enrolment is being phased in over several years, starting with the largest employers and eventually taking in people who employ just one person. Among the first companies auto-enrolling employees were Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, but this latest attempt at getting workers to enthuse about lower wages and disguised higher taxes is now down to the luckless SMEs…those entrepreneurs supposedly at the core of Conservatism, but also increasingly under the cosh of globalist multinational tax evaders and corrupt banks. (Hint: guess which business type donates most to the Tories?)

Once again, it’s a neoliberal crock of Alchemy in which the expectation is that a milligram of lead can be transmuted into a kilo of gold.

Note that the first time some employees will realise something is afoot is when they get their payslip and see that money has been deducted without their consent. If that isn’t a corporate State tax, then what is?

Note that If you’re at least 16, but under 75, earn more than £5,564 a year and ask to be enrolled, your company will have to put you in the scheme and pay a minimum contribution, too. If that isn’t a multinational-inspired tax, then what is?

Note that UK real-value wages have fallen some 13% since 2003. If WPs aren’t a further reduction in spending power that might fuel a recovery, then what is?

I applaud wholeheartedly the idea of persuading citizens over time – even with a degree of ‘stick’ coercion – that the State cannot be expected to make their old age paradisiacal. But as an adman who has always believed in a central truth to all ad campaigns, I deplore the idea of trying to sell obligatory tithes as some kind of ‘Benefit’.

Nothing kills a pointless product more quickly than great advertising. In this case, Workie is ploughing a new adage: ‘Nothing creates apathy more quickly than a badly advertised tax’.

Earlier at The Slog: 100 reasons for Brexit, no’s 28-31