You may have seen the TV advert from the Department for Work and Pensions featuring a huge furry purple monster called “Workie”. Despite his size and appearance, he is totally ignored by the people he encounters. He is (of course) meant to represent workplace pensions.

The advert reportedly cost an astonishing £8.5 million. Was it money well spent? First reactions would be a resounding “NO”!

One commentator said: “The Government runs the risk of insulting the intelligence of – and therefore alienating – thousands of cash-strapped small businesses. They will see the advert for what it is – taxpayers’ money being spent badly on a silly gimmick.”

When Pensions Minister Ros Altmann tweeted the message that “Workie the BIG workplace pension can help employers know their obligations,” it was followed by a succession of tweets speculating that her Twitter account had been hacked. The Daily Mirror pointed out that the £8.5 million cost was inappropriate while the Government was making deep cuts to working-age benefits.

The editor of Professional Pensions, Helen Morrissey, was more accommodating and commented: “The industry faces an unprecedented challenge over the coming three years as 1.8 million employers approach the date when they have to auto-enrol their staff. Many of these employers don’t even realise they have an obligation under auto-enrolment, and so the message will need to be big and bold if we are to raise awareness. If we see large numbers of these small and micro employers meeting their obligations, it will be money well spent.”

Time will tell but you have to agree that there is a long catalogue of failed public information initiatives.