The Government has spent almost €100,000 on a string of social media advertising and marketing campaigns since the start of the year in a bid to win over new voters and cement its poll lead on rivals.
The spending spree details were revealed by the Department of the Taoiseach after months of criticism over its PR focus and before Fianna Fáil launches a new policy plan this morning aiming to help local media cope with dwindling advertising funds.
Labour TD for Cork East Sean Sherlock asked the Department of the Taoiseach to clarify how much it is spending on social media advertising and marketing campaigns. The question was sparked by the furore at the start of the year over the strategic communications unit, which was championed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as helping to improve communications but was eventually scrapped amid claims it was a spin unit.
And in the official response, the Department confirms that spending on online campaigns is still significant, with almost €100,000 being spent this year to date.
According to the records, since the start of January Government departments have spent a total of €72,000 on Facebook campaigns and €26,000 on Twitter advertising for a series of policies and promotions within their ranks. The spending costs include This Is Ireland (€57,936), Healthy Ireland (€3,000), Project Ireland 2040 (€9,000), and Government health measures (€750) for Facebook; and This Is Ireland (€14,229), Project Ireland 2040 (€7,000) and Healthy Ireland (€2,000) for Twitter.
While the initiatives cannot be promoted for free, the costs involved for Government policies online are likely to lead to fresh concerns over the focus on PR in the current coalition.
The cost of the social media promotions emerged before Fianna Fáil communications spokesman, Timmy Dooley, launches a new party policy document today aiming to help local newspapers and media outlets struggling with falling advertising revenue. The document is believed to say that grants and other supports to help local media outlets should be considered due to the risk that dwindling resources could leave smaller outlets at risk of being forced to limit their content or rely on PR initiatives from Government and private firms.