Government spending on Covid-19 advertising revealed

Government spending on Covid-19 advertising revealed

Leaflets which form part of the public awareness campaign for Covid-19 at Dublin Airport. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

More than €8.72m has been spent by the Government on Covid advertising since the start of the pandemic, it has been revealed.

It comes as Taoiseach Micheál Martin moved to distance himself from a Department of Health decision to hire a private PR firm after criticisms about mixed messaging around Covid.

The figures supplied to Labour Party leader Alan Kelly, include €3.2m on print advertising, €4.39m on broadcast campaigns, €688,005 on social media ads, and a further €410,635 on production costs.

"Since March, my department has co-ordinated communications for the whole-of-Government response to the pandemic," the Taoiseach told Mr Kelly in his response to a parliamentary question. 

"This necessitated expenditure on a broad range of targeted public-information campaigns.

"My department is continuing to process payments for a number of Covid-19 related campaigns."

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Department of Health has also recruited communications and advisory firm Teneo to help with the launch of the medium-term Covid plan this week.

Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane hit out at the need to take on a PR company when the Government and Department of Health already employs a large number of staff to deal with media and communications.

"It's up to the Government and it's up to the Department to be able to draft the plan, produce a plan, and then launch a plan, without having to hire PR consultants to help them along the way," said Mr Cullinane.

Obviously the Government feel that they have a problem in communicating their message. The solution to that shouldn't be to hire PR firms, it should be that they get better at communicating the message.

Mr Martin prompted more confusion yesterday when he suggested Teneo would not be involved in Tuesday's launch.

"That PR firm isn't directly dealing with the Government-wide launch of the Covid plan," Mr Martin told RTÉ's The Week in Politics

"There's ongoing Government communications, they have been ongoing from the beginning in terms of the GIS [Government Information Service] and in terms of the advertising and so on around the restrictions that people have to adhere to, and around the various fundamental public health messages around personal behaviour, which, by the way, will be the key message in this plan."

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Health told the Irish Examiner that the PR company have been taken on to work on the launch.

"The Department of Health engaged the services of Teneo in September 2020 to support the launch of the All-of-Government Roadmap for Managing the Covid-19 Pandemic in Ireland," said the spokesperson.

"The requirement was support to develop the accompanying collateral for the launch. This is a short-term contract for this occasion."

Mr Cullinane said it was "unusual" and "puzzling" for the Department of Health to hire the PR firm, but suggested that "mixed messaging and ministers constantly contradicting each other" had forced health minister Stephen Donnelly to take action.

"I don't think they should be hiring PR firms, I think they need to get their act together in terms of getting the message right," he said.

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