Government Advertising 2017-18

Overview

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority’s (SIRA) ‘green slip refund’ campaign, and the TAFE semester one 2018 student recruitment campaign, complied with most requirements of the Government Advertising Act 2011 and the Government Advertising Guidelines, according to a report released today by the Auditor-General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford.

Executive summary

The Government Advertising Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Auditor-General to conduct a performance audit on the activities of one or more government agencies in relation to government advertising campaigns in each financial year. The performance audit assesses whether a government agency or agencies has carried out activities in relation to government advertising in an effective, economical and efficient manner and in compliance with the Act, the regulations, other laws and the Government Advertising Guidelines (the Guidelines).

This audit examined two campaigns conducted in 2017–18:

  • the 'Green slip refund' campaign run by the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA)
  • the semester one component of the 'TAFE NSW 2018 Student Recruitment Annual Campaign Program' run by the NSW TAFE Commission (TAFE).

Section 6 of the Act prohibits political advertising. Under this section, material that is part of a government advertising campaign must not contain the name, voice or image of a minister, member of parliament or a candidate nominated for election to parliament or the name, logo or any slogan of a political party. Further, a campaign must not be designed to influence (directly or indirectly) support for a political party.

Conclusion
Neither campaign breached the prohibition on political advertising contained in section 6 of the Act. Both campaigns also complied with most requirements of the Act, the regulations, other laws and the Guidelines. Neither agency could demonstrate that their campaigns were fully effective or economical.
SIRA did not breach section 6 of the Act, which prohibits political advertising. However, SIRA used its post-campaign evaluation to ask the public whether they believe the government was helping to reduce the cost of living by making reforms in a variety of areas, including some that were not related to the green slip campaign. SIRA advised that these additional statements were included to provide a broader context for any change in the green slip campaign survey results. This is not an appropriate use of the post-campaign evaluation because the post-campaign evaluation should measure the success of the campaign against its stated objectives.
Neither campaign met all their key objectives, limiting the overall effectiveness of the campaigns. SIRA successfully increased awareness of the availability of green slip refunds and met the target for the proportion of people claiming their refunds online. However, it did not meet its objective to inform the public about the reforms to the green slip scheme, beyond the refunds available to motorists. While 62 per cent of surveyed people were aware of the reforms, there was little knowledge about many specific aspects of the reforms, which people largely associated with lower insurance prices and refunds. TAFE was successful in achieving targets for changing the public perception of TAFE. However, it failed to achieve its semester one enrolment target.
SIRA was not able to demonstrate that its campaign was economical as it directly negotiated with a single supplier for the campaign's creative materials. This is contrary to the NSW Government's and SIRA's own procurement guidance that advise it to seek quotes from suppliers on a prequalification scheme if available. SIRA had access to the Advertising and Digital Communication Services prequalification scheme, but still continued with direct negotiations. While SIRA sought to demonstrate value for money by comparing the supplier's quote to the expenditure on creative materials in other campaigns, it did not document this evaluation to ensure that decision makers were fully informed. 
TAFE was not able to demonstrate that its campaign was economical as it did not compare the campaign with a zero-advertising scenario to demonstrate the exact benefits directly attributable to the campaign. TAFE's cost-benefit analysis also did not identify to what extent benefits could be achieved without advertising, nor did it consider alternatives to advertising which could achieve the same impact as the advertising campaign. All these elements should have been included in TAFE's cost benefit analysis.
Both agencies achieved some efficiencies in implementing their campaigns. SIRA booked all of its media placements in a cost-efficient manner. TAFE booked most of its media placements in a cost-efficient manner and achieved further efficiencies through the re-use of previous campaign material.

1. Introduction

1.1 Background

What is government advertising?

The government uses advertising to communicate information about a government program, policy or initiative to members of the public. Government advertising is funded by or on behalf of a government agency and can be distributed through a variety of media, such as radio, television, the Internet, newspapers, billboards or cinemas.

The NSW Government Advertising Handbook defines three broad categories of government advertising:

  • recruitment advertising - advertising which promotes specific job vacancies and employment opportunities within a government agency
  • public notices - advertising which communicates a clear, simple message or announcement and is generally one-off or short-term in nature
  • public awareness advertising - coordinated communications to raise awareness of key issues, such as government initiatives, or encourage behaviour change. 

How much is spent on government advertising in New South Wales?

The NSW Government spent $87.7 million on advertising in 2017–18. 
 

NSW government media expenditure has gone from just under 120 million dollars in the financial year of 2007-08, to just over 100 million in 08-09, 09-10, to around 90 million in 10-11, just over 60 million in 11-12, 12-13, just under 60 million in 13-14, 14-15, around 70 million in 15-16 to just over 80 million for both 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Exhibit 1: NSW Government media expenditure from 2007–08 to 2017–18
Source: Audit Office analysis.

How is government advertising regulated?

A regulatory framework which includes both policy and legislation governs NSW Government advertising. Exhibit 2 contains an overview of this regulatory framework.

Exhibit 2: NSW Government advertising regulatory framework
Regulation Purpose
Government Advertising Act 2011 (Act) Sets out the legal requirements for government advertising.
Government Advertising Regulation 2012 (Regulation) Sets out exemptions to the Act.
NSW Government Advertising Guidelines (Guidelines) Sets out requirements in relation to the style and content, dissemination and cost of government advertising campaigns, as well as the requirements of cost benefit analyses and peer reviews.
NSW Government Advertising Handbook (Handbook) Explains the legal and policy requirements of advertising. Sets out procedures for planning, preparing, managing and reporting of advertising activities.

Source: Audit Office analysis.

Prohibition of political advertising

Section 6 of the Act prohibits political advertising as part of a government advertising campaign. Government advertising campaigns must not:

  • be designed to influence (directly or indirectly) support for a political party
  • contain the name, voice or image of a minister, a member of parliament or a candidate nominated for election to parliament
  • contain the name, logo, slogan or any other reference to a political party. 

In addition, the Guidelines require government advertising campaigns to be politically neutral and clearly distinguishable from party political messages.

Requirements prior to the commencement of a campaign

The Act states that a government advertising campaign must not commence unless the head of the agency has signed a compliance certificate for the campaign. This compliance certificate states that the head of the agency believes the government advertising campaign:

  • complies with the Act, Regulation and Guidelines
  • contains accurate information
  • is necessary to achieve a public purpose and is supported by analysis and research
  • is an efficient and cost-effective means of achieving its public purpose.

The Act defines further requirements for campaigns which are likely to exceed a total cost of $50,000 or $1.0 million. These are summarised in Exhibit 3.

Government advertising campaigns likely to cost over $50,000 are subject to peer review before the campaign commences. This involves two or three public sector employees with expertise in marketing and communications assessing the proposed advertising campaign according to a set of criteria outlined in the Guidelines. The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) manages the peer review process.

The Act requires an agency wishing to run a government advertising campaign likely to cost over $1.0 million to complete a cost-benefit analysis before the campaign commences. A cost-benefit analysis is a decision-making tool that assesses the impact of an advertising campaign on the welfare of society.

In addition, campaigns which are likely to cost over $1.0 million require approval from the Cabinet Standing Committee on Communication and Government Advertising.

Exhibit 3: Requirements before an advertising campaign can commence
Advertising cost Compliance certificate Peer review Cost-benefit analysis Approval from Cabinet Standing Committee
<$50,000 check_circle_green_1.png

 

     
$50,000 to $1.0 million check_circle_green_1.png check_circle_green_1.png    
>$1.0 million check_circle_green_1.png check_circle_green_1.png check_circle_green_1.png check_circle_green_1.png

Source: Adapted from NSW Government Advertising Handbook (2017).

The NSW Government Brand Guidelines

In August 2017, the NSW Government released the NSW Government Brand Guidelines (Brand Guidelines), which provide direction on when and how to use the NSW Government logo. The Brand Guidelines replaced the NSW Government Branding Style Guide which had been in place since September 2015. The aim of the Brand Guidelines is to ensure consistency across public sector communications and improve the recognition of NSW Government projects. The Brand Guidelines apply to all NSW Government agencies, statutory bodies and other government entities. 

Agencies may apply to the Cabinet Standing Committee on Communication and Government Advertising for an exemption to the Brand Guidelines. The release of the new Brand Guidelines required agencies which were exempt from the requirements of the NSW Government Branding Style Guide to re-apply for a new exemption.

About this audit

The Act requires the Auditor-General to conduct a performance audit on the activities of one or more government agencies in relation to government advertising campaigns in each financial year.

In conducting the audit, the Auditor-General must determine whether a government agency or agencies has carried out activities in relation to government advertising in an effective, economical and efficient manner and in compliance with the Act, the Guidelines and other laws.

The 2017–18 government advertising audit examined the following campaigns.

Campaign title Responsible Agency Expenditure
Green slip refund State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) $1.9 million
2018 student recruitment annual campaign program (semester one only) NSW TAFE Commission (TAFE) $9.5 million

Appendix three contains further details about this audit.

2. Green slip refund campaign

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) conducted the 'Green slip refund' campaign between March and June 2018. SIRA ran this campaign to raise awareness of the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) refunds and reforms after the Motor Accidents Injuries Act 2017 commenced in December 2017. SIRA's view is that the reforms include a reduced cost for CTP insurance, benefits for at-fault drivers, reduced opportunity for fraud and attempts to lower insurance company profits. Green slip holders are also able to claim partial refunds on their 2017 green slip insurance premium. The campaign aimed to make green slip holders aware of the refunds available, encourage them to claim online and to inform people about the changes to the green slip scheme. The campaign focused on the first two of these objectives. The total cost of the campaign was $1.9 million. See Appendix two for more details on this campaign.

The 'Green slip refund' advertising campaign did not breach section 6 of the Act which prohibits political advertising. However, SIRA used its post-campaign evaluation to ask the public whether they believe the government was helping to reduce the cost of living by making reforms in a variety of areas, including some that were not related to the green slip campaign. SIRA advised that these additional statements were included to provide a broader context for any change in the green slip campaign survey results. This is not an appropriate use of the post-campaign evaluation because the post-campaign evaluation should measure the success of the campaign against its stated objectives. 
The campaign met most of its objectives, including raising awareness of the green slip refunds and encouraging people to claim online. However, the campaign was not fully effective because it did not inform the public of the green slip reforms. This was one of the objectives of the campaign. Sixty-two per cent of people in the post-campaign survey stated that they were aware of the reforms, an increase from the baseline of 20 per cent. However, these people largely associated the reforms with lower insurance prices and had a low awareness of any other elements of the reforms, such as SIRA's view that the reforms introduced better support for people injured on the road. This indicates that the campaign did little to inform people about the green slip reforms beyond the price of insurance. 
SIRA was able to ensure cost-efficient media purchases by signing its media booking authority within the timeframe advised by DPC.
SIRA could not demonstrate that the campaign was carried out economically. SIRA directly negotiated with a single supplier to procure the creative materials for this campaign. Direct negotiations make it difficult to ensure value for money due to the lack of competition. SIRA proceeded with direct negotiations despite being able to access a prequalification scheme which could increase competition. In doing so, SIRA did not follow government's or its internal procurement guidance. While SIRA sought to demonstrate value for money by comparing the supplier's quote to the expenditure on creative materials in other campaigns, it did not document this evaluation to ensure that decision makers were fully informed. 

Campaign materials we reviewed did not breach section 6 of the Act

Section 6 of the Act prohibits political advertising as part of a government advertising campaign. A government advertising campaign must not:

  • be designed to influence (directly or indirectly) support for a political party
  • contain the name, voice or image of a minister, a member of parliament or a candidate nominated for election to parliament
  • contain the name, logo, slogan or any other reference to a political party.

The audit team found no breaches of section 6 of the Act in the campaign material we reviewed.

Before the start of the campaign, SIRA conducted a survey which asked people whether they agreed ‘that the NSW Government is helping to reduce the cost of living by making positive reforms to:

  • reduce the cost of green slips
  • reduce the cost of health insurance
  • increase the number of jobs
  • increase investment in the state.'

SIRA's initial submission to peer review listed one of the campaign objectives as improving the perception of the government as a positive reformer. DPC advised SIRA that this should not be included. SIRA removed this objective.

Even though SIRA appropriately removed this objective, the post-campaign evaluation still measured agreement with the above statements, three of which did not relate to this campaign or SIRA's responsibilities. SIRA advised that these three additional statements were included to provide a broader context for any change in the green slip campaign survey results. For example, if all four measures reported an increase in positive responses of roughly the same size, then the increase may have been due to factors other than the advertising campaign.

This is not an appropriate use of the post-campaign evaluation, which should measure the success of the campaign against its stated objectives. The Guidelines list the purposes that government advertising may serve and none of these relate to improving the perception of the government. The inclusion of the above questions in SIRA's post-campaign evaluation creates a risk that the results may be used for party political purposes.

The campaign met most targets, however some were not challenging to achieve

The post-campaign evaluation demonstrated that the campaign met the targets for 12 of its 13 objectives including the targets relating to raising awareness of the refunds and the proportion of people claiming their refunds online. A fourteenth objective, the percentage of people aware that they should contact SIRA after a road accident injury, did not have a target set, meaning that it is not possible to say whether the campaign had the desired impact in this case.

In August 2017, before the campaign commenced, SIRA conducted a survey to determine the baselines for some of its objectives. This is a good practice to support an effective post campaign evaluation process. The survey found that 20 per cent of people were aware of the green slip reforms. SIRA's objective was to raise this to 25 per cent, which represents a small gain relative to the proposed campaign expenditure. The campaign aimed for 40 per cent of motorists to be aware of refunds, which is very low given that this was the primary focus of the campaign. SIRA followed the advice of its survey provider when setting these targets. 

In the survey carried out after the campaign, 66 per cent of people were aware of the availability of green slip refunds for most motorists. The campaign also aimed to get 83 per cent of motorists to claim their refunds via online channels. It met this target, with a total of 84 per cent. Finally, 62 per cent of people in the post-campaign survey were aware of the green slip reforms. This result is discussed further below.

The overall target for total number of refunds claimed is 85 per cent of eligible drivers, that is to say CTP holders. SIRA will evaluate the results of this objective after the conclusion of the refund period in June 2019.

The campaign did little to inform the public about the broader green slip reforms

One objective of the green slip refund campaign was to inform the public about the green slip reforms. The final campaign creative material focused almost entirely on the green slip refunds rather than the range of other reforms. This was because the peer review raised concerns that the creative material was attempting to deliver too many messages. 

The campaign submission stated that the advertising campaign would raise awareness of the broader reforms to the CTP scheme, citing several examples such as reduced opportunities for fraud and reduced insurer profits. SIRA also advised the Minister for Finance, Services and Property that secondary messaging in the campaign would benefit public understanding of the reforms.

Some of the television and radio advertisements referred to ‘more protection’ or ‘better protection’ for people injured on New South Wales roads, however advertisements did not refer to other elements of the reforms. Other campaign creative materials contained messages solely relating to the green slip refund and made no further reference to the broader reforms. SIRA used other communication channels, such as giving wallet cards to health service providers, to spread these messages to people, particularly those who had been injured.

Sixty two per cent of people in the post-campaign survey were aware of the green slip reforms. SIRA asked these people which benefits they associated with the reforms. The results of this survey are in Exhibit 4. Seventy-one per cent of this sample identified the reduced costs of green slips as one of the changes, but awareness of other elements of the reforms remains low. Though 29 per cent of people perceive the reforms to make the green slip scheme ‘fairer’, no more than 15 per cent of people could list a specific benefit which did not relate to insurance prices.

Exhibit 4: Perceived benefits associated with the changes to the CTP green slip scheme
Perceived benefit Percentage aware of this benefit
Reduced costs of green slips for vehicle owners 71%
A fairer scheme for all people 29%
Reduced costs of comprehensive vehicle insurance 20%
Better support for people injured on our roads 15%
Less chances of fraudulent claims 15%
Lowering insurance company profits 13%
Quicker payment of claims to injured people 10%

Source: State Insurance Regulatory Authority.

Another campaign target was to ensure that people understood that they should contact SIRA in case of an injury. None of the campaign creative materials contained this information. SIRA did some limited work to inform the public about this through its social media channels. One of the pieces of creative material directed the reader to SIRA's website for further information on the reforms, which contained this information. During the campaign period, there was an increase in the number of calls received by SIRA's CTP Assist phone line. However, in the post-campaign evaluation, only two per cent of surveyed people identified that they should contact SIRA in case of an injury.

The media plan allowed sufficient time for cost-efficient media placement

During the peer review process, DPC provides advice to agencies about the time they should allow to ensure cost-efficient media placement. For example, DPC advise that agencies book television advertising six to 12 weeks in advance and that agencies book radio advertising two to eight weeks in advance.

SIRA allowed sufficient time between the completion of the peer review process and the commencement of the first advertising. SIRA signed the agreement with the approved Media Agency Services provider eight weeks before the campaign started, meaning that it could achieve cost-efficient media placement for all types of media used in this campaign.

SIRA directly negotiated with a single supplier, making it difficult to demonstrate value for money

SIRA directly negotiated with a single supplier to procure the campaign's creative material. A direct negotiation occurs when an agency negotiates with a proponent without first undergoing a competitive process. It is difficult to demonstrate value for money using direct negotiation due to the lack of competition. 

ICAC's 'Guidelines for managing risks in direct negotiations' (ICAC Guidelines) provide guidance on how to undertake direct negotiations. SIRA has a direct negotiation checklist that aligns to the ICAC Guidelines. The SIRA checklist advises that staff should confirm that existing New South Wales prequalification schemes cannot provide the procurement before undertaking a direct negotiation. SIRA did not do this.

To procure creative materials, agencies can access the Advertising and Digital Communication Services prequalification scheme (the prequalification scheme). Using the prequalification scheme allows agencies to quickly seek quotes from suppliers who have a demonstrated track record and expertise. While agencies are not required to use the prequalification scheme, the NSW Procurement Board advises that agencies should use prequalification schemes where they are available to promote competition. 

By using direct negotiation when the prequalification scheme was available, and by not seeking quotes from other suppliers, SIRA was acting in a way that reduced competition. This increases the risk that SIRA did not achieve value for money in its procurement of creative materials.

SIRA advised that it sought to ensure value for money by comparing the quote from its selected supplier with the amount spent on creative materials in other campaigns of similar size. SIRA did not document this analysis at the time or include it as part of the briefing note staff used to seek approval for undertaking direct negotiation. As a result, decision-makers were not fully informed when approving this engagement. 

SIRA reported in a briefing note that it engaged in direct negotiations because:

  • it believed that the original timeframe did not allow for a competitive tender process
  • the supplier had done previous work on a related campaign for SIRA
  • the supplier provided sample work which received positive feedback from focus groups.

In July 2017, when peer review commenced, SIRA planned to launch the campaign in November 2017 to coincide with the beginning of the green slip reforms. SIRA believed that this timeframe was narrow enough to warrant entering direct negotiations. The ICAC Guidelines advise that a narrow timeframe is not a valid reason to enter into a direct negotiation. In late October 2017, the campaign launch was delayed until March 2018 to stagger the demand on the resources of Service NSW, which is administering the refund. 

The ICAC Guidelines also advise against re-appointing a supplier because it has performed previous work. Instead, agencies could consider previous experience as one of several factors when deciding between quotes. In cases where an agency asks a supplier to provide sample work, the ICAC Guidelines advise that agencies should request sample work from multiple potential suppliers to promote competition.

The campaign's cost benefit analysis complied with the Act and Guidelines 

The Act requires a cost benefit analysis (CBA) for any government advertising campaign likely to exceed $1.0 million in value. Section six of the Guidelines set out the requirements for a government advertising CBA. The campaign's CBA complied with the requirements of the Act and the Guidelines.

The campaign CBA could have demonstrated further cost effectiveness if it considered alternative media mixes as outlined in NSW Treasury's 'Cost Benefit Analysis Framework for Government Advertising and Information Campaigns'. This would also have been consistent with the Handbook.

The cluster Secretary signed the compliance certificate instead of the head of SIRA

The Act requires the head of the agency running the campaign to sign a compliance certificate. 

The Secretary of the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, the cluster to which SIRA belongs, signed the campaign's compliance certificate. However, section 17(2) of the State Insurance and Care Governance Act 2015 states that SIRA is ‘for the purposes of any Act, a NSW Government agency.’ Given this, the Chief Executive of SIRA was responsible for signing the compliance certificate for this campaign.

This is a minor non-compliance with the Act because the Chief Executive had reviewed the campaign and recommended that the Secretary sign the compliance certificate.  

3. TAFE semester one 2018 campaign

The NSW TAFE Commission (TAFE) ran the 'TAFE NSW 2018 Student Recruitment Annual Campaign Program' from November 2017 to September 2018. The aim of the campaign was to assist TAFE in achieving its 2018 student enrolment target by improving the perception of TAFE's brand and generating student enquiries. This is the first state-wide campaign run by TAFE operating under the One TAFE model. Previously, each TAFE Institute ran its own campaigns. The total budget of the campaign was $19.5 million. This audit examined only the semester one 2018 component of the campaign, which ran from November 2017 to April 2018 at a total cost of $9.5 million. See Appendix two for more details on this campaign.

The semester one component of the 'TAFE NSW 2018 Student Recruitment Annual Campaign Program' did not breach the specific provisions of section 6 of the Act which prohibits political advertising.
The campaign was not fully effective because it did not achieve its objective of reaching TAFE's semester one enrolment target.
The campaign was successful at achieving the campaign's targets which related to changing the public perception of TAFE.
TAFE was able to place most of its campaign media within cost-efficient timeframes. TAFE also achieved efficiencies by re-using many creative materials from a previous campaign.
TAFE could not demonstrate this campaign was carried out economically. TAFE's cost benefit analysis (CBA) for this campaign did not comply with three requirements of the Guidelines. For example, TAFE did not compare the campaign to a baseline case of not advertising. 
The Guidelines require government advertising to be accurate in all statements. TAFE breached this requirement. The campaign material included one statement that was inaccurate and one that was overstated.
The revision of the Brand Guidelines in August 2017 impacted this campaign. TAFE re-used many creative materials that were created when TAFE was not required to include the NSW Government logo on its advertising material. DPC appears to have directed agencies that were launching advertising campaigns to immediately comply with the Brand Guidelines, however we could not find evidence that this advice was given to TAFE. As such, 59 per cent of TAFE's materials were not compliant with the Brand Guidelines at the launch of the campaign in November 2017. TAFE had made most of this campaign's creative materials compliant by June 2018.

The campaign materials we reviewed did not breach section 6 of the Act

Section 6 of the Act prohibits political advertising as part of a government advertising campaign. A government advertising campaign must not:

  • be designed to influence (directly or indirectly) support for a political party
  • contain the name, voice or image of a minister, a member of parliament or a candidate nominated for election to parliament
  • contain the name, logo, slogan or any other reference to a political party.

The audit team found no breaches of section 6 of the Act in the campaign material we reviewed.

The campaign achieved 16 of 24 objectives, but did not reach its enrolment target

The campaign had 24 objectives which had a target for semester one. TAFE set these targets using a combination of previous experience, corporate objectives and brand surveys.

The overall objective of the combined semester one and two campaigns was to support TAFE achieving its 2018 total enrolment target of 549,636. TAFE's semester one target was 361,350, which it did not achieve. This indicates that the campaign was not fully effective.

The campaign achieved 11 of its 16 output objectives. The output targets related to TAFE's media placements and ability to reach an audience efficiently. TAFE tracked progress against many of the campaign's output objectives daily. TAFE altered its media channels throughout the campaign meaning that some of the output objectives were not met because TAFE decided to focus on alternative media channels. The campaign also achieved all seven of its outcome objectives. The outcome objectives related to changing the public perception of TAFE.

TAFE's initial media plan allowed for efficient media placement

During the peer review process, DPC provides advice to agencies about the time they should allow to ensure cost-efficient media placement. For example, DPC advise that agencies book television advertising six to 12 weeks in advance and that agencies book radio advertising two to eight weeks in advance. 

While TAFE's initial media plan allowed sufficient time between the approval of the campaign and its launch, a delay in receiving final approval for the campaign meant TAFE could not purchase media placements until two months later than planned. Most purchases still remained within DPC's recommended timeframes, but Indigenous television advertisements and metropolitan out of home advertisements both fell outside DPC's recommended time periods by one week. These delays did not impact on TAFE's efficiency.

TAFE re-used many creative materials, achieving some cost-savings

Rather than commissioning new creative materials, TAFE re-used many creative materials from the previous campaign and supplemented these with a selection of new creative materials. TAFE advised that this led to a cost saving of approximately $130,000.
TAFE sought quotes from suppliers on the government's Advertising and Digital Communication Services prequalification scheme for two creative material contracts. These contracts covered updates to existing materials and a selection of new materials.

The campaign's cost-benefit analysis did not comply with three requirements of the Guidelines

The Act requires an agency to conduct a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) if the cost of an advertising campaign is likely to exceed $1.0 million. The Guidelines set out the requirements of this CBA. TAFE did not comply with three of these requirements, outlined in Exhibit 5.

Exhibit 5: Guideline requirements for CBAs with which TAFE did not comply
6.2 The cost benefit analysis must isolate the additional costs and benefits attributable to the advertising campaign itself compared to the base-case of not-advertising.
6.3 The cost benefit analysis must specify the extent to which the expected benefits could be achieved without advertising.
6.4 The cost benefit analysis must outline what options other than advertising could be used to successfully implement the program and achieve the program benefits and a comparison of their costs.
Source: NSW Government Advertising Guidelines (2012).

In this circumstance, section 6.2 of the Guidelines required the CBA to identify the number of enrolments TAFE would expect if it did not advertise. TAFE advised us that it is not possible to say what this scenario would look like because there had always been some degree of advertising, however, this argument is not reflected in the CBA. 

TAFE used 2017 as the baseline in the CBA. In 2017, TAFE spent $13.2 million on advertising. As such, the CBA was only able to isolate the impact of the increased expenditure rather than the impact of the campaign's entire $19.5 million expenditure. TAFE advised that 2017 had the most reliable state-wide data and this contributed to the decision to use it as the baseline.

During the audit, TAFE sought advice from NSW Treasury regarding whether a 2017 baseline was appropriate and NSW Treasury advised that it was. Regardless, TAFE did not receive this advice prior to writing the CBA and did not put commentary around this in the CBA. This would also not be sufficient for fulfilling the requirements of the Guidelines.

The CBA did not comply with sections 6.3 and 6.4 of the Guidelines. The CBA briefly considered the impact of spending the campaign budget directly on new training courses, however there was no sustained analysis of this option. TAFE staff advised that there are no realistic alternatives to advertising for achieving the campaign's objectives. However we did not see analysis to support this conclusion in documents provided to us. 

The campaign CBA could have better demonstrated cost effectiveness if it considered alternative media mixes as outlined in NSW Treasury's 'Cost Benefit Analysis Framework for Government Advertising and Information Campaigns'. This would also have been consistent with the Handbook.

TAFE made one inaccurate claim in its advertising and overstated a second

The Guidelines set out rules regarding the content of a government advertising campaign. Exhibit 6 sets out one of the principles with which agencies must comply.

Exhibit 6: Guidelines' requirement for accuracy
The following principles apply to the style and content of government advertising campaigns:
  • Accuracy in the presentation of all facts, statistics, comparisons and other arguments. All statements and claims of fact included in government advertising campaigns must be able to be substantiated.
Source: NSW Government Advertising Guidelines (2012).

TAFE made one inaccurate claim in its advertising and overstated a second.

In some campaign creative material, TAFE claimed that 78 per cent of its own graduates are employed after training (Exhibit 15 in Appendix 2). According to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, 78 per cent of New South Wales Vocational Education and Training (VET) graduates (i.e. from all training providers) are employed after training. The result for TAFE graduates is 70.4 per cent.

One of the campaign's television advertisements refers to TAFE as ‘Australia's most reputable education provider’. This statement referred to a survey of current TAFE students who were asked where they would consider studying in future: TAFE, University or a private college. The current TAFE students selected TAFE by a large margin. The limited scope of TAFE's student survey and its results do not support the claim that it is ‘Australia's most reputable education provider’.

DPC did not consistently communicate the transitional arrangements for the Brand Guidelines and as such much of TAFE's creative material did not comply at campaign launch

On 7 August 2017, the government released the NSW Government Brand Guidelines (Brand Guidelines), setting out how agencies use the NSW Government logo. The Brand Guidelines replaced the Branding Style Guide which had been in place since September 2015. Some agencies were exempt from using the Branding Style Guide and the introduction of the new Brand Guidelines required these agencies to apply for a new exemption.

TAFE had recently commenced the peer review process for this campaign when the Brand Guidelines were released. TAFE was exempt from the requirements of the Branding Style Guide and as such the material which TAFE was planning to re-use in the new campaign did not contain the NSW Government logo.

Communication about how long agencies had to make themselves compliant with the Brand Guidelines was unclear. On 11 August 2017, the Chair of the Cabinet Standing Committee on Communication and Government Advertising (the Committee) sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Industry informing him that the Department must update all its material to be compliant with the Brand Guidelines ‘as soon as practicable within an 18-month transition period’. The Department of Industry advised TAFE that new advertising would need to be immediately compliant, however it was not clear if this included materials which agencies were re-using from previous campaigns. DPC advised the audit team that it expected re-used materials to be compliant when agencies launched new campaigns. DPC provided this advice to some agencies but did not communicate it more broadly. We could not source evidence that DPC provided this advice to TAFE.

DPC ran workshops to explain the transitional arrangements in September 2017 for the changes in the Brand Guidelines, however these did not specifically address the transitional timeframes for new advertising campaigns.

The Department of Industry, on behalf of TAFE, applied to the Committee for approval to co-brand the TAFE logo with the NSW Government logo. This was approved in October 2017. The requirements for co-branding are in Exhibit 7.

Exhibit 7: Co-branding in the NSW Government Brand Guidelines

Co-branding partners the agency logo with the NSW Government logo. The NSW Government logo must always be presented as the dominant or lead brand. The Brand Guidelines provide the following template shown below the exhibit box.

The NSW Government logo is on the left and the agency logo is placed on the right, with a dividing line between them.

The cobranding style for the NSW Government agencies, with the NSW government logo on the left, a vertical line in the middle and the agency logo to the right
Source: NSW Government Brand Guidelines (2017).

The audit examined 119 pieces of creative material used when the campaign launched in November 2017. Fifty-nine per cent contained only TAFE branding and gave no indication that they were from the NSW Government. TAFE updated its advertising material throughout the first two quarters of 2018. By June 2018, the only advertising materials that TAFE had not updated were six television advertisements and its radio advertising. TAFE had corrected seven television advertisements at a total cost of $70,000 and did not believe that it was economical to update the other advertisements at similar total cost.

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