The government is refusing to reveal how it spent the £100 million in taxpayers’ money devoted to Boris Johnson’s ‘Get ready for Brexit’ ad campaign in what could be a breach of Freedom of Information rules.
A Freedom of Information request passed to The Red Roar shows that the government is refusing to say how much it spent on particular adverts, where adverts were displayed and who they targeted.
The government’s response wrongly claims that such details are being released as part of its routine transparency publications, but examination of the most recent releases shows that they only reveal the sums handed to media agencies in particular month.
Officials have also refused requests for data on who they targeted with social media adverts and how well those adverts performed. The response claims that this data would be too time-intensive and costly to produce, but the government’s £183 million contract with media agency Manning Gottlieb OMD shows that they were required to produce regular reports on these topics.
Requests for the advertising brief and correspondence with Boris Johnson’s advisors relating to the production of the campaign were likewise refused.
However, the response does reveal that just over four million people visited the Brexit website advertised by the campaign, equivalent to a staggering cost of nearly £25 per click given the campaign’s £100 million price tag. Around 1.6 million completed the government’s Brexit checker questionnaire at a cost of nearly £63 per completion. This data covers the period to 24 October despite the fact that money was still being spent on adverts after that date.
The Cabinet Office is now conducting an internal review of the request, after which the Information Commissioner may be asked to intervene.