Posted: Tue 21st May 2024

Welsh Government advertising procurement demonstrates lack of engagement with independent media

Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

If you do a Freedom of Information request about ad spend with Welsh Government, you might get a few quid chucked your way hours after the response is made public, in an odd procurement method in Cardiff.

We spotted this FOI response on the Welsh Government website (not placed by us) which revealed they spent £512,027.68 excluding VAT in the 2023/24 year “…on national advertising to inform and prepare workplaces about the new law requiring them to separate their waste for recycling from 6 April”.

On the 12th April Wrexham.com asked via FOI how much of that “advertising was spent with independent media titles that are eligible for the Welsh Public Interest News Accelerator grant scheme“.

On Tuesday 23rd of April we receive a response via email, that said, “The Welsh Government did not advertise with the independent media titles that are eligible for the Welsh Public Interest News Accelerator grant scheme. The titles advertised in are either Reach or Newsquest owned… “.

Due to the way such FOI responses are handled that response was not public anywhere until a few days later, when they are published on the ‘FOI publications’ section of Gov.Wales.

The FOI response went live on Gov.Wales on the morning of Thursday 25th April.

By lunchtime that day Wrexham.com had been approached by the agency commissioned by Welsh Government offering £500 for programmatic ads for an existing climate change campaign booster.

Up to that point there had been zero communication on the campaign, and an ‘introduction’ to the same ad agency almost two years ago on another Welsh Government campaign that missed the sector that also effectively went nowhere had been totally forgotten.

Such ‘programatic’ Gov.Wales adverts have been long blocked on Wrexham.com, as they and the agency are aware, due to the contrary situation on how Welsh Government fail to properly engage with the independent media sector with their advertising spend – while making positive noises and creating small grants to the sector – as this episode displays.

As we said to the agency, “…unless we have the wrong end of the stick this does feel reactionary to a FOI? We were clearly not part of the initial plan and have been missed of a range of Welsh Gov campaigns historically” noting that other independent media in Wales had been totally missed off that – and other campaigns.

We asked that the client, Welsh Government, be given our feedback, “It is a far from perfect situation for an FOI to be published and hours later we get contacted. There is a huge issue with Welsh Gov advertising with independent titles, and there hasn’t been much progress for over a decade. We have been trying to resolve it for *ages* – so much so we have blocked gov.wales programatically and removed ourselves from TfW communications to try and get the issue on the radar”.

We also offered to run the adverts for free multiple times.

We also requested if there could be a wider chat to see what can be resolved several years on with zero or tiny spends in the independent media sector. A sector that often has the most vibrant engaged audiences, something Welsh Government and associated entities are aware as we appear valid enough for their press releases or ‘earned’ free promo as described in the £800k 20MPH roll out comms plan.

Neither option has been taken up, but the offer still stands!

Top pic: As well as the spend with Reach PLC and Gannett Inc subsidiary Newsquest , there are similar Facebook ads with that plucky Welsh upstart and socially great Meta. 



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