The federal government’s 2016 Census campaign was “lazy”, “uninspiring” and filled with errors, according to Pulse Collective founder and managing director Lauren Fried.
Appearing on Gruen (the well-known TV show on the ABC that covers everything advertising) last night, Fried slammed the 2016 census ad campaign and the problems surrounding the execution of the data gathering exercise.
Dubbed #censusfail, the Gruen panel agreed the advertising campaign had little to do with Australians taking a pause, the campaign’s tagline, and should have been more about it going online, noting that there was no mention of the online component until two thirds into the television advertisement.
“This is a very lazy and uninspiring campaign,” Fried said. “This was an opportunity to make Australia really optimistic about the future, to make them excited and not scared, and it’s not what happened.
“When you see the imagery in the ad, it’s so boring. It’s like McDonalds showing you the transaction of paying for the burger or getting your rego papers in the mail. Show me how I’m going to feel when I’ve eaten the burger or driving my car down the street with people looking at me.”
The Census was plagued with problems when its online platform suffered an outage for more than 40 hours on the night of its official launch (9 August), with many Aussies still yet to complete the survey.
“Every single person that ever touched that campaign … should have been sitting in a room together – it’s one day. If anything was going to go wrong, it was that one day,” Fried said.
“They should have had 50 different landing pages for the website in case it went down so it goes up quickly. This is basic 101 about how to talk to customers.”
Before the Census even began, questions were raised about data safety and the government has since denied the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website was hacked or attacked and any data was lost.
Fried said data is a very sensitive space and we are seeing at least one red flag about data protection in the media every day.
“So it’s ludicrous to think this was well and truly not on their radar and a priority and a critical component of their campaign,” she said.
“Where it becomes a bit tricky is when the people you are handing your data over to you don’t trust. Government and businesses that normally we don’t trust are always on the defensive. They are not on the front foot when it comes to talking about data because they want to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
“If you want to be a member of say Priceline you have signed that off and you know they have your data. In return you get discounts and stuff for free. With the government, because we haven’t agreed to it, that’s the problem.
While the Census colour and branding has traditionally been orange, this year the government changed it to green to reinforce its digital and environmentally-friendly approach.
Fried said businesses and brands don’t change their colours without good reason, and when they do, it is based on a core value of the business.
“If you’re going to be true to that then every tactic, media, marketing has to go through that filter,” she said.
“The way they celebrated that was to light up buildings (in green) using electricity? It’s like ‘let’s celebrate Earth Hour and turn all the lights on’. It was just error after error.”