How the Scottish Government built trust in its advertising through the COVID-19 pandemic

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by Guest Writer

Guy Jackson, Vice President at Teads Manchester, explores how the Scottish Government managed to handle public messaging effectively during the pandemic, using emerging technology to remain agile, inform citizens, and personalise communications.


Since 2015, Republic of Media, which has offices in Edinburgh and Manchester, has worked closely with the Scottish Government to deliver effective media campaigns. This has meant ensuring getting the content and messaging in front of the right eyeballs, dependent on the target audience. 

The vast majority are video based and with many targeting a younger audience, online video is the perfect communication medium. Largely, the objective of the campaigns is to capture the user in whatever environment they are consuming - whether that's news, entertainment, weather or gaming - and every campaign is planned on an audience-by-audience basis. 

In a usual year, Republic of Media would work with the Scottish Government across a range of different awareness-driven and behavioural change-led campaigns designed to keep people healthier or safer - such as campaigns focused on personal health concerns, drinking less, not smoking, not speeding, not drink-driving or not taking drugs. 

This has been anything but a usual year and, since March, activity has increased further as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the beginning of the year the Scottish Government, like all governments around the world, found itself faced with the challenge of delivering almost continual updates on everything from health advice to changing policy. And it had to be communicated to as broad a spectrum of the population as possible, as quickly as possible. If that weren’t enough, it had to be done efficiently and cost-effectively. 

It could be - and indeed was - done; throughout the year, the Scottish Government was able to deliver more than 49 million video views. It’s something we at Teads were very privileged to be a part of. Republic of Media's skillset of trading via our Ad Manager platform allowed them to guarantee that all of the completed video views scored at 100% against viewability metrics.

All of these were delivered within top-tier premium editorial publishers such as The Daily Record, The Scotsman, The Independent and The Guardian. For the Republic of Media team, central to the success of all these campaigns have been three important elements: agility, control and trust.

Agility in the face of unprecedented change 

The coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdown hit quickly, so the Scottish Government needed to act accordingly. The whole country was affected, so often Republic of Media’s role was to reach as many of the population as possible. There were other times when different messaging required reaching varying audiences, such as younger people, parents, people who were more at risk, and other specific demographics. As the pandemic changed, so did the Government’s activity from both a creative and targeting perspective. 

Agility has been exceptionally important in this situation at such a crucial period of time. Republic of Media’s work with Teads allowed access to journalist-led premium media publications, allowing them to safely reach huge volumes of the Scottish population.

Staying in total control

Managing this type of ongoing media activity effectively over a prolonged period requires a deep level of control. Throughout the campaigns, there were some unique factors at play. Not only were the agency getting numerous campaign briefs every week, but things could suddenly change with little warning. 

At the start of the pandemic, most people were keeping abreast of the news because they needed to know what was going on. Then many got tired of the news, and almost wanted to avoid it. 

Republic of Media had to be able to not only recognise that movement, but also quickly change tactics in terms of where ads were being placed, focusing on placing ads in other environments where people were consuming content.

As the tier systems evolved, they needed to be able to concentrate on individual parts of the country rather than Scotland as a whole. Whatever it was, they needed to ensure the Government’s messaging was being seen in the right environments at the right time by the right people.

This meant being able to switch creative, switch target audiences, pause campaigns with immediate effect and upweight budgets as and when needed. And there have been a few leftfield events thrown at them along the way too, so the Republic of Media team had to adapt messaging and creative quickly to keep in line with frequently changing Government guidelines and restrictions.  

Building a sense of trust

All campaign activity needed to instil trust. The population had to trust the Scottish Government’s messages to ensure guidelines were followed for the greater good. The quality of the content produced and the media this messaging was placed in played a central role in reinforcing this sense of trust. 

The agency needed to know that any ads they placed were going into a trusted environment. With messaging of this gravity and importance, poor quality media placements could easily have served to undermine any messaging the Government was trying to put out.

Republic of Media has been working 24/7 since the pandemic started to keep the campaigns on track. The global media platform has enabled the agency to be agile to keep pace with the changes going on around them, at the same time as giving them the transparency and guaranteed quality media placement they needed to ensure the public received relevant and up-to-date information.