The Isle of Man Department for Enterprise spent £7,000 (excluding VAT) of taxpayer money in a failed advertising campaign with TimeOut.com to promote tourism to the Isle of Man. The advertising campaign generated just 693 recorded click throughs to the Visit Isle of Man website in four weeks of operation according to the Isle of Man Government’s own key performance indicators – and no record appears to exist of how many extra tourists to the Isle of Man will come as a result.
These figures were revealed in new documents obtained by the Manx TaxPayers’ Alliance under Freedom of Information Act protections.
Digital marketing on channels like Facebook or Google Adwords typically costs no more than a few pence per click. For the Department for Enterprise to spend over ten pounds per click is a very dubious use of taxpayer money.
“This result appears to offer very weak value for money. The new Minister for Enterprise needs to get to the bottom of this use of taxpayer money. Either Minister Allinson tolerates taxpayer money being spent in this way, or he will take action to set higher standards than this,” said Michael Josem of the Manx TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Government explains goals
According to the Department for Enterprise, “the marketing objectives of Visit Isle of Man are to raise awareness and consideration of the Isle of Man as a short break holiday destination. Metrics to measure performance against these objectives include target audience reach (how many people in our identified target audience segments are we able to reach), volume of traffic to the Visit Isle of Man website. One of the sub-metrics within volume of traffic is to measure the volume of referral traffic as this is a powerful way to build brand awareness and gain valuable backlinks for SEO ranking purpose, which is highlighted below within ‘number of clicks’.”
The records obtained by the Manx TaxPayers’ Alliance show the following statistics in the first four weeks of operation:
Time Out online article (stats as at 29 Oct)
Article views: 4,686
Number of clicks from the article to visitisleofman.com: 190
Time Out sponsored newsletter (stats as at 29 Oct)
Total Send: 101,665 recipients
Total Opens: 29,763
% Opens: 29%
Number of clicks from the newsletter to visitisleofman.com: 503
These records show that there were a combined total of 693 clicks from the email newsletter and the website to visitisleofman.com, costing Manx taxpayers more than £10 per click.
Approximately one in every twenty-five visitors to the website clicked through to visitisleofman.com, and less than one in every two hundred recipients of the newsletter clicked through to the visitisleofman.com.
“NOFOLLOW” restrictions undermines Department for Enterprise goals
The Department for Enterprise claimed that part of the campaign was “to build brand awareness and gain valuable backlinks for SEO ranking purpose.” Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an important tool for increasing visibility on search engines such as Google.com
However, technical decisions made by TimeOut.com undermine this rationale, with TimeOut.com directing Google.com not to follow links on the public website. TimeOut used the “nofollow” tag in the header of their page, which Google describes as a method to tell its search engine to “not follow the links on this page“. This further undermines the value of the advertising campaign to Manx tourism.
Risk of bigger project wasting more taxpayer money next year
Ominously for the taxpayers funding the Isle of Man Department for Enterprise, email discussions with Timeout representatives indicated an interest from an Isle of Man Government representative to “look at collaborating on a bigger project for early next year.”
“It seems that the taxpayers of Mann have been taken for a ride here. Let us hope that there is no ‘bigger project’ to waste our taxes next year – this does not offer good value for money, and the business case must surely be thrown out,” said Josem.