The Tax Working Group believes its $350,000 splurge on a marketing campaign was a good investment, but business analysts aren't convinced it achieved all it set out to do.
By the time public submissions on tax closed, the Tax Working Group had 6700 submissions - which, based on the campaign budget, equates to around $52 a pop.
The campaign ran across numerous media channels, encouraging New Zealanders to look into the issues being addressed by the Government's Tax Working Group.
Information released after as part of an Official Information Act request shows the majority of the budget went toward digital advertising in the shape of a website, online executions, social media posts and numerous videos.
Trumpeting the phrase "Have your say on tax", the campaign was particularly prominent on social media, with colourful ads calling on Kiwis to visit the Tax Working Group website to contribute to the conversation.
So did the campaign deliver bang for the taxpayer's buck?
Marketing expert Rupert Price, the chief strategy officer at DDB, told the Herald that the Tax Working Group's presentation on the effectiveness of the campaign did not show a clear link between its objectives and final results.
"In the presentation, they define 'what success looks like' and yet the results don't align with the objectives, so, assuming the objectives are sound, it's impossible to know from these results whether the objectives were actually met," Price said.
The objectives laid out in the presentation outline the following objectives:
• The Group is seen as independent, credible and transparent.
• True and fair consultation has occurred.
• Public appreciation of the role of tax in society is increased.
• Groups and individuals who do not normally make submissions on tax consultations do so this time.
• Members of the public who currently question the fairness of the tax system are interested in and encouraged by what the Tax Working Group is discussing.
However, the report largely focuses on the metrics the campaign achieved and don't outline clearly how these contributed toward achieving the set objectives.
"In marketing, it's easy to get distracted with incidental measures and metrics but we must always impose the discipline of aligning our measurement with our objectives to be absolutely sure we're spending our marketing dollars wisely," Price said.
Price added that the esoteric nature of tax also added a level of complexity to the challenge the Working Group was hoping address.
"Getting the general public to engage with what is a highly complex issue is a huge challenge, and we have to ask ourselves if it's a job advertising on its own should be expected to do," Price said.
Sir Michael Cullen, chair of the Tax Working Group, said the goal of the campaign was to encourage New Zealanders to have their say on the future of tax, particularly those who don't usually make submissions on tax.
He considers the campaign a success given how effective it was at generating interest in the Tax Working Group, particularly among those who don't usually make submissions on tax consultations.
"Throughout the campaign period over 65,000 different people visited our website to find out more about the future of tax and around 6,700 submissions were received," Cullen told the Herald.
"We were pleased that the consultation sparked a national conversation about tax and as a result we have received a diverse range of submissions from a wide variety of New Zealanders."
Campaign analysis showed that the digital advertising achieved 28.9 million impressions and that the Facebook advertising was seen by 640,000 people.
Further analysis showed that while the video component of the campaign had over "2 million impressions," there were only 135,000 completed video views of the material and 4700 click-throughs to the website.
Ernst & Young executive director David Snell warns not to put too much emphasis on these metrics in that they aren't necessarily indicative of high levels of engagement.
"To use a print media analogy, a digital impression is analogous to walking past a newsstand and catching a glimpse of a newspaper front page as you go by," Snell said.
"To really achieve cut-through, the campaign needed to generate clicks. Taking the digital advertising campaign as whole, 35,000 clicks is an engagement rate of around 0.1 per cent. Click-through rates are always low, but for a non-tax campaign, we'd be looking for 1 per cent or more."
That said, tax is often viewed as an inaccessible topic to many and Snell applauded the effort by the Government in using new media channels to garner Kiwi interest.
"It worked for me," he said.
"I found the adverts smart, visually appealing and ubiquitous throughout the time period for public submissions. But I'd have engaged anyway."