Free School Meals – what does this tell us about ‘post-recession’ education?

OFSTED statistics for 2013 showed that young people receiving Free School Meals had increased to a national average of 28%.  


Whilst a number of indicators suggest that the economy in the UK is recovering (house price rises, unemployment levels, retail spend), the proportion of families nationwide who avail themselves of free school meals is surely an indication that the legacy of a serious economic downturn is one which has been felt not only by the adult population, but those who are or will soon be climbing the employment and further/higher education ladder.  

What this suggests too is that, at times of greatest need for families and young people, any plans that financial support might be reduced for schools in areas like Free School Meals must be very carefully thought through by central and local government to avoid the negative impact on students being felt far beyond the great financial crisis.

The true cost of media

Having worked as a consultant, client and media agency side, I have gained a good appreciation of what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to media campaigns.

Running a TV campaign (known as ‘above the line’ media because an agency is often involved and earns commission from any advertising) can be good for brands and ultimately drive a high level of response (sales leads).   However, there are important things to think about before embarking on such activity.

TV (and other ‘above the line’ media for that matter) can be highly expensive.   Even a short campaign on a digital channel with very few viewers can cost upward of £30,000 for just a few weeks.

So marketing managers need to be very careful about ensuring the creative aspects of the campaign do justice to the media spend.   In other words, the advert.   If your aim is to make a new upmarket brand sticks in the minds of consumers, it’s important your ad has good production values.   And that will not necessarily come cheap.   You can be looking at £5,000+ for a short, simple ad.   For more complex filming, plan to budget £20,000+.   If your objective is simply to ‘get the phones ringing’, make sure your ad contains a clear call to action (phone this number, visit this website, quote this offer code), and aim to track any response by using dedicated phone lines etc.   Avoid the mistake of too many calls to action, as it’s proven consumers end up confused by choices.

Finally (and this is a very short blog with a few tips), factor into your budget the fees the media agency will earn.   They will earn commission from the ‘media owner’ (like ITV) for the campaign (usually about 10-15%), but may also ask you for a fee or retainer just to run the campaign for you.   This is negotiable, and typically applies to online campaigns (Google adwords) where the commission earned from media is little or nothing, therefore the agency needs to recover its staff and admin costs somehow.