Sadiq Khan ramps up £9m Ulez propaganda blitz: Fury at TfL’s slick, promos of its hugely unpopular expansion on social media, radio and TV to get Londoners on side before its rolled out next week
- Transport for London is pushing its adverts across TV, radio and social media
- Marketing budget for expansion is £9million and campaign began in January
Sadiq Khan has launched a final marketing blitz in London ahead of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) expansion in six days’ time as a £9million campaign intensifies.
Transport for London (TfL) is pushing adverts on TV channels, radio, newspapers, magazines, apps, social media, buses, roadside billboards and petrol pumps.
The Mayor’s team have also sent emails to customers on TfL’s database and leaflets through letterboxes in outer London boroughs as well as face-to-face leafleting.
In addition, officials have posted slick YouTube videos in recent weeks from experts including Asthma and Lung UK chief executive Sarah Woolnough and respiratory professor Jonathan Grigg talking about ‘why the expansion of Ulez is important’.
The campaign is targeted at drivers in London and the Home Counties to raise awareness and explain who is affected, where the expanded zone will operate and how it will work including hours of operations, the daily charges and how to pay.
But it has provoked fury – with motoring campaigner Howard Cox, founder of FairFuelUK and Reform UK’s London mayoral candidate, telling MailOnline today: ‘Nine million pounds of taxpayers’ money used to indoctrinate us all, about an already-costly cash grabbing scheme that will do nothing to improve air quality.
‘This will be a propaganda campaign designed to brainwash us all that drivers are the anti-green demons and Sadiq Khan is the saviour of the planet.’
An advert posted on Facebook by Transport for London promoting the Ulez expansion
Sadiq Khan’s Twitter account has also been posting messages promoting Ulez in recent days
Asthma and Lung UK chief executive Sarah Woolnough speaks about Ulez in a video for TfL
Respiratory professor Jonathan Grigg talks about ‘why the expansion of Ulez is important’
There was also uproar on social media, with one X user saying: ‘Is anyone else wondering whose paying for Ulez propaganda being pumped out on every radio station at the moment? Sounds just like Covid advert ‘please try to walk 1.5m from the road side’, what a joke.’
ANALYSIS: £9million marketing spend ‘could appear by many to be a tone-deaf move by TfL’
By ANDY BARR, PR expert and co-founder of agency 10 Yetis Digital
Given the clear health and environmental benefits of the Ulez expansion campaign, you can understand why TfL is spending so much money on such a comprehensive campaign.
The kind of over-arching marketing campaign tactics that they are using will have the majority of FTSE chief marketing officers looking on with envy.
A £9million marketing budget is a significant amount of money, especially when you compare it to big brand spending, such as the likes of John Lewis who are rumoured to spend around £5million per year on the promotion of its hugely successful Christmas TV advert campaign.
In years to come, the Ulez expansion campaign will become a case study for spend versus cause by marketing course university lecturers.
If the results cause the number of healthcare and environmental-related issues to drop in the areas where it is expanded to, then this will look like money well spent.
It will be a long time before these kinds of assessments can be made though.
A £9million marketing spend on a campaign of this nature could appear by many to be a tone-deaf move by TfL against a backdrop of the current cost of living crisis and various other government departments, such as education and health, struggling to work to their existing budgets.
Another added: ‘@TfL Stop gaslighting people with the advert saying if you’re one of the few with a car 16 years or older. Lots of us can’t afford to buy newer.’
And a third said: ‘I have just seen an advert on TV in Middlesbrough advertising TfL. Khan is getting desperate. London advertising never happens in the North East. Hoping the Ulez is his downfall.
Analysing the campaign today, PR expert Andy Barr, co-founder of agency 10 Yetis Digital, told MailOnline: ‘Given the clear health and environmental benefits of the Ulez expansion campaign, you can understand why TfL is spending so much money on such a comprehensive campaign.
‘The kind of over-arching marketing campaign tactics that they are using will have the majority of FTSE chief marketing officers looking on with envy.
‘A £9million marketing budget is a significant amount of money, especially when you compare it to big brand spending, such as the likes of John Lewis who are rumoured to spend around £5million per year on the promotion of its hugely successful Christmas TV advert campaign.’
He said that in years to come, the Ulez expansion campaign will become a ‘case study for spend versus cause by marketing course university lecturers’.
Mr Barr continued: ‘If the results cause the number of healthcare and environmental-related issues to drop in the areas where it is expanded to, then this will look like money well spent.
‘It will be a long time before these kinds of assessments can be made though. A £9million marketing spend on a campaign of this nature could appear by many to be a tone-deaf move by TfL against a backdrop of the current cost of living crisis and various other government departments, such as education and health, struggling to work to their existing budgets.’
The total marketing budget for the expansion is £9million, according to a TfL response to a Freedom of Information request, which also confirmed that the campaign began in January.
In the response on July 21, TfL’s senior FOI case officer Gemma Jacob said: ‘The media activity will enable TfL to reach over 3.3million vehicle owners in London six or more times as well as 6.5million vehicle owners in the Home Counties six or more times so those who drive in London are aware of the upcoming expansion including boundary and how the scheme operates.’
Sadiq Khan’s Twitter account has been posting messages about the upcoming Ulez extension
Facebook is one of the platforms being used by TfL to promote the Ulez expansion next week
TfL has posted Twitter adverts encouraging people to apply for the Ulez scrappage scheme
MailOnline has contacted TfL and the Mayor’s office for comment on the marketing campaign.
READ MORE Rishi Sunak is ‘overruled from blocking Sadiq Khan’s ‘nightmare’ ULEZ expansion’: Government lawyers ‘tell No10 that bid to thwart Greater London charge would fail in courts’
It comes after TfL spent £450,000 promoting a public consultation on the expansion in June, July and August last year with press, digital and radio adverts.
But in February, the Advertising Standards Authority watchdog launched a probe into a TfL TV advert promoting the expansion after receiving 370 complaints claiming it was ‘misleading’.
The advert claimed London has ‘an urgent air quality problem and it’s impacting the health of Londoners’ and continued the argument that toxic air led to the premature deaths of thousands of Londoners.
The ASA said at the time that it had asked TfL for evidence on the claims, but warned that ‘potentially it could take some time’ and it was ‘unable to give a timescale’.
TfL said at the time that it was providing evidence to justify its claims.
Today, the ASA confirmed to MailOnline that its probe was still ongoing, with no ruling yet posted.
The expansion was today described by BBC London’s transport and environment correspondent Tom Edwards as ‘probably the most controversial environmental policy ever introduced in the UK’.
He added that it will also be the world’s ‘largest pollution charging zone’.
READ MORE The fight against Ulez: Activists put stickers on ‘spy cameras’ so motorists aren’t caught out by Sadiq Khan’s new rules as Londoners resist expansion
It comes amid ongoing controversy about the so-called ‘war on motorists’ which opponents of Mr Khan claim he is carrying out – but he denies is the case.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has blamed the Ulez policy for his party’s recent by-election loss in Uxbridge last month, which will now be included in the scheme.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has urged Mr Khan to ‘think twice’ about the expansion, while Sir Keir suggested cities should look at other options for tackling air pollution.
Mr Khan has previously admitted his decision to expand Ulez was ‘very difficult’ but insisted it would ‘see five million more Londoners being able to breathe cleaner air’.
But the Mayor has seen his popularity plummet among suburban voters, who will be impacted by the expansion.
He now has a popularity rating of minus 12 across the capital, according to a survey of 1,000 Londoners by pollsters YouGov, with 52 per cent of respondents viewing him unfavourably, compared with 40 per cent favourably.
The expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) is due to come into force on August 29
Anti-Ulez protestors demonstrate on July 29 outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London
Traffic passes signs indicating the ULEZ boundary near Hanger Lane in West London on July 22
Yet in outer boroughs, Mr Khan’s net rating plunges to minus 24.
READ MORE TfL hints that drivers won’t be fined for breaching Ulez rules until ‘system beds in’ amid fury at lack of signage for newly-expanded zone
Reports have also emerged this week that Government plans to potentially block the Ulez expansion have been shelved.
Cabinet ministers are said to have been exploring using a little-known legal power allowing them to overrule Transport for London (TfL) plans where they are inconsistent with national policies.
But Government lawyers have apparently said the challenge would fail in the courts, the Daily Telegraph reported.
In other Ulez news this week, it appears drivers who breach the rules of the new regulations may initially be warned rather than fined because TfL is being given ‘discretion’.
TfL says it can use its ‘discretion’ to issue warning letters instead of penalty charge notices (PCNs).
The AA said it is ‘essential’ that drivers are not fined ‘until the system beds in’ across the new Ulez areas.
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