Sam Boal/

HSE was 'gifted' €544,000 in free advertising by Google and Facebook during Covid-19 pandemic

New figures show the health service spent more than €1 million on advertising in the first two months of the crisis.

THE HEALTH SERVICE Executive spent more than €1 million on advertising to warn the public about the impact of Covid-19 during the first two months of the crisis.

Records released by the health service under Freedom of Information show that the HSE was also gifted €1.3 million worth of free advertising in March and April.

The figure included free advertising credit from Facebook worth €44,000 and a ‘pay per click’ allowance from Google worth €500,000.

The HSE paid more than €380,000 on ads to Irish and UK television stations during the first two months of the pandemic, and almost €290,000 on all regional and national radio stations.

A further €173,500 was spent on advertising in the press, €129,816 was spent on digital ads including programmatic display, digital audio, and native content, and €60,825 was spent on ‘Video On Demand’ ads.

A spokesperson for the HSE explained that the advertising spend allowed the health service to increase its reach and share important and practical advice with the public at the outset of the crisis.

“Initially, the HSE and the Department of Health used media relations, websites and social media, and some paid social media and search advertising to share key information,” they said.

“The HSE website quickly became the go-to site for updated factual information on coronavirus, and… supported very high traffic since early in the crisis.”

At the time of response, the spokesperson added that the level of expenditure would continue for the duration of the pandemic, but that decisions on this would be based on the changing messages and circumstances of the national response.

Separately, other records released by Dublin City Council show the local authority spent more than €10,000 on hundreds of posters with images of celebrities urging members of the public to stay at home during the crisis.

The posters, which featured the images of Brendan O’Carroll character Agnes Browne and sports stars Kellie Harrington and Michael Darragh MacAuley, were printed in Irish, English, Romanian, Latvian, Portuguese, Spanish and Polish.

They were put up around the capital at the start of the crisis to “promote simple messages in [Dublin's] estates and flat complexes” to urge communities to stay safe while the pandemic was ongoing.

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