Advertising spend 2013-2017: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/17/01529
Date received: 4 July 2017
Date responded: 1 August 2017

Information requested

1. The amount that the Scottish Government has spent on online/digital advertising in each of the last five financial years.

2. What steps has the Scottish Government taken to ensure that Scottish Government advertising content is not placed next to extremist political material e.g. on YouTube.

3. Does the Scottish Government use the advert distribution network which places ads on the site Wings Over Scotland?

4. A list of the 10 largest recipients of Scottish Government advertising spend.


The answers to your questions are:

1. Digital advertising is an effective way of reaching specific audiences with messaging to encourage positive behaviour change or inform the public on changes in legislation. For example, through Facebook we can focus advertising by postcode, gender, interests, family situation, education, etc. This means for a campaign such as PlayTalkRead we could specifically reach new dads in their early 20s in Dunfermline with an interest in football.

The ability to target specific demographics means we can both tailor messaging effectively and minimise advertising "wastage", helping to ensure best value and return on investment with public money.

The Scottish Government has published the following information relating to online/ digital advertising spend:


Media – Online - £523,511.18 (Total Marketing Spend - £7,129,899.24) View Marketing Spend 2011/12


Media – Online - £391,278.52 (Total Marketing Spend - £7,202,778.98) View Marketing Spend 2012/13


Media – Online - £533,797.85 (Total Marketing Spend - £8,302,884.95) View Marketing Spend 2013/14


Media – Online - £732,648.16 (Total Marketing Spend - £8,087,213.29) View Marketing Spend 2014/15


Media – Online - £956,104.03 (Total Marketing Spend - £7,130,670.92) View Marketing Spend 2015/16


Formal financial reconciliation for 2016/17 is currently taking place. Once completed these figures will be published alongside other years (detailed above) at /publications/?term=marketing

In addition, The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme, a multi-funded partnership programme (Scottish Government, BDUK, BT, all local authorities, and ERDF) published an online spend of £289,563 between April 2014 and April 2017.

2. Scottish Government media agencies Carat and Republic of Media take digital brand safety extremely seriously and pursue every possible measure to protect Scottish Government.

They have a robust approach in place which is constantly reviewed against the latest technologies in the marketplace to ensure that these media agencies are at the forefront of managing the risks. For example, Carat's brand safety management for Scottish Government, in line with the UK Government, is based on the following core levels of protection:

YouTube and Google provided content category exclusions

The first level of brand protection is Google/DoubleClick's own website categorisation filter which allowed Carat to determine which categories and audience types (Parental Guidance, Teens, Mature, Not labelled) are allowed.

Human vetted blacklists

The second level of brand protection is a custom-house curated blacklist of websites that the media agency deem inappropriate. Carat currently has four different blacklists in use with a combined total over 60,000 sites. These blacklists are applied to PPC Search, Google Display Network (GDN) and Doubleclick Bid Manager.

Keyword Blacklists

In addition to human vetted blacklists Carat also have keyword blacklists which allows identification of inappropriate content, even on sites deemed appropriate.


Whitelists are applied to the AMNET trading desk which offers routes to market through programmatic buying. Carat also applies an audited whitelist to all direct media partners where necessary, except for You Tube.

Integral Adscience Fraud Protection

The third level of brand protection is provided by an industry recognized brand safety company, Integral Adscience. Integral has been a leading provider of programmatic brand safety for a number of years and are especially adept at blocking suspicious activity and non-brand safe environments. Carat run Integral Adscience pre and post bid on all programmatic display for in content targeting thus allowing Carat to target inappropriate content even on sites deemed appropriate.


For the financial year 2017/19 Carat has proposed the implementation of a third party vendor called OpenSlate that allows for targeted and brand-safe You tube Video targeting at scale removing the need to rely entirely on You Tube/Google classification and instead provide a daily updated custom built whitelist of You Tube videos to appear against.


Facebook audience extension is not applied to any activity unless agreed in advance with clients.

3. No. is not supported by Scottish Government advertising. Both media agencies Carat and Republic of Media confirmed via checking DoubleClick Bid Manager and Google Display Network that no Scottish Government advertising has been bought directly with Wings Over Scotland, via a distribution network nor through programmatic buying.

4. The following lists of the ten largest recipients of Scottish Government advertising spend have been provided by Carat and Republic of Media for the financial year 2016/17:


  1. STV
  2. Tactical Media
  3. Bauer Radio
  4. Posterscope Out of Home
  5. Facebook
  6. Amnet
  7. Channel 4
  8. Trinity Mirror Publishing
  9. Paid Search
  10. Global Radio

Republic of Media

  1. STV
  2. Mediaforce
  3. Bauer Scotland
  4. Talon
  5. Facebook
  6. Channel 4
  7. Avocet
  8. Big Issue Scotland
  9. YouTube
  10. Capital Scotland

About FOI

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Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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