Four months on, how damaging was Mr Bates to the Post Office?
April 23rd, 2024, Steve Hatch

Four months on, how damaging was Mr Bates to the Post Office?

It’s been four months since the broadcast of Mr Bates vs. The Post Office - ITV’s dramatisation of the Horizon scandal, which saw 900 sub-postmasters wrongly prosecuted due to faulty accounting software. Since then, the inquiry into the scandal has seen the company’s former leaders express regret for speculating that sub-postmasters had their “hand[s] in the till” and, among other things, appearing to celebrate the conviction of a pregnant sub-postmistress.

With Alan Bates himself pledging to raise funds for private prosecutions if the inquiry “fails” those affected by the scandal, it’s worth examining the impact it has had on the Post Office’s public image. YouGov BrandIndex data shows that the company’s brand health did decline before the broadcast of Mr. Bates: Index scores, a measure of positive or negative brand health, fell from 38.0 on 29 September 2020 – the day the inquiry was established – to 22.9 on 31 December 2023, the day before ITV’s drama was released: a fall of 15.1 points over a few years.

But the dramatisation of Bates’ campaign was a turning point in public opinion. Between 1 January 2024 (when the first episode was broadcast) and 4 February 2024, these scores plummeted from 22.6 to -11.1: a decline of -33.7 points in a little over a month.

The Post Office’s brand perceptions have climbed upwards from this low point: net Index scores as of writing were at -0.9. Isolating Impression scores, our measure of whether overall sentiment towards a brand is good or poor, produces a similar result. At the start of the inquiry, scores were 44.8; right before ITV’s first episode of Mr. Bates, they fell by 15.8 points to 29.0. Since then, scores crashed to -26.6 (5 Feb 2024) and have recovered to -10.1 (14 Apr 2024).

Ultimately, both the decline in the Post Office’s brand image and its subsequent recovery demonstrate just how quickly public opinion can change.

This article originally appeared in City A.M.