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January 2016

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Is Apple’s abandonment of iAd the final push adblocking needs?

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After much speculation Apple finally announced last week that it was pulling all sales support for iAd, the tech giant’s digital advertising platform. The move doesn’t come as a huge surprise with the platform taking resource whilst only contributing circa 5% of the total mobile display advertising revenue share in 2015, as reported by EMarketer.

However, the move doesn’t signal the end of iAd completely. Advertisers can still access the platform through its self-service offering, whilst all publishers who were connected prior to the announcement will continue to have their inventory available to buy.

Initially this seems a good deal for publishers; when sales support from Apple was included publishers would lose 30% of revenue for the privilege, a significant charge which is no longer applicable. In time though, this benefit may actually turn into a false blessing.

If there’s one thing Apple knows best, it’s design. We’re yet to see whether its control over iAd creative rules will remain as stringent, yet it’s clear that it won’t accept bad experiences on its devices. The iAd creative always felt richer and less intrusive than your standard mobile banner or interstitial, which advertisers should push to continue taking advantage of.

Nevertheless with the launch of iOS9, banners may no longer be a problem. Publishers might feel like they have a good deal by securing their full revenue share, but with iOS9 introducing ad-blocking features for Safari, that 30% might all of a sudden look like a price worth paying.

Back in 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook described iAd as a “very small” part of its overall business. It’s obvious that the user experience of an Apple product is far more important and profitable than another small revenue stream. If iAd was an attempt to bring the best experience to mobile creative, the latest move is an indictment of the mobile advertising industry’s unwillingness to adapt to consumer happiness.

If Apple’s blocking software makes for a quicker, slicker and more enjoyable experience, then hopefully the call for mobile creative to be more relevant and sympathetic to the device will finally be taken seriously; not just by publishers, but by advertisers too.

A much needed creative shake-up of the channel and a subsequent improved environment for consumers should make it much easier for advertisers to communicate clearly. Hopefully publishers see this as a challenge to be won rather than a battle to be fought, either way it looks like the consumer will be the winner.

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OOH 2016: Inventory Innovation and Trading Flexibility

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2016 is set to be an exciting year for Out of Home: we’ll continue to see the landscape develop as competitive contract bids fuel increased investment into new technology, opening up new regional, creative and trading opportunities.

Last year saw some sizeable shake-ups in the OOH industry, with Clear Channel “gutted” to lose TFL’s London 6-sheet contract to JCDecaux, decreasing their market share by 6% to 38%. But the media owner has quickly fought back, buying 1,800 phone boxes from Arqiva. The kiosks will offer services including telephone, data, beacon, Wi-Fi and journey planner.

If JCDecaux continues its winning streak and succeeds in wrestling TFL’s underground contract from current representative Exterion, it will represent 53% of the UK outdoor market.

As a result of these competitive contract wars, outdoor sales houses are investing significant amounts into improving their inventory. 2016 will see a whopping £95million invested into new digital sites across the UK, with 60% of this investment outside of London. This will offer regional campaigns access to more digital sites, and advertisers will be able to spend more on tactical buys on a national level.

The investment into digital inventory is also opening up huge creative opportunities. The days of OOH campaigns consisting of solely paper and paste sites are numbered – a growing proportion of the outdoor market is made up of giant iPhones: screens with built-in interactivity and touch screen functionality. 2016 will see this tech come to the fore, with facial recognition software rolling out. Age, gender and even emotions will be recognisable, introducing the option to adapt copy based on audience reactions.

The move from traditional billboard to digital screens is also shaking up the traditional two-week per panel trading model and allowing greater trading flexibility. This requires a new way of thinking from outdoor media owners and advertisers themselves: what else could we be trading on – impacts? Audience? ROI?

The proliferation of data sources opens up opportunities to trade in a more dynamic way. We increasingly expect to fuse clients’ first-party data with social and system output.

In 2015 we tested the use of data in the launch of Jess Glynne’s debut album. We combined Shazam data, which indicated discovery was highest during social moments, with insights into when Jess was playing live dates. This allowed us to deliver a more effective campaign where digital outdoor was up weighted during key moments, rather than the static timings of a traditional two week in-charge.

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Super Bowl Sunday 2016: What you need to know

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Sunday February 7 will see the Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers in what will not only be a display of sporting prowess, but also a showcase of the crème de la crème of advertising during Super Bowl 50. To prepare ourselves suitably for the big night, let’s look at last year’s performance; what worked well, and what trends are likely for this year’s main event.

According to Nielsen, a record amount of people – over 114 million – tuned in to watch the Super Bowl in 2015. Bloomberg analysis found that over a third of the broadcast time was taken by ad minutage and that if a viewer watched the entire show from start to finish, they would have seen 115 different ads in total. Communicus, a research consultancy, evaluated the effectiveness of over 150 Super Bowl ads from the past five years. Its key finding was that only one in five ads produced any meaningful movement for the brand in terms of either future purchase intention or other brand health metrics.

In addition to the cost, the cluttered nature of the programme means that a brand needs to have a remarkable, stark or entertaining ad in order to deliver cut-through. According to Bloomberg, last year had 52 ads featuring a famous person, 22 ads with women in revealing clothing, and eight spots with talking animals. Despite relying on some of the oldest tricks in the book, advertisers are running the risk of producing samey content which fades into the background.

Another key finding form Communicus’ analysis was that brands that pre-released their spots achieved a 15% higher brand awareness on average. Google found that ads published online before the Super Bowl accumulate 2.2 times more views than ads posted on game day. As per the early online release and teaser campaigns of the big retailer brands in the run up to Christmas here – arguably the closest the UK has to a ‘Super Bowl’ TV moment – seeding the ad out before the main event only serves to help ensure the ad is noticed amongst the clutter.

One final development that will affect Super Bowl 50, again comes from Google, who this week announced that it is stepping up the beta testing of a new real-time advertising tool. The new offering will allow brands to serve ads in real-time in response to relevant TV moments across YouTube and GDN sites and apps. This represents a distinct shift in encouraging multiplatform engagement (by way of a hashtag or competition) and ensuring that a brand can reach out to its audience across multiple touchpoints simultaneously in a reactive manner.

With both costs and audiences predicted to be at an all-time high for Super Bowl 50, we predict that the brands who will reap the benefits of taking part in the advertising extravaganza, will be those who have novel content, which is seeded out well before kick-off, and forms part of an engaging multi-platform campaign.

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2016: A blockbuster year for cinema?

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2015 proved to be a record year for cinema. With Digital Cinema Media reporting revenues up 27% YoY, and admissions rising around 9%, what was perhaps once considered a less prioritised media channel, is now becoming a regular on many planners’ schedules.

When cinema advertising was an analogue format, lead times of four weeks and excessive production costs meant a lot of advertisers couldn’t afford to access the channel. But with 2012’s investment and transformation of cinemas in the UK to an HD Digital proposition, entry barriers have been torn down. The number of advertisers now utilising cinema has risen 132 % (Nielson, AdDynamix 2016, 2011: 244 advertisers vs 2015: 566 advertisers) as advertisers scramble to be part of the buzz, especially around blockbusters like Bond and Star Wars.

That confidence in the strength of cinema as an entertainment and advertising proposition is further bolstered with the investment in 4DX cinemas. Motion seats and effects simulating wind, fog, lightning, water, rain and smell are further expanding the opportunity for advertisers to deliver more engaging campaigns. The likes of Secret Cinema and one-off live theatre and concert screenings have also helped the box office boom.

2015 had one of the biggest years ever for releases with Furious 7, a Jurassic Park re-boot, Spectre and The Force Awakens to name a few. The continued force of Star Wars also carried over into January, driving revenues up 56% YoY. According to DCM’s Karen Stacey, revenues for the rest of the year will plateau with annual growth forecasted to be between 5-8% come year end.

2016 has a tough act to follow. Although we won’t see another instalment of the Star Wars saga this year, its spin off franchise ‘Rogue One’ will draw a lot of fans eager to get another taste of the force. Expect it to be the one to beat this year. The 2016 family slate follows two of the biggest animated movies of all time in 2015 (Minions and Inside Out), but with the releases of Kung Fu Panda 3, Ice Age, Jungle Book, The Secret Life of Pets and Alice Through The Looking Glass, this year looks to be even bigger.

That strength of slate is backed by Sky, which has shelled out an estimated £3million to buy the family Gold Spot at UK cinemas. This deal will give Sky the final advertising slot before the screening of every film with a family audience.

The year in film will also be bolstered by our trusty superheroes; Deadpool, Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad, Captain America and X-Men all making appearances. With a slate this packed, it’s clear there’s no shortage of movies to keep admissions up and deliver another blockbuster year for cinema.

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What Dickens can teach us about festive retail

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Q4 in 2015 was tough for the retail sector. The rugby World Cup defeat, security fears and wet weather combined to push high-street footfall down by 4% YoY. The British Retail Consortium blamed online discounts from Black Friday onwards and the migration to online spending for the fall. But the high-street’s loss was ecommerce’s gain as consumers made 8.5 billion visits to shopping sites during the 2015 festive season, up 9% YoY.

We saw consumers make full use of 24-hour buying opportunities online. This year we saw the rise of the ‘Midnight Shopper’ and the 8-9am gifting hour as consumers eagerly waited for deals to hit so they could be the first to click ‘buy’. Both the Traffic and Conversion indices climbed steadily at the beginning of the season and remained well over the October baseline through December.

Between Black Friday and Christmas day, conversion indexed higher than traffic, indicating that once purchasing began, shoppers took less research time and made speedy checkouts. An Exterion report found that 61% of shopping searches came from mobile devices and winning brands offered flexible delivery and collection options. Amazon prime members could order up to 9.45pm on Christmas Eve for Christmas Day delivery and also took full advantage of the pre-Christmas sale. We were buying kettles and crisps, in addition to the traditional electronics and toy purchases, according to

As ever, retailers spent heavily on emotive TV advertising. We fell in love with Mog’s Christmas Calamity (Sainsburys) and the Found It (Debenhams) campaign, both scoring above average in Millward Brown’s survey. Retailers were in a particularly playful mood, with a few successfully spoofing ads. Aldi’s version of John Lewis’ Man on the Moon seemingly had an effect on the supermarket’s bottom line, which was up 15% YoY.

So what would the ghost of Christmas future tell us?

Black Friday is only the beginning. In 2015, UK website visits across Black Friday week and Cyber Monday surpassed the 1billion mark and this will grow during Q4 2016.

We’ll be seeing Black Friday as a week-long event and advertising budget will be spread throughout the entire week, using an always on, 24/7 strategy.

Our Christmas media budgets will stretch to mid Jan to promote post-holiday deals, making the traditional festive season longer than ever.