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August 2016

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Going Offline: How Brands Can Connect with ‘Digital Detoxers’

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Forget juice cleanses and yoga retreats – the latest wellness trend is as simple as switching off your phone. A report released in August by Ofcom revealed that UK adults are increasingly undertaking periods of ‘digital detox’ – actively spending time away from the internet to escape the stresses of always-on living. Consumers are ditching social media, emails and web browsing for days, even weeks, at a time to spend more time with friends and family. Rather than seeing this as an obstacle to overcome, brands should embrace the trend for digital-downtime and look for ways to help consumers enjoy their time offline.

Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2016, a survey of 2,025 adults, including 500 teenagers, found that one in three adult internet users (34%) – equivalent to 15 million people in the UK – has intentionally spent a period of time offline. A quarter (25%) of these spent a day web-free, another 20% took a week off and 5% took time out for a whole month.

Of those surveyed, the largest majority (44%) said that they took their internet break to do other things and 38% said their reason was to spend more time with friends and family. It’s not just individuals getting involved; venues around the capital – including newly opened restaurant Bunyadi, Brixton nightclub Phonox and an East London bookshop – have asked customers to ditch their devices, and last year the UK even celebrated its first annual ‘National Unplugging Day’.

Many report that their detox was a positive experience, with some saying they felt more productive and enjoyed life more. However, 16% said they experienced ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO), while 15% said they felt lost or cut-off after they stopped checking their notifications.

This detoxing trend may be worrying to brands that are increasingly investing in digital formats to reach their consumers. The immediate response might be to try break through the detox by tempting them back online through other channels. However, this isn’t what these consumers want, and this kind of strategy will likely have negative connotations for brands. Instead, brands should look to engage with this growing digital detox trend by providing offline experiences that will encourage consumers to engage online when they ‘reconnect’.

This is where experiential activity can come into its own, and drive a meaningful connection with an offline audience. Drinks brand Innocent led the way with its Unplugged Festival, now in its second year. Festival-goers are asked to leave their smartphones at home and no Wi-Fi or electricity is available on site. According to brand activation manager Jamie Sterry, it offers people a “weekend off the grid to escape their busy, stressful city lives where they are constantly connected to friends, email and overloaded with information”.

The trend for digital detoxing is only getting stronger and will likely continue as more and more people seek a break from their hectic online lives. It’s important to realise, however, that the demands of connected living mean that these people will inevitably come back to their screens. Rather than tempting consumers back online, brands should use this as a an opportunity to help people enjoy their time off.

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We get millennials (80% of them every month)

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Guest writer: Lisa Roxby from Metro
So, millennials? The young generation who can’t afford to buy a house without Mum and Dad, don’t watch TV anymore and love taking a selfie. You might think you’ve heard all there is to know about them but a lot of existing information can be contradictory, and with a disproportionate number of millennials working in the media industry, it can be difficult to be objective. It doesn’t seem right to place all young people aged 18-34 into one large group, and say they share the same traits. During these formative years people go through many changes in attitudes, lifestyles and priorities – an 18-year-old will likely still be in school, while the older among the group might be thinking about settling down and having families. So how can there be only one ‘millennial story’?

This is why Metro, together with Mailonline, embarked on a huge project incorporating research consultants, workshops, debates and surveys to make sense of it all. The future of media and advertising lies with millennials and we wanted to provide our advertisers with the best tools for targeting this key, yet challenging audience.

We identified specific approaches that work for millennials from an advertising perspective and discovered that, whilst they are critical of some campaigns, there’s a crucial misconception that millennials are cynical of all brand advertising and unwilling to be spellbound by the magic of a great campaign. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Millennials have simply become very wary of hard sell ads, and advertisers need to learn to be subtle in order to reach this audience in the authentic manner they expect and respond well to.

With digital skills to produce content, millennials are also perfectly placed to co-create with brands, or promote campaigns exponentially through social media. However, they want something back in return, so advertisers need to give, not just take.

As well as an in-depth report, we have identified nine Millennial Rules for advertisers, offering practical insight and valuable tips on how to successfully engage with the audience everyone seems to be talking about:

  • Millennials are different: Speak to them in their own language – relevance and personalisation is key.
  • Nurture success: Millennials aim high, and enjoy brands that celebrate their achievements (at all levels).
  • Sell lifestyles: Millennials crave experiences, buy into lifestyles and want to share their ‘moments’ living life to the full.
  • Ease pressure: Help Millennials manage the pressure of perfection, offer tools, support and encouragement.
  • Keep it real: Millennials are cynical, but they have a soft spot for great advertising. Brand fit and interesting content is key.
  • Be inspiring: Millennials love to research pre-purchase so give them a reason to include your brand.
  • Give – don’t just take: Millennials like brands that offer interesting ways to engage, free resources, and those that give back to charitable causes.
  • Don’t irritate: Millennials can spot a lazy ad a mile off, they’re unresponsive unless you have something genuinely interesting to say.
  • Impress and entertain: Authentic approaches are favoured, as are funny ads and brands inspiring them to feel good on the inside as well.

See www.millennialrules.co.uk for the full story and to read all nine Millennial Rules in more detail.

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What doesn’t kill Facebook ads will only make them stronger

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Over the last 12 months you have likely read multiple articles from us on the topic of adblocking. We’ve covered many of the arguments for and against, and we’ve written in-depth opinion pieces. But we’re not over it yet; a war of words and coding skills kicked off between Facebook and AdBlock Plus this month, so we’re revisiting the issue.

Facebook threw the first punch on August 9, announcing that it would change its code in order to remove the effectiveness of adblockers on its desktop platform. This isn’t a particularly unusual move – adblocking tools are already non-functional within the mobile app – but Facebook was concerned about its ability to monetise the desktop site alongside this. Although mobile is more lucrative for the social network, with users logging on via mobile devices more than desktop, Facebook still sees some 26 million unique users across desktop web in the UK, according to Comscore.

AdBlock Plus took immediate umbrage to Facebook’s announcement, responding quickly with the confirmation that it had tweaked its code in order to re-block Facebook’s ads on desktop. This started a few days of back-and-forth, with both sides attempting to keep up with the other’s change of code. And herein lies the problem for adblockers. The large majority of adblockers work by identifying unique code which signifies an ad placement on a page, and this is relatively simple on publisher sites where the server sits elsewhere such as Doubleclick by Google. Facebook on the other hand is a completely self-contained environment, which means it can rewrite its code to make the ad placements as indistinguishable as possible from its regular content. AdBlock Plus accidentally started blocking posts from friends on people’s feeds, then Facebook evolved its language to make its ads even more difficult for adblockers to find. Checkmate.

It’s important at this point to look at the effect AdBlock Plus has had on Facebook. Adblocking is a tool to enhance users’ experience of the internet, free from unwanted and disruptive ads that annoy and to disguise malicious tracking. To its credit, Facebook’s ads are native to its platform and do little to disrupt the newsfeed. As a further response to adblocking, Facebook now puts ad preferences into the users’ own hands, allowing them to remove themselves from seeing certain ads or from being grouped into custom audiences.

There are bound to be further battles in Facebook’s war against adblockers but, for now, the platform remains appealing to advertisers as it works to solve issues surrounding unseen ads or limited dwell time. As one of the largest advertising sites in the world, ensuring its immunity to adblocking means advertisers are less limited in the inventory they can access and this is particularly important when trying to target the younger, millennial audience who are more likely to use adblockers.

As an open source tool, the public is likely to want to go after the major players, raging against the machine. However, as AdBlock Plus is unlikely to defeat Facebook any time soon, they may be better advised to shift focus back to where they began and continue the fight against the ads people really hate.

Taking Facebook head on challenges it to consistently interrogate its own code to protect its main revenue stream. Much like a virus, this causes its defence to become even stronger, with defeating adblockers an essential commitment for its talented engineers.

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National newspapers team up to take on digital powerhouses

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Newspapers are fighting a battle against declining circulations, whilst competing for revenue against new media channels. The UK’s newspapers are coming together for the first time in a project set up to look into the possibility of combining ad sales to help fight for their share of the market.

Project Juno, led by Steve Booth, has been set up initially as a “feasibility study” into how the UK’s publishers could work together to boost their income. At present, national press publishers have set aside their differences to sign up to the extensive research piece – this includes Trinity Mirror, News UK, Northern & Shell, Telegraph Media Group, Guardian Media Group, and Daily Mail & General Trust.

The rate of decline in print revenue is alarming. If nothing is done we will see even more closures – following in the footsteps of The Independent and New Day already this year – or mergers, especially if there are further substantial losses of audience in the market. If publishers really want to maintain relevance in today’s digital media landscape then something radical and transformational needs to be done. Combining sales is only the tip of the iceberg: newsbrands need to make this the first step of many if they are to survive.

The newspaper industry has become overly competitive within itself. As papers become concerned with revenue picked up by other titles, they often neglect the volume of activity that sits outside their immediate competition. UK newsbrands offer some of the highest quality content available and can provide an abundance of data and insight into their audiences. For newsbrands to not only survive, but thrive in the digital landscape, they must look at a fully aggregated, data-driven, audience-based advertising solution that offers easy access to the quality, agenda-setting content available.

This isn’t bad news for advertisers. In fact, for the project to work publishers have to guarantee that it’s not a way to gain leverage over advertisers. Publishers must force a reappraisal of newsbrands, their audiences and their advertising opportunities through product innovation, particularly when it can rival the stronghold Google and Facebook have on digital budgets. If the project’s successful we will not only have scale of availability, but scale at quality, offering an audience-based, data-driven advertising solution with proven efficiency.

As publishers put aside their differences, they will begin to work together for the advancement of their media, and they will be able to focus on new product development, leading to innovation in the newsbrand marketplace, and a wider range of solutions for advertisers.