Monthly Archives

October 2016

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As InStyle goes digital: Is print out of style?

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InStyle is the latest title to fall off the print bandwagon – the monthly fashion title announced this month it will issue its final print copy in December as it prepares to become a digital brand.

Fifteen years after launch, InStyle has seen significant declines in print circulation, with the latest ABC data revealing an 18.2% year-on-year drop to 122,000, compared with 175,000 in 2011. Its not just magazines that are suffering – despite unprecedented world events the daily newspaper market also failed to record gains, with the latest circulation figures revealing the market was down 0.8%.

We’ve heard it before, and the latest ABC round-up points to it again – print media is in decline and will ultimately move to a digital model. Or will it? Sometimes we need to look beyond readership statistics and uncover consumer habits and motivations to really understand what drives behaviour.

Recent research conducted by the7stars insight team Lightbox of regular newsbrand readers, points to the habitual nature of physical print media consumption. While obvious factors like day of week or time of day play an important role in print purchase decisions, ambience and mood are also highly influential. Readers named relaxation and treat-time as their drivers, and are more likely to compare reading a paper to an alternative leisure activity rather than an alternative media choice.

We consistently heard that physical print trumped online when it came to enjoyment. Consumers have a higher appreciation of time spent away from screens, and readers often cited the pleasure of the act of turning a glossy page or wrestling with a newspaper. This finding reinforces Newsworks’ ‘Touching is Believing’ study, which found that ads are more effective when a print ad is touched – with brand perceptions including reliability, trust and purchase consideration increasing.

In addition, online content consumption is seen as complementary rather than interchangeable; online news consumption was motivated by the need to find snack-able content and stay up-to-date on current headlines rather than to digest and truly appreciate a publication. One reader said that she “goes to newspapers’ websites for the headlines” but buys The Times two to three times a week for the longer form articles, in-depth opinion pieces and supplements.
Our research also highlighted that size really does matter, and that consuming content is more engaging in a larger and physical format as it conveys both quality and trust in a way that online does not. These motivations and behaviours were similar across both editorial and ad content, with confirmation that good ads contribute to the physical reading experience, adding creativity and relevance rather than being an annoyance.

While many consumer behaviours do point to digital first – and with more and more brands becoming digital-only – it’s important that we don’t underestimate the continued role for print consumption, and remember that brands can be a part of this increasingly emotive and valuable experience.

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Is digital outdoor smarter?

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Digital outdoor now accounts for around a third of ad spend in the outdoor sector, and is set to rise to 40% next year, according to WARC’s Expenditure Report. This should be no surprise to anyone who has been outside their home recently – there are more digital panels in the ground than ever before, on roadside, rail, in malls and even in public bathrooms.

In 2016, some £95m has been invested in digital sites nationally (Kinetic), as media owners set their sights on upgrading inventory. Ocean is due to announce plans for the iconic Piccadilly Circus lights, with rumours the most famous outdoor site in the UK will become a single screen. JCDecaux and Clear Channel are battling in the capital’s 6 sheet space, with JCDecaux’s LDN screens opposed by state-of-the-art Adshel live sites set to replace old phone boxes. This month, Primesight also announced the launched of LinkUK, a small format roadside presence to be introduced in London in early 2017. Similar to a version launched in NYC, LinkUK offers high-speed WiFi as well as mobile charging outlets and information on local amenities. There is certainly the ambition to match the investment, and to offer a new ‘digital channel’ to advertisers that compares with the reach of TV giants ITV, C4 and C5. JCDecaux aims to hit one billion impressions to become the fourth largest media company.

The reason outdoor vendors are turning to digital is undoubtedly the increase in profit per site they receive, with most split between six advertisers on a loop. It also opens outdoor up to the dynamic, real-time, contextually relevant activity brands now expect their media investments to deliver.

For advertisers, however, sharing sites means sharing audience impacts. The same presence on a digital screen is, on a cost per impact basis, significantly more expensive than the paper and paste equivalent. Advertisers need to make the most of digital out of home, so that the shift does not lead to higher costs and lower reach and frequency.
The three most important considerations for advertisers are flexibility, targeting and creativity.

Flexible buying is the simplest route: whether it’s buying specific locations, days or dayparts relevant to a campaign and its audience. This increases effectiveness and minimises expensive wastage. However, whilst this is the norm in some environments, there is still reluctance from the industry to break up packs. For one, JCDecaux still only sells the LDN 6 sheets in a one week block. As conversations move to automated buying of outdoor, this will need to change.

Outdoor media owners are preparing themselves for more effective targeting by partnering with data goliaths, including Exterion’s partnership with Telefonica. Using historical O2 data, Exterion has created its Audience Behavioural Index (ABI), a tool that allows us to understand audience mobile browsing data, and therefore tap into their interests, across the underground network. Theoretically, real-time data will would theoretically allow us to understand what commuters are browsing by time and geography, and target campaigns accordingly.

Advertisers should also endeavour to send out creative messages in the right context. Working with Bauer Media, the7stars recently came up with the idea to serve meaningful content by creating a sing-along billboard to match Magic FM’s playlist – and our efforts won us an Ocean Award. Ideas such as this demonstrate how digital outdoor can facilitate a creative use of outdoor space, and an effectively targeted campaign – it’s more than just a marked-up poster site.

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A silver lining for Facebook’s viewability issues

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The unnerving revelations that Facebook has been miscalculating figures within its viewability reporting for two years recently shocked the industry, taking the gloss off the platform’s “year of video”. But we think this cloud could have a silver-lining.

The industry has seen a lot of opinion cast surrounding the news, with commentary citing the lack of accountability for vendors’ own reporting statistics, a lack of governing body control, an error of responsibility from Facebook and, essentially, a lack of trust. How could we have ended up in the position where Facebook has been misrepresenting their figures for two years without knowledge – or even worse, without question?

While this is undoubtedly a concern, it’s all too easy for us as an industry – having already seen complaints around fraud, viewability and ad-blocking – to jump on the bandwagon and call out failings on all sides. Given the nature of reporting across digital platforms and a lack of historic uniformed control beyond ad-servers with their limited functionality, this type of situation was always on the cards.

Perhaps, for once, we should look at things from a different angle.

For the first time, digital media professionals can assess the full-spectrum of the ecosystem (with very few exceptions) and hold it accountable without the reliance on vendor owned/reported statistics. This is a very recent change made possible by the global power-houses Facebook and Google, showing the level of responsibility it owes to its advertisers to allow third-party assessment of its inventory. This is a huge step-change and a genuinely exciting time to be able to make better planning choices and understand real performance.

The problem with Facebook’s own statistics is likely to have been exposed with the introductions of third party integrations with its platform, with the likes of IAS and Moat among the first technology companies granted the luxury of verifying delivery in the previously-hidden platform. Thankfully, Facebook’s error, has now been corrected with its openness to third party verification and integrations – about time, many will argue.

The real winners here are the verification companies who will hold suppliers hostage; accountable to their own methodologies. However, at least to some degree, we can put stakes in the ground and compare in a fair manner when it comes to assessing quality – particularly in digital video, where we’ve had access to the least amount of insight to date. We should be excited to see what this looks like through the eyes of these tech-partners.

Despite the negative headlines, there’s a lot of learnings. This recent hiccup regarding Facebook’s reporting should serve to encourage a greater uptake of verification across the board, not just within the social network. Those advertisers, agencies and technology partners who’ve been pushing to get to a place where we can begin this journey should be proud to have seen us to such a place, and pleased that the path to enlightenment is more navigable now than it’s ever been.

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Brexit Street: What now for the UK high street?

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As UK inflation rose to 1% in September, and the pound weakened further, the effects of Brexit were felt up and down the country – most keenly by Marmite lovers.

Marketers are scrutinising price rises and consumer confidence post-Brexit, with the backdrop of a feared recession. The British Retail Consortium has warned that failure to strike a good deal in 2019 will push up retail prices. The 2008 recession already weeded out the weak retail brands (Woolworths, Blockbuster, Borders) and made the strong brands stronger (Primark, John Lewis). As business magnate Warren Buffett advises – “Be fearful when others are greedy, be greedy when others are fearful”.

Over the years, research studies have confirmed that the best strategy in terms of long-term ROI is, unexpectedly, to increase marketing expenditure during an economic slowdown. The Profit Impact of Marketing Strategies (PIMS) database identified that companies that cut marketing spend enjoyed superior Return on Capital Employed (ROCA) during the recession, and achieved inferior results after the recession ended. During the recovery, the “spenders” achieved significantly higher return on capital employed and gained an additional 1.3 percentage points of market share.

Whilst this may seem counter-intuitive, it figures on three factors:
Relationship between share of market (SOM) and share of voice (SOV) – the higher your SOV to SOM, the more likely you are to grow.
Relationship between brand size and profit margins – a brand that increases share during a recession stands to benefit from the multiplier once the economy rebounds.
Reduced “noise” during recession provides opportunities – potential to cut through in a less cluttered atmosphere.

Former P&G CEO AG Lafley concurs that he has “a philosophy and a strategy. When times are tough, you build share”.
For retailers looking to boom there will be opportunities to pursue in domestic tourism as families avoid more expensive trips abroad due to the falling pound (supermarkets will be the biggest winners here). Summer events and pushing a ‘Brand Britain’ agenda can appeal to home nationals and foreign visitors alike. For the latter, British retailers, especially luxury brands, are hoping for a boost from tourists on post-referendum shopping sprees; at Westfield’s west London centre, spending by Chinese visitors was up 53% on the previous year in August. The Brexiters wanted a more outward looking Britain so, as Europe edges to pull the door to, and a falling sterling makes goods produced overseas more expensive, brands that can draw attention to British provenance (River Island uses a special ‘Made in Britain’ label), will look for advantage.

There was a wave of nostalgia in advertising in the last recession with Hovis, Persil, Sainsbury’s, and Virgin Atlantic to name a few all leveraging that ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling we long for in uncertain times. Whilst this doesn’t guarantee success, it aims to strengthen confidence in trusted brands, can provide consumer reassurance and maintain loyalty (and possibly also tap in to the ‘early-onset nostalgia’ millennials are said to be afflicted by). However heritage brands can be disrupted if new brands are skilfully able to orient themselves around customer needs. In 2008, ASOS profits leapt 117%, the following year Net-a-Porter’s rose 300%, and Shop Direct launched Very.co.uk.
As always, demonstrating value is key; if people have a limited amount of money to spend, they go where they
feel they will get better prices, products and service. They shop around more – creating opportunities
for brands to steal share, if they deliver compelling brand offerings.

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Why retailers should beware the zombie ‘app’ocalypse

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If you’re anything like us, you’ve recently upgraded to the new iPhone7 and have gone about transferring all of your applications to your shiny new handset. Despite the sleek design and extended colour range of the 7, the app store is still lagging behind.

The app store navigation points you to a handful of curated lists or recommendations – Editor’s Choice and Featured Apps – where you will find the most popular charts filled by the major players. In order to find an app that isn’t recommended, or trending in the charts, searching for it by name is your only option – which is not only an inconvenience for users, but a big problem for app developers.

Highlighting this point is the fact that in May of this year, according to Sensor Tower data, Facebook owned four of the five most downloaded apps that month. To take that further, 80% of app usage for any single person is spent in only three apps, which ComScore reports are also typically owned by Facebook.

App tracking company Adjust has described the monopolisation of app stores as resulting in “Zombie Apps”. These zombies sit on the store and are often difficult – or even impossible – to navigate to, without searching for the name directly. In Adjust’s most recent study, undertaken in June this year, it was estimated that a full 90% of apps on the UK iOS App Store were zombies.

Zombies aren’t just problematic in horror movies – they are a warning to brands about doing it right. In the US, for example, the percentage of time spent in-app versus browser is 72%; eBay is even higher at 83%, according to comScore. With app usage only increasing, brands need to capitalise on the increased technological features of handsets to give the user an engaging experience, different to their website.

Retail apps in particular are, arguably, more important at Christmas than at any other time throughout the year. In a study by Apadmi, it was estimated that the 85% of smartphone users in the UK use retail apps; whereas 71% believe there’s a gap in the market for ‘more improved retail apps’. During the festive season it’s imperative that users can engage easily with retailers, whilst on-the-go or relaxing at home there should be an opportunity to browse products and research gifting ideas away from the high street.

However not all apps are managing to do this right – yet. Apadmi reports that only 17% of Brits think that mobile apps offer a better user experience than a website, and 61% of users declare that they would stop using an app if it was slow and unresponsive.

Whilst a bad experience will never get you recommended; a great experience may just unlock you a new audience. It may be true that retail apps will never be as satisfying as getting a high score on Candy Crush, but it should certainly be as fun as visiting the high street, and just as simple.

the7stars shortlisted for 8 Media Week Awards

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The Media Week Awards is on 20th Oct and the awards we’ve been shortlisted for are:

  • Media Agency of the Year
  • ‘Suzuki, the7stars, ITV and Ant & Dec’ in the ‘Large Collaboration’
  • ‘#SuzukiSaturdays’ in the ‘Best Use of Content’ category.
  • ‘#SuzukiSaturdays’ in the ‘Media Idea Large – Agency’ category.
  • ‘You Sing, When I Can’t – Jess Glynne’ in the ‘Media Idea Launch – Agency’
  • ‘The Art Pass‚ A profitable marketing product’ in the ‘Long Term Media Strategy’
  • Gumtree Econometrics  in the Econometrics category.
  • The Passive Passion of Music Fans  in the Research Insight category.

To top it all off our very own Jenny Biggam is co-hosting with the charming Simon Daglish (ITV).
We’re really excited for the results to be revealed and feel super proud regardless of the outcome.
Good luck everyone!

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The Future is 360° – Welcome to the 360° VR Revolution

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360° VR is taking the world by storm as the new frontier of entertainment, media and communication coming soon to a headset near you. Traditional media outlets, news agencies, entertainers, brands, celebrities, social media are all racing to catch up with the latest applications of this rapidly developing technology, eager to jump on the bandwagon of the 360°VR revolution.

The fully immersive potential of 360° VR is radically changing traditional audience experiences by adding a new immersive dimension to entertainment, education, self-development, information, marketing and wellness.

One of the most exciting and unexpected applications of the 360° VR potential is in the field of mind and body health and wellness. Some 360° VR content providers are experimenting with and pioneering a new approach to traditional services and experiences by creating Virtual Wellness Retreats set in enchanting and limitless 360° VR environments. This is the case of Infinity House (www.infinityhouse.org.uk), the first fully immersive 360° VR virtual retreat being developed of its kind. Infinity House is the brainchild of visionary producers Rosemary Reed and Corrina McCann, founders of infinite360°, who are now at the forefront of the 360° VR production and content innovation.

The retreat will offer all the traditional services of an exclusive mind, spirit and body retreat and make them accessible at a click of a button from anywhere and anytime in 360° environments. This Virtual Wellness Retreat has the potential to revolutionize its users’ human experience and improve the quality of their lives through courses, seminars, classes, all set in a 360° environment and instantly accessible from the comfort of their sofa, a busy airport lounge or during a lunch break at the office. Users will be able to access meditation courses, inspirational talks, yoga classes, CBT counseling provided by experts in their fields and accessible through the enthralling and captivating medium of 360° VR, to enhance their effect. The aim is to deliver an effective and holistic journey of self-development within a 360° VR environment.

Similarly 360° VR is opening new opportunities for storytelling creating immersive ‘hyper realities’, where audiences can experience traditional news and documentary content in a new enhanced dimension. Traditional news outlets and news agencies as well as broadcasters are exploring the possibility of using 360° environments to deliver their content. The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters are all flirting with 360° VR to virtually take audiences into news stories and reports.

With the rise in popularity of VR, brands have increasing opportunities to be involved with this emerging technology. While it’s not a new concept, the accessibility of VR headsets and applications is increasing with lower costs and availability. In terms of advertising, it creates engaging ads that will entice viewers to touch, move and explore, rather than quickly scrolling over the ad. On the product front, there are endless possibilities in selling and creating devices, attachments and apps to incorporate VR into everyday life. These innovations have the potential to change and enhance reach and interactions, making it an important investment of all brands’ time and resources.

The allure for brands is clear: users aren’t just passively consuming a message, they’re participating in an experience the brand has fashioned.

360° technology is developing at pace and the potential for its application is expanding rapidly. When it comes to 360° VR, the future is still very much unwritten, however one thing is for certain; VR is a way to create intense moments and rich, enveloping experiences that can help bolster a brand’s story.