Monthly Archives

September 2017

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Are Brands Waking Up To the Latent Advertising Potential of Podcasts?

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The IAB has released its inaugural ‘Podcast Playbook’, in the wake of news that podcasts now reach 25% of consumers over the age of 12 in the US, with those consumers listening to an average of six podcasts per week. At the same time, PwC forecasts podcast revenue in the US to be in excess of $220m in 2017, up 85% YoY from 2016. Are podcasts about to go mainstream?

Young, entrepreneurial internet brands like Squarespace, Audible, Slack and MailChimp have long been at the bleeding edge of content advertising, employing podcasts as a key vehicle for reaching audiences effectively through this native style of advertising.

ComScore claimed last year that consumers found podcast ads the least intrusive form of digital advertising, yet uncovered that two-thirds of listeners have either researched or purchased something they first heard about in a podcast advert. Unlike radio, a largely passive consumption medium, podcasts speak to the curatorial spirit of this generation of under 34-year-olds.

These brands have built up a dedicated following of otherwise hard-to-reach early adopters and trend-setters, attaching their name as facilitator to the content they not only enjoy but active seek out. Start-ups like Casper Mattresses, Blue Apron, Harry’s and Lyft have enjoyed this halo effect using the medium as a spring board to fame via a loyal, highly-social foundation of consumer.

Branded podcasts have also become popular, with advertisers partnering with production studios for podcasting content solutions. Awards are no longer reserved for the likes of Serial (which picked up a Peabody award in 2015); GE and Panoply collected a Cannes Lion for their branded science fiction podcast, ‘The Message’. While, multinationals like Nike, Tinder, Virgin Atlantic and Goldman Sachs have all commissioned their own series.

And interest in these is no less fervent amongst the core podcasting demographic: eBay’s first foray into branded podcasts reportedly attracted more than double the number of downloads guaranteed by Gimlet Media.

Naysayers have pointed out monthly downloads doesn’t necessarily equate to listenership. With iOS 11, Apple has announced that podcasters will be able to see how audiences are actually responding to their shows – with data aggregating actual listenership, as well as starts, stops and skips by episode. Gimlet Media has called this “an inflection point for the industry,” and looks to offer transparency for brand and media owner over the number of people who actually listen to the content, alleviate concerns and opening the doors for more brand-centric and less direct response advertising without relying on promotional code redemption as a metric.

A broad pool of media owners is increasingly realising both the business and brand potential themselves. Independent US digital media company Vox Media, already making considerable inroads in podcasting, recently announced a renewed commitment, seeking to launch a ‘Daily News Explainer’ podcast following the appointment of a newly created Executive Producer of Audio. While the Guardian and The New York Times have been increasingly active in supplementing their print and digital journalism with longform discussion, interview and content series in the form of podcasts.

Now, even the big dogs are starting to get in on the action too, as WPP invested $5 million into podcast start-up Gimlet Media in September (who incidentally raised a further $15 million from venture capital firm, Stripes Group).
In a media landscape where, increasingly, content is king, and context is key, podcasts offer a means of cherry picking audiences, facilitating and tailoring content with a highly attentive, curatorial, captive audience. More popular than ever, and fervently consumed, it’s time to turn the volume up on podcasts. “Are you listening? Your hardest-to-reach consumers are,” said Hernan Lopez, Founder & CEO of Wondery.

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Gearing Up to a Content-Driven Campaign

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In a world of skippable formats, ad blockers and fake news, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing a surge in consumer demand for quality content – so much so that the growth of content advertising is set to outpace the growth of digital marketing by a factor of 2:1 and is slated to develop into a multi-billion-dollar industry by 2020 (The Drum).

Snapchat, Netflix, Amazon and, more recently, Facebook are all peddling out ‘original series’ and publishers are rapidly growing their creative solution and production teams. Licensing and usage rights are being bought and sold, and these are no longer just the domain of big broadcasters. These all represent opportunities for brands to get closer to quality content and go beyond the realms of traditional advertising. Content partnerships executed correctly can elevate a brand and help differentiate it from the competition – something that is becoming harder to achieve in a fragmented marketplace.

Here at the7stars, we’ve seen the power or partnerships first hand with Suzuki. We know that Suzuki resonates with people who don’t take themselves or their cars too seriously. Owners are more likely to be ‘the fun one in the group’, yet fun was rarely used when marketing to the affordable car market.

Our idea was that ‘You can’t tell people you’re fun, you have to make them laugh’. We distinguished Suzuki by partnering with ITV and their crown jewels, Ant and Dec, to give the brand a fun tone of voice that taps into the best of British humour. In a partnership deal that spans talent, licensing, broadcast, content creation and production, we took the IP of Saturday Night Takeaway and injected it into one-off TV ad spots. Extended versions were released across social channels and the fun was brought to life on the shop floor in dealerships.

A content-led approach was used more recently to launch a new model, the Suzuki Ignis, to a younger audience Suzuki had little to no existing relationship with. We approached this by tapping into the right of passage that all young drivers go through in Britain, creating the ‘Ignis Adventure’ – a content-led campaign that highlights the fun you can have in a first-time car.

Social influencers were used to spread the word as content started to appear from their channels. We then dropped two high-profile E4 faces in Dartmoor and released instalments of their journey home across cherry picked ad spots and social extensions. Working in partnership with E4, we then helped Suzuki to release ‘All Star Driving School’, a peak-time adventure-based driving show that features nine celebs learning to drive, all filmed in a Suzuki Ignis.

The lines of editorial and commercial have been well and truly blurred and it’s an approach that’s paying off. Suzuki is growing at a rate of 9% versus a wider market decline of 2%. These are our three rules of engagement to working with stakeholders to deliver content-driven campaigns:

1). Balance your brand. Partnerships allow you to leverage favourable associations with others, but it often means relinquishing an element of control. It’s essential to understand when to dial your brand message up/down in the story you tell.
2). Don’t just collaborate, look for opportunities to co-create. This isn’t limited to media partners; involve your audience.
3). Keep it insightfully simple. By nature, integrated partnerships can be complex. Having a single insight that unites all elements will help deliver a message that’s stronger than the sum of its parts.

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It’s All Gone Digital – The Rise of DOOH

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We’ve heard it all before – traditional media is in decline. Print, for example, is seeing a drop in readers and ad revenue is expected to fall 10% in 2017. The story for Outdoor, meanwhile, is quite different – the medium is on the up – and weekly reach remains the highest of all channels (99.5%).

This is because Out-of-Home (OOH) retains a captive audience – we can’t avoid London Underground panels, bus ads, or roadside formats. For outdoor media owners, the development of digital technology therefore isn’t needed to fill a leaky revenue bucket, it’s an opportunity to take the medium into the future. In fact, DOOH is predicted (by JCDecaux) to hit 50% of all outdoor revenue by the end of 2017.

In recent years the outdoor ad industry has heavily upgraded – and digitised – its inventory. The number of digital screens has increased from 2,056 in 2009 to over 17,000 in 2017 at a cost of circa £100m investment. Simultaneously, outdoor media owners are ripping out poorer quality paper-and-paste sites, resulting in improved infrastructure and increased value for the market. Even the UK’s most iconic digital screens have been affected by this upgrade. For the refurb of Piccadilly Circus the lights were switched off completely – something that was only previously observed for the funerals of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana. The newly-rebranded Piccadilly Lights now features one huge screen.
While there is now more talk around brand safety than ever, OOH remains a relatively brand-safe channel, where you can be sure of the environment, even with digital inventory. The switch to digital also means that advertisers have more flexibility with their campaigns. There is no need to stick to the traditional two week in-charge periods, with uncertain posting times. Advertisers can turn on their campaign over key moments to maximise efficiencies in this more expensive digital world. An estimated two-thirds of outdoor advertisers are already taking advantage of this capability.

The real benefit of digital outdoor is in the dynamic creative opportunities it allows. A number of studies prove the impact on both soft and hard brand metrics when using relevant and real-time creative messages. And yet only 1% of campaigns take advantage of this functionality, restricted in large part by creative costs. But this increase in quality, and the introduction of dynamic campaigns, comes at a price for brands, as media owners are using digitalisation to drive higher margins. In a paper-and-paste world, a premium six-sheet might have cost £300 for a two-week period. Upgrade the same site to a digital screen, and market rate is over double this for 10 seconds in a 60-second loop.

This could also, eventually, result in a different buying model altogether. For now, DOOH and OOH is bought on a cost-per-panel basis, but, with greater access to audience data, the ability to trade on an audience model isn’t far off. In Canada, Outfront Media has launched its own real-time analytics platform, having agreed a partnership with mobile network Cellint. By tapping into their reams of data, the platform will allow tracking of hourly impression numbers, including the proportion of those that are unique views. The next step will, inevitably, be the introduction of trading efficiencies.

In London, TfL still hasn’t opened its data up to third parties but they have been using it for their own devices. A four-week trial last year – the results of which were released this month – looked at data collected from 5.6m mobile phones connected to Wi-Fi on the London Underground in an attempt to understand how travellers navigate the network. Previously, ticketing data has been used to look at those entering and exiting, but mobile data is far more sophisticated in its ability to track interchanges, and even walking routes and platform use within a station.

By understanding the routes customers are taking, even down to the platforms they’re standing on, it’s looking likely that, in coming years, panels will be costed according to the real-time impressions they’re racking up. OOH is in a transition period, but the future looks set to be exciting – and very much digital.

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Hold the Phone: Mobile Overtakes Desktop

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Another statistical landmark was passed this month, with eMarketer reporting that UK adults now spend more time browsing per day on a mobile device, compared to on a desktop and/or laptop.

This is significant as it also correlates with the growth in adspend within digital, where mobile has been a catalyst for the increasing investment. With advertisers already willing to pour their budgets into this area, it becomes more important to measure performance against more traditional media channels.

As mobile budgets increase, pressure is being put on agencies to justify these spends through more accurate tracking and reporting. Despite growing investment in buying technology and creative formats, it’s still much more difficult to track a user journey when it includes mobile, as opposed to on desktop where advertisers are still seeing the majority of conversions – for now.

Cross-device tracking becomes imperative when user behaviour switches to spending longer on mobile. The problem the industry has at the moment is the gap in the measurement and understanding of a user journey. If conversion rates are still being measured, in the main, on a last device basis, then of course mobile will continue to be questioned for its inefficiency against desktop. Until more investment is made in understanding how consumers use multiple devices, there is the possibility that advertisers won’t be attributing their spend correctly and under-invest in areas should be more important.

It’s not just cross-device tracking that’s important to improve though. Ad verification has been a key industry topic over the last 12 months, with advertisers becoming more aware of issues and forcing transparency from agencies and suppliers. Technology in this space began on desktop and mobile has slowly tried catching up, but there are still barriers in the way. Traditionally, digital tracking has been focused on cookies, which are difficult to track across mobile, especially in-app. In an industry where cookies have become the norm for digital tracking, it takes time for new tracking systems to be adopted and for technology partners, especially within verification, to keep up with the trend of user behaviour.

For advertisers, there is also a need for an honest approach to evaluating their brand’s mobile experience. Google report that 53% of consumers abort their journey if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Developing a mobile strategy that puts the experience first is integral to advertising success. If consumers spend more time on mobile and an advertising plan is in place to take advantage, a poor mobile site or app will make the media look worse and have a negative effect to that consumer. There has already been a shift to the improved, evolution of mobile web, through new technology such as AMP and progressive web applications.

We were warned of the year of mobile a long time ago, the trend doesn’t look likely to stop and it’s arguably a consumer’s most important screen. The brand experience on a mobile device should be as good as every other touchpoint, consumers are spending more time browsing, but they’re tired of waiting.

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We Do It For Almost 8 Hours A Day

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What’s the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night?

There’s a high chance it involves a screen of some sort: phones, tablets and TVs are all popular bed fellows, and use by UK adults is on the up. IPA Touchpoints data released this month says our media consumption is up 9% year-on-year – that’s a lot of extra appetite for platforms and devices across eight hours of the waking day.

The reports of the demise of TV have been greatly exaggerated and this channel still tops the rankings, with more than half of people (54%) watching video between 9pm-10pm on an average night. Overall, TV viewing accounts for 4hrs 35mins of daily viewing on average – enough for more than three-and-a-half Bake Off episodes, even in its longer format. It’s clear that viewing habits are changing, especially amongst 15-34s where the shift away from live is more pronounced, but advertisers are capable of adapting to turn these challenges into opportunities with dual screening and multimedia story telling.

One of the most significant shifts since Touchpoints debuted its survey in 2006, has been an increase from 79% to 92% of people consuming two or more media channels in the same hour at some point during the week. More than a quarter are even using three in any hour.

The on-demand generation presents some of the toughest challenges for advertisers. There are zero advertising opportunities on Netflix, for example, a platform that is viewed by 19% of all adults each week – up from 16% in 2016 – and includes 39% of millennials.

Elsewhere, music streaming’s popularity is on the rise, with 38% of all adults listening each week, rising to 55% for 15- to 24-year-olds. Meanwhile, a huge 76% of all adults now use social media and/or social messaging every week, up from 71% in 2016. Unsurprisingly, these figures rise for millennials (95% and 93% respectively).

Facebook continues to dominate, reaching 83% of millennials and 62% of all adults each week. Year-on-year growth for the network is slowing though, up 1% and 3% respectively. WhatsApp and Snapchat weekly usage, meanwhile, grew 22% and 17% among all adults.
Belinda Beeftink, the IPA’s deputy director of research, highlights the importance of context in navigating this fragmented diet: “For advertisers and agencies, it means they have to be very clear about the context of particular behaviour — when people are viewing it and why, what their motivations are.”

With more opportunities than ever to reach out to the UK population, advertisers also have more tools at their disposal to understand this audience. What hasn’t changed is the importance of putting the consumer first. By getting to know their motivations, understanding the media context and delivering messaging in a creative way we can ensure that we add to their media consumption, rather than interrupting or taking away.

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The End of #SPON?

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It’s another win for transparency. Under pressure from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and others, Instagram recently announced the launch of its branded content feature, introducing a clearer way to identify sponsored content compared with tagging an ad with ‘#ad’ or ‘#spon’ in the caption.

The rule applies to any ‘content that features or is influenced by a business partner for an exchange of value’. Whether ‘value’ need be monetary or not is unclear, however, and the move could have implications for influencer marketing on Instagram and beyond.

A relatively recent trend, influencer marketing has exploded as a marketing channel before anyone has had the chance to figure out how best to measure it. The biggest benefit of this new native feature, therefore, is the ability for advertisers to track performance and calculate the ROI of a particular influencer.

In theory, this will help brands and agencies identify the best-performing influencers and bring reporting in line with that of other digital media channels, such as programmatic and paid social. But with this comes the danger of brands relying too heavily on data and analytics to inform a strand of digital marketing so deeply rooted in relationship building: influencer marketing is about more than just ROI – it’s about brand identity and the company you keep.

So what’s the motivation behind Instagram’s new approach? On the surface, it’s a legal issue –a response to the ASA cracking down on influencer marketing. By developing a native feature that makes paid-for activity easily identifiable, Instagram can ensure the ASA directs any enforcement action against the influencers themselves, rather than the platform.

However, it’s difficult to ignore speculation that monetisation is at the heart of the policy, with rumours suggesting Instagram may deliberately suppress posts marked as sponsored, increasing the need for advertisers to put paid media spend behind their influencers’ posts. After all, why would Instagram create a tool that facilitates other people making money on their platform, if it wasn’t after a piece of the pie?

The most likely scenario is that we see an increase in influencer marketing spends across the board, driven both by the surge in talent fees that comes with creating more measurable content and the rise in budgets required to boost these campaigns through paid social.

With a price hike inevitable, it’s important to question not only the impact this will have on smaller businesses that lack the hefty marketing spends of big advertisers but also the knock-on effect for Instagram and its users, given that the platform has been the lifeblood of so many within the creative community.

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Top 10 Brighton SEO Tweets

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The7Stars SEO Team attended Brighton SEO last week, and we consumed our share of valuable information, comical memes and delicious cold refreshments (gin). For those who weren’t fortunate enough to attend, or if you’ve not heard of The Twitter™, we thought we would take you through some of the highlights in 140 characters or less.
Read on for our top tweets from the day…
10 – 8: The Funny Tweets
10. The Pub Trap:
@ChrisLDyson sums up the main temptation of the day. Of course there is drinking, while we do not want to cheat on Brighton SEO too much.


9. Embracing the Day:
@TheTechOff captures those who get a bit carried away. Full marks for committing to their outfits.


8. We Start Young:
@staceycav has her son in training to take over the family dynasty already.


7-6: The OMG Stats Tweets
7. The New Dream?:
@SophieAHollands reminds us just how much aspirations have changed in the digital age…


6. Nerdy Time:
@aysunakarsu nails it with something that SEO people cannot resist: doing dorky things with stats, always.


5. Who, what & where?:
@jlhdigital scares us while flagging the fact that the future is Voice… Seriously though, that is nearly 1 in 3!


4-2: The Vital Info Tweets
4. The Future Really is Voice:
@ronan_henderson leaves the jokes behind, and lets us know how to compete in Voice Search


3. Getting Serious About YouTube:
@DoriaAdigoun focuses our minds on why we are here. Ranking factors help us to map out our strategies.


2. Cross Channel Collaboration:
@brightonseo promotes a useful reminder that PR and SEO work together, and that not everyone has a bottomless pit of money…


1. The Official Winner:
@steviephil. It’s the sheer thrill in the tweet that makes it stand out, combined with genuinely useful information. First, I laughed, then I made a mental note, and that’s Brighton SEO all over.

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BaByliss For Men has teamed up with Jungle creations

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BaByliss For Men has teamed up with Jungle creations to create a content series that showcases their male grooming products while moving away from the everyday How-To video. The hero concept is a light hearted yet poignant video featuring brand ambassador Freddie Flintoff turning his hand at being a barber and offering up advice to the men in his chair. The campaign will run with three videos across Viral Thread Facebook and the Jungle network, driving male audiences to purchase BaByliss For Men grooming products featured.