Monthly Archives

October 2017

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The Power of Affiliates

By | Featured, What's Hot

The Awin Report, released earlier this month, estimated the global value of the affiliate industry to be £12bn.

Affiliate marketing is the fastest-growing segment in digital advertising – the IAB & PwC’s Online Performance Marketing study revealed UK online performance marketing spend hit nearly £1.6bn in 2016. But advertisers, rightly, have many questions around affiliate marketing: what is it, is it incremental, and why can’t it be automated? These are all valid questions and need looking at on an individual client level.

The most important link in the chain is the consumer. Affiliate websites are loved by consumers, whether they’re geared at giving tips on how to manage our lives and finances (e.g. MoneySavingExpert), getting us free Swizzels tubs at Iceland or cashback on a Sandals holiday, affiliate marketing caters to most, if not all, client verticals.

Affiliate marketing is an adaptable and flexible solution for brands struggling to make sense of how and where to invest increasing digital budgets. As it has evolved into a multi-billion-pound sector, clients are increasingly viewing it as a platform to grow domestically and internationally.

While the affiliate marketing space is growing, so is the competition – a study released in 2016 indicated that over 80% of advertisers run affiliate programmes. The majority of those advertisers devoted more than 10% of their marketing budget to the affiliate channel. As it gains a higher profile, powerful business intelligence technology and tools are also becoming available, to enhance affiliate marketing and help clients understand ROI, and how to maximise it.

However, as with any self-regulated digital channel, there have been associated risks. Back in September, SkyBet suspended its affiliate programme, citing “changing regulatory requirements”. This followed a CMA investigation, alongside the UK Gambling Commission, into potential breaches of consumer law, after the Guardian had revealed that so-called tipsters, earning a percentage of customer losses, were deliberately recommending long-shot bets.

Domestic regulators are taking these accusations seriously, with the Gambling Commission revealing strict penalties for breaches. More widely, the ASA, earlier this year, published its guidelines around affiliate marketing, and the CMA followed by laying its own ground rules, stating that comparison sites should be Clear, Accurate, Responsible and Easy to use (CARE). The IAB has also stepped in, reviewing its Voucher Code of Conduct.

Affiliate marketing remains a proven online marketing method for generating sales, leads and brand awareness. The beauty of the channel is that you only pay out when users complete certain agreed actions on your website. In an industry where spend and budget are increasingly scrutinised, this is a channel that offers highly-measurable returns, cost-effective sales and genuine ROI. As domestic regulation comes up to speed, it will only continue to grow.

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Adtech for Social Influencers: Friend or Faux?

By | Featured, What's Hot

With a shift in focus from the Zoellas and PixiWoos of the world to the more relatable and affordable micro-influencers (defined as social influencers with less than 100,000 followers), managing an influencer campaign has never been more complex or time-consuming.

This explosion of influencer options makes finding the right influencer to promote your brand an increasingly cumbersome task. Brands now find themselves spoilt for choice in choosing the right talent that aligns with their vision, mission and identity in order to execute a successful influencer campaign. But where there’s a problem, there’s usually an adtech solution.

Over the past year, tech partners have flooded the influencer marketing space to automate the gruelling process of influencer recruitment and management. Brands and agencies can now log-on to a website, apply a few filters and ‘order in’ an influencer as quickly as it takes to order a takeaway. This has greatly raised the stakes for adtech vendors who are eager to show their value in this space.

Adtech can, after all, reduce manual labour, simplify processes and improve analytics – but programmatic influencer platforms come with a risk. As the hype around micro-influencer marketing has grown, so too have the number of services offering to artificially inflate wannabe influencers’ social media followings. These tools, which allow customers to buy likes and comments, have led to a new breed of social media user: the fake influencer.

The closer brands move towards automated influencer solutions, the more vulnerable they become to those seeking to exploit the market. In what quickly became the blueprint for how not to run an influencer marketing campaign, US marketing agency Mediakix demonstrated the ease with which brands are signing up faux influencer talent when they secured sponsorship deals for two Instagram accounts created for fake influencers ‘Amanda Smith’ and ‘Alexa Rae’. When it’s just follower numbers and audience reach figures you’re looking at, it’s an easy trap to fall into.

In many ways, the ‘adtechification’ of influencer marketing can be likened to the early days of the digital display ad network: programmatic influencer databases aggregate the longtail of influencer inventory and sell it to the highest bidder. But this was before brand safety concerns and ad-verification software forced digital display publishers to raise the bar.

Adtech can help solve a lot of problems for social influencer marketing. But in the end, effective influencer campaigns are most beneficial in the long-term relationship the brand establishes with the talent and the content they produce – treating it as a fast-paced numbers game is counter to this cardinal principle. If we automate this process and lose the authentic human touch the channel prides itself on, we could see it lose its magic.

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Blow-by-Blow: Ritson v. Sharp

By | Featured, What's Hot

There are a number of ‘big names’ in the marketing industry, but they don’t get much bigger than Mark Ritson and Byron Sharp.

Marketing Week columnist Ritson is a marketing professor who is rarely shy of proffering a ‘colourfully articulated’ opinion on his field. Whether it’s championing zero-based budgeting or pillorying the Adidas marketing director for crimes against media neutrality, he doesn’t hold back. Sharp, also a professor of marketing and author of the seminal ‘How Brands Grow’ books, is similarly outspoken, with empirical evidence backing him up to boot. He’s the leading figure at South Australia University’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute – the global centre of excellence for taking an evidence-based approach to marketing effectiveness.

The similarities don’t stop at their professions and plain-spoken candour either: they’re both expats in Australia, for example. But where they do differ is in their opinions on segmentation and audience targeting. Put simply: Sharp is largely against a surgical approach to reaching a brand’s audience, with his number one rule being that brands should “continuously reach all buyers of the category”; Ritson favours a more nuanced approach.

Over the years sparring between Ritson and Sharp has become something of a spectator sport. Fast forward to London’s Festival of Marketing, held earlier this month, and the audience was blessed with ‘Ritson v Sharp’ in the ring, with an eager crowd baying for marketing blood. Ritson went first. Left hook: “Sharp has a childlike focus on science”. Right hook: “We don’t study rocks, we study people.” Alongside noting that truly mass marketing is out of reach for most businesses, his most pointed argument was that Sharp “believes in salience and distinctiveness, because that’s all you really can stand for if you go after everyone”.

Up then stepped Sharp. Clearly a little tired of being typecast but revved up by the left and right hook, his opening salvo was an uppercut: “You tell everyone what Byron Sharp says. I have the advantage in that I am Byron Sharp.” Kapow! Responding to Ritson’s “childlike” jibe, he said: “Scientists are people who have a sense of wonder, who go out into the real world and are humble enough to say we don’t know everything about the world.”

As Sam Peña-Taylor observes in his full blow-by-blow account on WARC, it was – just about – a win for Ritson, with the crowd nodding in agreement. Whilst Sharp has empirical evidence, his focus often feels a little narrow. Ritson is more open to a range of ideas, which rather contradicts Sharp’s point about his sense of wonder. The reality is that this was always going to be a battle more civil than royale. In Ritson’s own words: “The real gift of Sharp and his Ehrenberg-Bass Institute was to catch the helium balloon of bullshit that marketing was becoming… the contributions are not necessarily new or sexy, but my goodness they have been essential.” Quite.

At the7stars we’re effectiveness obsessed. And our own evidence tells us that rigorous strategy and proper comms planning ensure that both mass marketing and a more targeted approach deliver results for our clients. Like Ritson said, it’s not gin or tonic, it’s gin and tonic.

Money for Nothing

By | Featured, What's Hot

Take a look inside your wallet, and the chances are you have less cash in it than you would have carried around a year ago. It’s also likely that you are withdrawing cash from an ATM less frequently too.

Figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) this year show that 2016 was the first year that more than half of all purchases were made by card. It’s safe to conclude that ten years following their introduction, contactless cards have gained the public’s trust, having been widely adopted by retailers. The BRC’s report found that 68% of payment terminals now accept contactless payments, well up from 47% the previous year.

The attraction for retailers is clear. Paying with cash can be a pain-point for consumers who wince at the thought of handing over their hard-earned dough. Casinos cleverly realised this problem a long time ago, converting cash into chips to encourage people to put more money on the table – and it worked.

Whilst we are still some way from becoming a cashless society, the latest numbers do indicate that we have reached an important milestone. From this point on, it is likely that cash usage will fall at an increasing rate, much like it has in Sweden where cash purchases are at a miniscule 1%. This should be a warning shot to the nearly half of small business owners who believe they do not miss out on sales if they do not accept cards – a very short-sighted belief given that one in two consumers say they would walk away if cashless payments are not available.

But there is a worrying trend for consumers too. The Bank of England’s June Financial Stability report even made a brief mention that contactless cards were a contributor to rising consumer borrowing as they “encouraged greater credit card use.” Likewise, charities are losing tens of millions of pounds due to the cashless economy, whereas those working in service roles reliant upon the top-ups they get from customers may see their tips go into rapid decline.

These are serious issues and where relevant, businesses will need to protect not just their own future, but also those less well-off who currently rely on cash. Restaurant chains, for example, will need to provide clear and accountable ways in which their service staff can receive card-based tips from customers; while charities are already looking at upgrading the old collection buckets to ‘tap and go’ payment pads.

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What’s Up?: Highlights from the Upfronts Season

By | Featured, What's Hot

Nothing signifies the drawing to the end of another year in TV media more than upfronts season. This month Channel 4 and ITV hosted the industry to look back over the successes of the past year and reveal what’s to come in 2018. From ITV’s glitzy Gala hosted by Emma Willis to Channel 4 treating guests to a #nightwith4, audiences were treated to comic interviews, celebrity performances (including appearances from Jennifer Hudson and Craig David), and some insight into the minds of TV’s biggest players.

ITV kickstarted the festivities with their annual Gala, hosted at the London Palladium. Looking back at 2017, the star of the show was the phenomenal success of Love Island. The segment, presented by Love Island narrator Iain Stirling, covered how the show’s highs and lows captivated younger audiences, making ITV2 the top performing channel for 16-34 year-olds and ‘100% their type on paper’.

Programming was a hot topic for ITV, from returning favourites Dancing on Ice to their 2018 focus on drama. Q1 will see the release of Next of Kin, starring Jack Davenport and Emmy Award winner Archie Panjabi, and Trauma, while later in the year an epic new adaptation of Vanity Fair will be hitting TV screens.

The following week saw medialand descend upon Shoreditch for a night with Channel 4. The night was kicked off by Jonathan Allen, as he introduced and interviewed Alex Mahon, the new Chief Executive of Channel 4 – and his new boss! The bulk of the presentation focused on programming for the coming year; new original comedy (Lee and Dean), questionable reality TV (5* Hotel), returning formats (Ackley Bridge) and new dramas (Kiri).

The biggest announcement came from both ITV and Channel 4, however, as they announced their plans to partner with Sorenson Media to look at bespoke targeting solutions across smart TVs – their answer to Sky’s AdSmart proposition. While it has been rumoured that both saleshouses are in ongoing conversations with Sky AdSmart, this would be an independent step forward and create competition within the market where previously there has been none.

While the development of data-driven TV targeting for both Channel 4 and ITV is in the early stages and will only progress over the next year, what is certain is that both channels have put significant investment behind programming to ensure another successful year.

Also joining upfronts season this year was YouTube. Its Brandcast event kicked off with the Samba dancers and a showcase of some of the best content and advertising of the year. The party atmosphere was soon tempered as Ronan Harris took to the stage; the event hosted just one week after The Times had gone live with another exposé into advertising on the platform, meaning the brand safety issue was one that couldn’t be ignored. He was quick to point to improvements in the automated detection of inappropriate content; on-going consultation with the four industry bodies; and work being done to switch off offensive comments on videos, but the room was left with the feeling that this was very much a work in progress.

Highlights included a focus on investment in longer-form premium content and series-length shows, but, despite impressive speeches from Content Creators and a guest turn from Kurupt FM and Craig David (again), they couldn’t quite re-re-wind the clock to wipe the brand safety concerns aside.

Our News

A Day with Supernova, by Rachel Courtney

By | News

Each morning usually begins by catching up on my emails with a strong coffee, I’m an early riser so take advantage of a nice quiet office at 8am. Working in team Supernova means each day is different as projects develop and new briefs come in, so I start the day making sure everything from the day before has been covered off and understanding what the key tasks for the day ahead are.

I will usually sit down with the partnerships team to discuss our live projects. A big part of what we do is project management; with so many moving parts in any partnership, from licensing deals to talent to media delivery, it’s really important that we catch up as a team regularly so we can ensure every project runs as smoothly as possible for our clients! One of our big projects at the moment is working on an AFP (ad-funded programme), so after we catch up we will sit down and review the latest rough cut of an episode, feeding back our notes to the client and the production team- the project is starting to feel very real now!

Most mornings involve a status meeting with clients, either face to face or by conference call. Status meetings are a must with so much going on, they give us the opportunity to discuss live projects and keep our clients completely in the loop. We pride ourselves on working transparently and collaboratively with our clients, so keeping them up to date with each element of a partnership project is really key, even if they are tricky conversations around talent demands!

After we’ve caught up with clients, the afternoon typically consists of meetings with media owners to discuss any projects we have with them, but also on any briefs we have, both from clients and also proactively discussing anything exciting or client relevant in the market. We have great relationships with media owners which means we are able to work closely to create some great plans for clients. As a team, we work across all media so meeting with media owners gives a great arsenal of opportunities for clients, and allows us to challenge briefs with cross-media partnerships.

If we have a brief deadline, we will sit down as a team and go through each response. We create score cards based on the client’s key objectives for the campaign, and go through each response scoring the idea against the criteria. This process allows us to assess if the idea will work for the client, where the weak spots may be, and to give clear feedback to both media owners and clients as to our recommendation.

Towards the end of the day I am usually making sure all the actions outlined for the day have been covered off. This can range from ensuring a contract has gone over to clients or making sure talent has posted the right image to Instagram! I live by my to do list so the last part of the day is devoted to making sure everything for the day has been ticked off, and proactively starting my list for the following day.

Rachel Courtney

the7stars wins 5 awards at this years Media Week

By | Featured, News

We are absolutely delighted to have won 5
3 x MediaWeek Golds
• Media Idea Launch – Atlantic Records/ Ed Sheeran
• Best Use of Audio – Atlantic Records/ Ed Sheeran
• Long Term Media Strategy – Suzuki
1 x Media Week Silver
• Research Insight – Podcasting: Niche no more
1 x Media Week Bronze
• Media Idea Medium – My Taxi
Full list here: