Monthly Archives

January 2018

What's Hot

Facebook News Feed: Quality or Quantity?

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“RIP Facebook News Feed” – or so said Larry Kim, CTO of WordStream, after Mark Zuckerberg’s big announcement this month.

After a 2017 rife with controversy for the social media giant – from Russian election meddling to anti-Semitic ad categories and the rise of Fake News – on Thursday 4th January Zuckerberg announced that his mission for 2018 was to “focus on fixing the important issues”.

The co-founder and CEO has a history of taking up yearly challenges, which has seen him learn Mandarin, run 365 miles, and build an AI to run his own home. 2018‘s challenge will see him adjust the News Feed to focus on family, friends and communities rather than the ‘centralisation’ of Brands and Publisher pages.

Previously the News Feed algorithm served the most ‘relevant’ content based upon engagement history and how the post has fared with similar users. Zuckerberg’s changes will switch that to now focus on posts that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people” with “long and thoughtful replies” and “back-and-forth discussions” being the new order of business.

So, what does this all mean for users? According to Facebook’s research with leading US universities, ‘passive’ reading or watching is not good for our well-being and people are more likely to comment on or discuss a post shared by a family member than one shared by a business or brand. As a result, while Zuckerberg expects the time people spend on Facebook to decrease, the same time will also be more ‘valuable’, which will benefit brands.

Conversation on LinkedIn and other opinion forums has exploded, with plenty of leaders taking the opportunity to clear up the fog around the announcement. In general, however, there is agreement that organic reach for brand pages will reduce further and ‘pay-to-play’ will become an even more important feature.

Several pieces have focused on how these changes aren’t as big as previously thought. John Battelle of NewCo shrewdly elucidated that to fix those issues Facebook would have to gut its advertising-driven model, thereby risking a reduction in revenue and profit – something the company cannot countenance.

All this then begs the question of how this will affect advertisers. At a macro level, it won’t: Facebook will still be the same channel it was from a paid perspective. At a micro level, however, paid campaigns will most likely see an increase in cost metrics as more brands are forced into the paid space, driving competition for impressions higher. Combine this with the belief that users will reduce time spent on Facebook and increased costs become more likely.
The precise implications of this move is unclear – and how much change we actually see could vary substantially over the next few months – but any paid social activity should be planned around taking this into account.

What's Hot

Business, Brexit & Bellwether: Outlook for 2018

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For the UK economy to fire on all cylinders in 2018, there appears to be one major stumbling block: Brexit. Still lingering with uncertainty, Brexit was cited as one of the main reasons 2017 ad spend growth closed at 1.4% and why there is estimated growth of only 0.3% in 2018 (IPA).

But looking further under the skin of this issue, another contributing factor arises: uneasiness around digital advertising, which, following several big scandals in 2017, resulted in much slower growth of internet ad spend in Q4. Interesting, especially when digital is the only channel currently pushing growth in total ad spend figures as more traditional advertising channels suffer. Indeed, 2017’s final quarter saw the slowest growth curve since Q3 2016.

Here’s What’s Hot’s view of what to expect amidst the economical and market uncertainty of 2018.

In 2017, living standards were squeezed but there is hope that things will get easier for UK households this year. While consumers may find some stability, businesses are likely to remain cautious until Brexit and our position in the single market is resolved. Rising prices were, however, a cause for worry, with fears it will depress sales and demand. Higher import costs were also viewed as a business threat, a particularly acute problem in retail.

Bloomberg is predicting inflation numbers will start edging back over the course of 2018 as the impact of the fall in sterling fades and wage growth picks up slightly. Speculation will continue around whether the Bank of England will raise interest rates again in 2018 – something experts are hinting is likely to happen.

Overall, Bloomberg is reporting the economy will grow by 0.4% a quarter in 2018 and 1.4% overall, underperforming a little compared to 1.8% in 2017.

In terms of advertising, the latest IPA Bellwether report released this month proved that internet advertising remains the best performing sub-category; one in 10 advertisers allocate more than 50% of their marketing budgets to digital.

More traditional formats like TV, press, cinema and radio underperformed, described in the Bellwether report as ‘disappointing’. Direct marketing, meanwhile, saw growth of 16.7%, which some have attributed to GDPR and the resulting opportunities to focus on personalised communications from compliant and secure data.

GDPR drew a mix of concern and optimism. While some are worried the regulation will make it harder to contact potential consumers, others view it as providing an opportunity to win business from competitors and improve their direct marketing to potential customers.

In times of uncertainty, it makes for tricky investment planning. Advertisers may choose to default to cost-value areas such as direct response digital, down-weighting bigger-ticket media.

Unstable times require dynamic, responsive decision-making and an examination of the evidence available. The received wisdom of how to respond in a volatile market is to maintain advertising budgets and avoid over-spending in activation.

As 2018 progresses, we’d recommend maintaining SOV/SOM ratios as a minimum, and reviewing the short-term market for value if the market softens.

What's Hot

Against the Stream: Is It Really All About Netflix?

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After reporting the biggest quarter in its history with 8.3 million new global subscribers – as well as leapfrogging BBC iPlayer to third in a list of the top UK brands – everybody seems to be getting their fix of Netflix. The streaming service is riding high on YouGov’s Brand Index with a Buzz score of 14, pushing iPlayer into fourth and leave it trailing discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl.

However, it’s not been all doom-and-gloom for iPlayer, which enjoyed a record week between Christmas and New Year as viewers turned off their traditional television channels in place of its on-demand streaming service. The 69.2m requests to watch programmes on iPlayer between December 25th and 31st 2017 ushered in a pulsating year-on-year increase of 18% [Source: The Guardian].

Television has always been synonymous with Christmas but now, with the power of on-demand services such as Netflix, the BBC has been forced to rethink its portfolio accordingly. The broadcaster now offers up popular programmes such as Blue Planet, Peaky Blinders and Line of Duty within its archives. Although it still trails Netflix’s 132 exclusive shows in 2017, which included hits such as the second series of The Crown and Stranger Things and the launches of new critical successes like Dark and Mindhunter, the BBC is fast playing catch-up. In contrast, Amazon is finding its streaming service has hit a plateau, with BARB reporting the service had stopped growing in the third quarter of last year, just shy of 4m subscribers.

Sky, on the other hand, has begun fighting back, launching a low-cost plug-in stick set for release in February. Mimicking Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, it will provide access to films, television shows and live sport on any TV set, providing a cheaper and more flexible way of watching Sky. It represents a continuation of the broadcaster’s desire to go beyond its traditional focus on long-term contracts for its satellite TV packages. Moreover it is cheaper than the competition. Priced at £14.99 for the smart stick and remote, the user has the choice to buy a Now TV day or week pass, unlike Netflix and Amazon which cost less than £10 every month. Value and flexibility speak to viewers.

As well as increasing marketing spend and promotion for Now TV, Sky has also unveiled a broadband TV service that will allow customers who do want its full TV service to do so without the need for a satellite dish.

But there are some warning shots for advertisers, should its rise continue. Co-founder and chief executive of Netflix, Reed Hastings, stated that keeping its platform commercial-free is its key differentiator from competitors – a hammer-blow to advertisers hoping to capitalise upon the strength of the platform.

“We are having great success on the commercial-free path. That is what our brand is all about. So we’re going to continue to expand the relevance of a commercial-free service around the world and make that so popular that consumers are very used to and appreciate Netflix,” said Hastings.

With a third of British households now paying for a TV streaming service [BARB] and Netflix leading the way, competitors, as well as the UK television industry, must once again raise the bar to compete with the extensive funding available for programming with international appeal. While the first set of the year may have gone to Netflix, the ball is still firmly in the court of TV and its on-demand streaming services.

What's Hot

Ditch the Cherries & Go for the Big Idea

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What happens in Vegas is meant to stay in Vegas. But as the dust settles on four days of gadget-based excitement at CES, there’s a sense that the technology showcased across 2.5 million square feet of exhibition space in the Mojave Desert will eventually have an impact on a global scale.

CES gives us a glimpse into the future through a prism of technologies that are slowly beginning to embed themselves into consumers’ lives. But we need to take a moment before jumping in.

Because of its rising profile, and the fact it remains slightly separated from the media industry, tech can be a distracting problem for agencies. In an effort to bridge the gap between these worlds, the temptation is to rush to add shiny, new technologies to an ever-expanding mix of channels.

In this context, technologies can become regarded as cherries, used to adorn the top of otherwise uninspired plans and sold as new channels to market. Worse, they are treated as ideas in their own right, as if people will flock to them by dint of their novelty alone.

Only these technologies aren’t the same as channels or ideas – they’re interfaces. They represent another means of interacting with consumers across channels but they don’t necessarily bring together content and context into a fully coherent environment.

The likes of AR, voice, visual search, facial recognition, gesture control, VR, bots, are simply not environment-based verticals with their own unique behaviours. Neither are they communication ideas in themselves. But they are increasingly reaching into the ‘traditional’ channels to open up new possibilities.

As such, we need to start embedding them deeper into the communications plan, or ignore them altogether.

By freeing ourselves from the fallacy that technology by itself equals impact, we can start to think seriously about creativity in the channels where the majority of investment goes.

We should see the ever-expanding suite of new interfaces as part of an armoury of creative tools to bring to life the big communication idea that reaches across disciplines. A single audacious thought, writ large with ambition, and bigger than the sum of its parts.

These are the ideas that blur media boundaries entirely, get real people talking, and are impossible to ascribe to one box.

That certainly sounds like an exciting future to me. And there’s not a cherry in sight.

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Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: #notfakenews

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Who do you trust for the news?
The rise of social media in the UK has been well documented and it’s currently estimated that there are 32 million Facebook users in the UK (the nation’s favourite platform by some way). Part of this meteoric rise has been a result of its ability to deliver breaking news stories threaded in-between the usual news feed content. In fact, a 2017 YouGov survey indicated that 47% of the UK use Facebook for news. This should be treated with caution however. Recent political events and other major news stories have seen the equally meteoric rise of the term ‘fake news’. A favoured phrase of POTUS, it’s already been used over two million times on Twitter in 2018 (not just by Trump) and its prevalence amongst the UK lexicon shows no signs of slowing. With fake news and social media entwined in one another, over half of UK users are worried about being exposed to fake news. Further to this, our own findings from the QT found that 71% believe social media sites should do more to control the spread of fake news.
Interestingly, it’s younger users that are most sceptical of the news they’re exposed to on social networks, with the QT finding that half 18-24-year-olds now check multiple sources. This heightened concern amongst UK users, coupled with an increased scrutiny in the way social media brands behave as companies, has seen trust in social media decline for a third year in a row with under a quarter trusting it as a source of general news and information. This is according to the latest release of Edelman’s Trust Barometer, that cites social media as the least trusted source of general news and information amongst media outlets in the UK. Conversely, trust in traditional media has risen from 48% to 61% to reclaim top spot as the UK’s most trusted news source.
Once billed as the end of traditional news brands, social media’s current inability to tackle the fake news phenomenon is taking its toll and Facebook’s recent announcement that it is moving news feed focus from publisher/ brand posts back to content shared and commented on by family and friends suggests traditional news media’s doomsday is taking a rain-check.

Lightbox Loves

Lightbox looks at Stranger Danger

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From a young age, we’re taught not to talk to strangers; but a study recently conducted by YouGov shows that Brits actually prefer to be sociable than be muted in most scenarios. Indeed, 8 in 10 of us would choose to talk to our neighbours whilst seeing them out and about, and 7 in 10 of Brits want to get their chins wagging with tradespeople entering their homes. Outside of our home comforts, two thirds of us would want to exchange chatter with checkout assistants, and hairdressers also prove desirable people to have a bit of a gossip with.
However, we don’t want to chat to everyone. Unsurprisingly, over half of us would actively choose not to talk to other people on public transport (which creeps up to two thirds for Londoners). Poor dentists also slot into this list of avoiders; half of us would not want to talk to them during appointments.
A key theme that emerged from this study reveals that those aged 18-34 are particularly reluctant to make small talk with those they’re unfamiliar with, with large generational gaps when it comes to chatting to neighbours and hairdressers.
That aside, we might actually be more sociable as a nation than previously thought. Why not give it a go when you pop out for a coffee or when grabbing lunch? You may still want to keep your lips sealed on the tube or bus, though…

In The Press

New look for the Guardian

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The Guardian has decided to join the rest of us this January in a bid to get both smaller and save money with their long anticipated move to tabloid. With Monday’s launch feeling a little flat it appears they might be sticking to dry January too.

There are quite a few positives for readers; the new pink washed Journal section which is full of opinions, letters and great thinking will be a much loved section for Guardian loyalists.  The 20 page sport section is absolutely brimming with brilliant journalism – particularly around Liverpool’s rampant win at City.  The synergy of look and feel across all of their platforms has also landed well across print, web and mobile, although I have to say, I miss the blue mast head (I understand that the colour blue may carry a premium at Trinity Mirror’s print works).

The move to Berliner was embraced by audiences and whilst 12 years is a relatively small period of time in the history of the longstanding paper, readers will be nervous about the move.  However, with a total pagination up to ninety six pages long, readers will not be left short changed by lack of content, and with the presumed increase in ad sites available, I assume The Guardian will be able to balance the advertising sales loss of premium outside back page and front page strip formats.

Logistical considerations aside, with Saturdays edition of the Guardian significantly higher than weekdays and the newly revamped Saturday package boasting a total of five new sections, (including Review, Travel and Feast supplements), I feel that they could have waited and launched with a bigger bang this weekend and really made an impact.

Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves…Lunch!

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Hot on the heels of the overindulgence of the festive period, married with the dark reality of coming back to work on a packed commute, alongside the frosty climes of January, we’ve found ourselves here at the7stars towers fetishizing lunch.

It would appear we’re not the only ones. We did a short Lightbox Pulse survey into city dwellers’ lunching habits, and found out that 1 in 3 have decided where they are going to eat by 11am. This isn’t a surprise, when you consider that over 1 in 10 eat out every single week day!

But is this just a London bubble thing? Yes, and no. Research by YouGov and the Food Standards Agency found that 1 in 10 Brits never has lunch at home – which sounds like sweet music for Pret, EAT and Itsu, but dire news for our purse strings. In fact, Horizons estimated back in 2015 that the food sector is worth £44.9bn annually – which according to the BBC comes in at £667 lunching per person, albeit an even more supersize £830 per London worker!
It is a wonder we spend so much on this meal when you consider that 52% of Londoners still take their lunch to their desk, compared with 38% of the wider population (source: VoucherCloud).

So, bearing in mind the amount we spend on it, how much we look forward to it, and how many options we have on our doorstep, from Pho to Fajitas, Fried Chicken to Fillet steak, Lightbox urges you to take yourself out for lunch, enjoy the scenery, and try something new today.

Well, maybe on payday. It’s January after all.