Monthly Archives

May 2018

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Influencer Marketing: Make Content Not Ads

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Influencer marketing is the new kid on the block when it comes to digital advertising channels – but it’s one that has struggled to find its place in the digital marketing mix.

Should social influencers be treated as glorified affiliates, pushing links and coupons on their channels as part of short-term transactional campaigns? Or can they offer more to brands when leveraged as long-term partners and genuine storytellers?

According to the Activate 2018 State of Influencer Marketing Study, 50% of marketers are now working with influencers on projects for six months or longer, so there are plenty of people in the long-term camp.

But conditions must be right for collaborations to be successful, both in terms of how influencers are chosen and what they’re asked to do.

When it comes to selecting influencers to work with, brands have traditionally made their decision based on an individual’s social channel reach. However, the same study showed that ‘size and following’ has been bumped from first to fifth position on the list of considerations marketers make when selecting their influencer partners – behind content aesthetic, audience demographic, brand affinity and engagement rate.

This shows how influencer marketing is evolving: brands want to work with partners that can do more than just get their content seen – they need that content to resonate with those that see it; it’s becoming much more about quality over quantity.

Moreover, by placing too much emphasis on the reach and scale of an influencer, brands risk neglecting the creative potential they can bring to the table.

Influencers aren’t there to regurgitate your copy, they’re there to create fresh content for you – content that entertains, educates or invokes some level of emotion in your shared target audience.

This can only be done over the course of months – a single snap on an influencer’s Instagram feed isn’t going to cut it, even if it adheres to every brand guideline in the book.

Like all brand partnerships, working with influencers is a great way for brands to unlock new audiences, but in order to cut-through the noise, it is crucial that these partners are selected based on brand and audience affinity rather than popularity, and that they’re given the freedom to tell their story in their own way.

Influencers are content creators – it’s what they do – and true collaboration should look a lot less like ads and a lot more like content marketing.

Fortunately, influencers understand this too – the #1 reason they cite as to why they decide to work with brands is that they already love the product, and post about it organically.

Influencers (at least, most of them) want to protect their audiences and maintain their following – so if they’re a good fit for the brand, they should be on to a winner.

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Hotline – May 2018

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Hot on the heels of the closure of NME’s print edition last March, Time Inc. UK has announced that Look magazine will also be shutting down. The final issue, published on 29th May, marked the closure of the Look brand altogether as, unlike NME, it will not be carrying on with a digital edition. Look garnered an impressive reach at its launch with 300,000 copies circulating per week in 2007. This was down to a mere 57,110 in 2017, with the migration of fashion and celebrity content to digital sources cited as a main cause. Time Inc. UK will now focus on growing its Marie Claire brand, which has seen success with its female empowerment initiative, WomanKind, among a new generation of readers.


The future is looking bright for Twitter as it reported a 28% year-on-year increase in ad revenue this quarter, marking its second profitable quarter in a row. Revenue from non-US markets reached $287 million over the last year, bringing it very close to overtaking US ad revenue, which generated $288 million. Strong growth in the Asia-Pacific region has been fuelled by video in Japan and performance ad products in China. Notably, rising ad revenue also comes as the platform’s number of daily active users has increased 10% year-on-year. Twitter is increasingly the hub for conversation around global events and it appears advertisers are catching on.


Despite – or perhaps because of – Facebook’s recent privacy scandals, Mark Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook will be putting its users’ data to good use, building ‘real, long-term relationships’ through a Facebook dating app. Matches will be based on common interests, mutual friends and, most importantly, groups and events both users are connected to. This is designed to mirror real-life dating which usually occurs through institutions or events. Zuckerberg has promised that privacy and safety will be front of mind as the app is launched.


Google Play Music is being replaced by the newly-coined ‘YouTube Music’ in an attempt to take market share away from streaming platform giants Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. The subscription service will cost $9.99 (£7.40) a month, and will enable users to remove adverts during continued listening, similar to Spotify’s offering. However YouTube stated that this is not setting out to ‘kill Spotify’ but is simply a means of staying competitive in the market. The platform has launched in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Korea by 22nd May before being rolled out into 14 additional countries at a  later date.

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Talking Shop: Social Turns Shoppable

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In recent months, much of the news around social media has been relatively negative – for platforms and advertisers alike. GDPR, illegal use of data, fake news – all these things have gone some way to masking the improvement or launch of new products for advertisers and agencies.

The area where innovation is most prevalent within social is shopping. Instagram has launched shoppable posts, buyable pins are being supported further on Pinterest, and Facebook’s Marketplace continues to see growth.

Instagram is a particularly exciting development for advertisers. Previously used largely as an opportunity to deliver on brand targets, shoppable posts bring a direct response edge to Instagram’s engaging, visual platform. The posts will allow advertisers to showcase up to five products, click to see more information, and then visit the purchase page via one click to the advertiser mobile site.

The overwhelming benefit for the consumer will be ease of experience. A user will no longer have to navigate from post to site, opening another browser and searching directly. The journey should be shorter, which will also benefit a brand’s online attribution. Where currently a user’s purchase journey may be punctuated by necessary natural or paid search clicks, shoppable formats should give a better indication of the value of paid social and the direct effect on online sales.

Accepting the fact that the format is relatively new, there are some areas of which advertisers need to be wary. For example, product detail and price are the only information pulled in, which means that a user is still required to purchase via the mobile site of a brand – often still a poor and slow experience. Advertisers, therefore, will remain under pressure to convert the traffic from shoppable formats, even if the consumer has already been pushed slightly further down the purchase journey.

Another concern is where a user spends their time online. If users are spending time on Instagram browsing products, they are spending less time on brands’ sites or apps and building engagement. With people spending less time on Facebook, shoppable formats are an intelligent move to increase dwell time within their ecosystem. Although they may not choose to monetise the format directly – outside of their regular ad platform – just having the formats organically will mean advertisers need to spend more within Instagram in order to disrupt the consumer.

Instagram Shoppable Posts feel a long way from the Facebook Buy Button, which seemed to be a rushed initiative to enter the e-commerce arena. Social shopping is a much more mature concept for consumers now and it’s the right time for Instagram to push its own format.

Available soon to test, it’s a perfect opportunity for advertisers to trial social commerce within an environment that is far less cluttered than other feeds. Whether consumers enjoy this way of purchasing, and if it encourages less loyalty and advocacy, remains to be seen, but those first to trial are likely to see the greatest benefit.

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Has DAZN Created a Daze in the Sports Streaming Market?

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London-based streaming service DAZN (part of the sports media group Perform) packed a punch in the sporting world this month with a $1bn (£736m) deal to revolutionise pay-per-view boxing in the US.

Starting from September, this eight-year deal with promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing allows the platform to broadcast 16 bouts in the US, as well as 16 UK events that are broadcast by Matchroom’s partner Sky Sports. With the likes of global superstars Anthony Joshua, Tony Bellew and Amir Khan on the bill, US boxing fans are in for a treat – and for just $12 a month compared with the $70-$100 often charged for individual pay-per-view events.

Perform chief executive Simon Denyer is already describing DAZN as “a Netflix for sport”, and with its deep pockets funded by Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard Blavatnik’s Access Industries, you’d be ill-advised not to take him at his word. As the platform expands, chief executive James Rushton is considering allowing advertising for the first time, having said: “I could see a scenario whereby we start to experiment with different types of sponsorship and ad formats on DAZN around the world next year.”

With an established footprint in Japan (Major League baseball), Germany (football) and Canada (NFL), DAZN is aiming to crack the States with this boxing offering targeting the 10 million avid boxing fans across the pond, which includes an estimated 3 million ‘hardcore’ supporters. In the process, they will look to usurp both HBO and Showtime in their boxing coverage, in what has been billed by Eddie Hearn as ‘an historic moment for Matchroom and the sport of boxing’.

Although headquartered in London, DAZN does not operate in the UK; Sky and BT’s stranglehold on the market means it continues to struggle to obtain the sole UK streaming rights. However, this latest colossal deal shows how the consumption of sports content is changing.

Oath’s study on this summer’s World Cup found that one in four viewers will be using their phones as the main way to seek out additional information: a third of UK fans are interested in on-demand replays, 18% are keen on 360-degree virtual reality stadium tours, and 15% want to see a table-top augmented reality version of the game.

With World Cup matches shown live across both ITV and BBC, the coverage is estimated to reach 76% of the UK population, with 96% of viewers having the intention to watch with others (ITV). The way viewers – male or female, young or old, short or tall – are engaged throughout the month-long tournament is changing, as highlighted at the end of the World Cup in 2014 where social engagement on Facebook pushed the overall figure to three billion interactions.
DAZN’s latest foray into sports streaming shows how deeply viewers are engaging in sports content – and it’s clearly much more than just linear TV.

Sport will predominantly still be watched live but easy-to-access content will always appeal to fans. Sky and BT’s significant grip on UK sports coverage means such a move by DAZN may take some time for its influence to be felt – but there is a market for their offering and it looks set for growth.

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Does Your Marketing Feel Like Groundhog Day?

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Earlier this month Kantar’s 2018 Dimension Study found 72% of people say they’re seeing the same ads over and over again.

This might be an innocuous case of advertisers trying to hit optimal frequency levels, but given the same study found 65% would prefer to see more relevant ads, there’s a definite suggestion people are seeing too much of something they don’t want.

The problem seems likely to be caused by ads online. The same study found more people (33% v 25%) claim to enjoy TV ads on a TV set when compared to a laptop or mobile; the same is true of printed magazines vs online print (32% v 26%).

The problem is further highlighted by the 56% who often see ads online for products they’ve already purchased, and 64% who would like greater control over the ads they see online.

Therein lies the problem for those advertising online: people are aware of the targeting abilities the medium provides advertisers. They’ve been chased by ads and heard the stories about Facebook data. This means the wrong ad online isn’t tolerated in the way it might be for an offline channel, because people know we can do better.
Better online advertising will adhere to three rules:

1) It doesn’t spam.
The low entry costs and low CPM’s of online media make it easy to bludgeon an audience with ads until a few convert. But as people who use the internet, we all know that too often it becomes too much. Advertisers and agencies have the data available to tell when that extra impression is useless, or when a person has already purchased the product in the ad. Data can tell us who not to target as much as who to target.

2) It considers context.
Online media is unique in the number of different contexts in which it is accessed. This makes it all the more important to consider what people are doing in the moment your ad appears, and if it’s a moment your ad should be present.
People actively seeking information want messages which help them; those simply killing time want something that entertains. Publishers and ad-networks have helped cram advertising into every corner of the internet, but advertisers and agencies need to ask which are right for the message they have.

3) It says something interesting.
Online video may be the ‘hand-me-down’ of TV, just as banners are from print. But to copy and paste the creative across from either is to ignore how these formats are then being consumed online.
The competition for attention online couldn’t be higher, and for those who find your ad irrelevant it couldn’t be easier to skip past it. So there’s a need to design messages for those contexts they are to appear in, rather than simply transpose what is running elsewhere.

The industry’s traditional threat of not getting online advertising right is the threat of adblocking. But a far greater concern should be the negative impact it has on prospective customers – as they can not only spot lazy online marketing, but get annoyed by it too.

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On Purpose: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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Much like Socrates of old, here at the7stars we like to question, think and talk about our purpose – so we were naturally interested to see the latest Fit for Purpose Index, released this month by Radley Yeldar.

The overarching lesson from the index is that actions speak louder than words: a brand purpose should sit within the overall business plan, trickling into all business decisions rather than existing in isolation as a glib line of marketing copy.

To come up with the list, released annually, Radley Yeldar analyses five facets of purpose: authentic story; clear communication; ambitions and targets relating back to purpose; employee engagement with the purpose; and whether the business is clearly aligned on one purpose.

Looking past ‘meaningful’ marketing campaigns, the index separates those who work towards a common purposeful goal from those where a sense of purpose is appropriated superficially and applied at a marketing level.

Unilever comes in at number one; a company founded by a Victorian visionary whose purpose in 1890 was to “to make cleanliness commonplace; to lessen work for women; to foster health and contribute to personal attractiveness, that life may be more enjoyable and rewarding for the people who use our products”. Now no longer only a soap business, Unilever’s purpose has been developed and broadened, but the sentiment otherwise lives on.

Interestingly, the company’s ex-global brand chief recently moved to home appliance maker Beko, where she pivoted the company’s marketing strategy to make more of existing work tackling the childhood obesity epidemic.

The ‘Eat Like a Pro’ campaign culminated this month with the Beko sponsorship badge replaced with #EatLikeaPro on Barcelona players’ shirts in the El Clasico match against Real Madrid. A total of 1.2 million tweets were driven on the topic, with Beko matching each one with a donation of €1 to charity partner Unicef Children. Because it was based on an existing sports sponsorship and partnership with a relevant charity, the stunt was entirely credible.

Looking across to other industries, tech performs poorly in comparison – the Silicon Valley giants might have purposeful visions but they are rarely followed through. In Mark Zuckerberg’s own words Facebook exists “to make the world more open and connected”.  But following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and with Facebook’s algorithmically-created filter bubble blamed as a contributing factor in recent global political divisions, it is easy to see why they performed poorly when looking at purpose in a more holistic sense.

But does this matter? Do consumers even care about brand purpose? And will they even know if that on-trend ad campaign isn’t aligned with a brand’s wider behaviour?

Just one look at Gen Z, the latest consumer demographic to capture marketers’ eyes, is enough to reinforce the fact that brand purpose is here to stay. More than any generation yet, Gen Z care that the brands they associate with have meaning.

More so, 67% of Gen Z believe that “being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool” – so, yes, purpose matters. But authenticity of purpose matters most.

It’s here that many brands get stuck. In the clamour for purpose, too many confuse meaningfulness with worthiness. People know brands are businesses, but they still believe they can have interests beyond profit as long as it fits with their brand reason.

It makes sense for a soap brand to aspire for cleanliness and attractiveness, or for a beauty brand to celebrate a diverse sense of beauty.

Consumers value purposeful meaning from their brand transactions, even if they aren’t expecting the meaning of life.

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What’s On the Box? The Year’s Most Anticipated TV

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If you’ve just about picked yourself up off the floor after the Royal Wedding, then you’ll no doubt be looking forward to the next televisual delight of 2018.

According to the Q1 2018 Thinkbox TV viewing report, the box in the corner still rules the roost, with the average person watching around three-and-a-half hours of TV per day on a TV set. With this in mind, we asked British viewers about their most-anticipated TV events of the coming year in the latest round of our tracking study – The QT.

Unsurprisingly, the upcoming FIFA World Cup is a priority for 49% of men. But with only 11% of women placing it in their top three, it looks like there might be some fights for the remote control.

A similar proportion of women (12%) were looking forward to the latest series of The Handmaid’s Tale on Channel 4, which made its return on May 20th with particularly bleak scenes in the world of Gilead.

At the opposite end of the televisual spectrum, teasers have begun to air for Love Island, ITV’s runaway success, which is in the top three TV events of the year for nearly two-fifths (38%) of 18-24 year-olds. It’s an isolated demographic however – this figure drops to 20% of 25-34s and just 2% of those aged 35 and over. The gender difference is again apparent here, with 36% of women aged 18-24 hotly anticipating the new series compared with only 15% of their male counterparts. There’s no accounting for taste!

Well-oiled classics continue to be popular. A fifth of Brits (20%) can’t wait for the next series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, which isn’t due to grace screens until October at the earliest. You just can’t beat watching D-list celebrities eating insects – and it spells good news for ITV in the autumn.

The new series of Strictly Come Dancing is a keenly-awaited TV event too. This is most notable among the older demographic, with 29% of those aged 65 and over looking forward to their sequin fix compared with a mere 3% of under 45s. Long-term rival The X Factor seems to be coming of age, with the cohort most anticipating the new series being those aged 35-44 (18%) and only 7% of 18-24s counting it among their top TV events of 2018.

The age gap is also apparent when it comes to the new season of Call the Midwife, which is barely on the radar of younger generations but eagerly anticipated by a third of those aged 65 and over (32%).

With evidence of so much division in households across Britain, it seems that 2018 could be the year of private screens rather than big family moments.

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#adenough? Time for Advertisers to Take the Lead on HFSS

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For some time, the government has been under pressure to review the current rules governing the advertising of food high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS).

Now the HFSS review has been given renewed impetus thanks to a campaign spearheaded by Jamie Oliver (of course). He’s supporting a ban on the advertising of such products before the 9pm watershed, as well as stricter measures covering non-broadcast media.

Oliver has called for “proper controls on what ads kids see online, in the street and on public transport”.  MPs called for a ban earlier this year on all HFSS TV advertising before the 9pm watershed – a move that Labour pledged to make before last year’s general election.

The Committee of Advertising Practice, which writes the UK’s codes of practice for advertising, has been reviewing the effectiveness of current regulation. The first piece of major regulation came into force in 2007 – a move that unintentionally sped up the decline of children’s TV on the main ITV and Channel 4 channels.

Last year new rules came in banning advertising for HFSS in non-broadcast media either aimed at children or where they make up at least 25% of the audience. It brought channels including social media, magazines and billboards into line with TV.

CAP said it was “widely acknowledged that factors other than advertising are the main influences on our children’s waistlines, including socio-economic circumstances, parental choices, school policies, sedentary pastimes, levels of understanding about nutrition and the availability of HFSS products”. CAP will evaluate the evidence and publish an analysis later this year.

There is no doubt that HFSS advertising pounds are being invested into family entertainment shows such as The Voice and The X-Factor that are outside the reach of current regulation. Outside of TV, the likes of YouTube, cinema and outdoor (in proximity to schools) also receive more than their fair share of HFSS investment.

It is time for the industry to take the lead ahead of more draconian regulatory measures coming in, starting with an acknowledgment that children’s media habits have changed since the initial 2007 rules came into effect. As a sector, if we can demonstrate that we’re able to prohibit children from being actively targeted then perhaps a wider advertising ban can be avoided.

The industry effectively faces a choice between taking the initiative to ensure the rules are still fit for purpose and waiting to be told what to do next.

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Lightbox Loves: Summer Viewing

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With gloriously sunny skies, reports of record breaking temperatures throughout May, and packed out parks, advertisers might be considering a switch in tactics to reach their audiences. A major assumption is that summer is the season for lighter TV viewing, and whilst this might be true for on-going TV ‘snacking’, there’s still an opportunity for brands to make the most of the medium.

From the Royal Wedding to the FA Cup Final to the building hype around Love Island, it’s been busy month for TV and it’s only going to get busier. TV continues to smash audience reach with the Royal Wedding reaching 17.1m people, whilst also airing during one of the hottest days of the year so far. Of course, this event proves to be somewhat exceptional in capturing the heart of the entire nation.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t similar and more regular events achieving strong levels of reach. The FA Cup final reached 4.7m people for it’s 90 minutes, England’s opening match vs. Italy reached 15.6m whilst Love Island is expected to continue it’s momentum for this series and reach over 2 million viewers (an impressive number for TV series). Although these numbers prove TV’s vitality through summer, another point worth noting is that the diverse range of targeted content means there’s always something for everyone to tune into.

The question remains then, how best can we align brands with summer viewing. One approach can be seen in Iceland’s summer campaign. Having their BBQ products at the heart of the ads allows them to be seasonally relevant, whilst the narrators discuss the context they’re placed in; “Doesn’t she look lovely”, when positioned after the Royal Wedding.
Despite the fact that us Brits are in desperate need for some vitamin D, the content available to all audiences is securing millions of viewers. Aligning brands with big TV events and popular series presents wonderful opportunities for highly targeted campaigns.