Monthly Archives

July 2018

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Hotline – July 2018

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ITV is preparing to remove its programming from Netflix as it plans to launch its own rival streaming service. Announced this month, ITV’s chief executive is said to be planning to take its archive of shows to which it has UK rights, including Broadchurch, Victoria and Prime Suspect, from Netflix. ITV’s revenues have been boosted this year thanks to World Cup coverage and the success of Love Island, with ad revenue up 22% in June and 9th in July; contributing to a total increase of 2% across the first six months of 2018. Whether an ad-free streaming will be a success, however, remains to be seen.


A new study from Trinity Mirror Solutions and House 51 has suggested that those working in the ad industry are fundamentally different to consumers. Specifically, the research found that, while analytical thinking dominates our industry, the public tends to think more holistically. This means that the advertisers tend to undervalue the context of advertising, the importance of creating shared rather than individual experiences, and the continued effectiveness of existing creatives and traditional media channels.


Twitter has begun an effort to address social media fraud by deleting tens of millions of suspicious accounts on the platform. Twitter has come under scrutiny recently, as the market has come to invest further in social media influencers. In a move that seeks to restore trust for advertisers and attack those with artificially inflated follower counts, a number of users will have seen their follower account drop. Twitter has estimated that the typical user will see this decrease by about 6%. Some of Twitter’s top ten most followed accounts have also seen a drop – including One Direction member Harry Styles, who’s lost 877,000 followers, bringing him to 32 million. The move should help to maximise ad spend and stamp out fraud across the market.


The heatwave has had a detrimental impact on UK cinema attendance, with box office sales down 20% since June, despite the release of mega-hits Jurassic Park and Ocean’s 8. Between June to mid July last year, the UK box office had taken £128m, this year taking just £103m within the same period. The industry will hope that the long-awaited Incredibles sequel, despite having opened over the weekend of the World Cup final, will convince Brits to head to their local theatre. Major releases such as Fantastic Beasts and family-favourite Mary Poppins Returns should also see attendance back up towards the end of 2018.

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow: LGBT Advertising Post-Pride

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Pride Month and the Pride in London festival has come to a close for another year.

During each year’s celebrations we see more and more brands engage with Pride – and it’s easy to see why. If the global LGBTQ community were a country, its GDP would be the world’s fourth largest.

Pride in London saw approximately 1m attendees this year, and in turn London retailers saw huge spikes in on-the-day revenues. Although impossible to measure with pinpoint accuracy, some report the “Pink Pound” in the UK to be worth around £6bn annually.

Unfortunately, Pride is often tainted by the perception that brands exploit the event for their own gains. Consumers remain unconvinced by flash-in-the-pan rainbow-colored marketing that appears once a year; LGBT+ consumers, and those in support of the LGBT+ community in particular can see right through these tactics. If a brand is deemed to be exploiting a market they risk losing consumers rather than gaining them.

Much like any area of diversity, brands need to strive for authenticity. In the US, 64% of LGBT+ consumers and allies said they were more likely to spend with a brand if they deemed them inclusive. However, inclusivity is not simply introducing a same sex couple into your campaign for one month of the year – it should be a continuous communications effort and far-reaching business objective designed to ensure genuine diversity.

Most importantly, the motivations for inclusivity should stretch beyond just profit. Much like other marginalised groups, the LGBT+ community face huge difficulties – 68% of LGBT people avoid coming out at work, while 2 in 5 have experienced harassment within the last 12 months.

Advertising can help to action positive changes by contributing to our cultural landscape, and in turn helping to shift public opinion. A great example of this was the Nike ‘Yes’ campaign in Australia, where they turned their classic swoosh logo into a symbol for social acceptance in the Marriage Equality postal vote.
For those brands looking to branch into new markets, it can be a sensitive territory to navigate.

But there are more resources than ever available to help them tread carefully. PrideAM, the ad industry’s LGBT network, recently released Outvertising – a resource for brands needing advice on LGBT+ inclusive communications strategies. Similarly, specialist consultancies have launched – take Othervox, for example, an agency providing intelligent LGBT targeting in digital media.

Along with semiotics and cultural insight agency SignSalad, the7stars has also this month released a whitepaper, Representing?, exploring the ways in which brands can champion diversity without offending and, importantly, making sure they avoid tokenism.

Brands have started waving the rainbow flag – now they need to make sure they’re supporting diversity year-round.

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Influencers: The Reality of Fake Audiences

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In 2018, a huge 39% of marketers plan to increase their investment into influencer marketing.

But with so many reports of fake audiences – including recent claims that 12% of Instagrammers buy fake followers – brands would be forgiven for thinking they have stumbled into digital marketing’s new Wild West.

Facebook has even admitted that around 3% of Facebook accounts are still fake despite its algorithms nipping many in the bud at their source (the social media giant deleted 583m fake accounts in Q1 alone this year).

A major contribution to these issues is the severe over-emphasis on reach, across the industry – often at the expense of relevance, content quality and engagement. This, along with the eruption of influencer discovery tools and social networks, has meant that by simply having the right kind of numbers, even the least credible influencers have managed to gain a place on some media plans.

A similar case can be seen across other social platforms. But in this case, it may not be within platforms’ financial interests to stage too much of a crackdown – after all, it inflates their user numbers and can increase revenues.
In order to challenge this issues, the biggest move that agencies and advertisers can do is create demand for genuine engagement, quality content and real advocacy. Emerging technologies can help here, as they provide access to metrics like “active (read: human) audience” and engagement in place of traditional “reach”.

A demand for quality engagement will also provide influencers with a level playing field, in which they’re not having to compete with those who are cheating the system. This will in turn encourage influencers to focus on maintaining their real audiences (something that we know our top influencer partners here at the7stars already do).

But while the right tools make an impact, no amount of data can replace the human element involved in selecting influencer partners: content quality, opinions, preferences and stories play such an important role that a hands-on approach is needed to see through a successful influencer partnership.

While the industry needs to make some major changes, we wouldn’t recommend abandoning influencers altogether. The opportunity to work with passionate and influential partners in the social space remains powerful – even in the face of fake followers.

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In Context: A Review of C4’s Latest Adtech Offering

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Celebs and media planners alike gathered at Camden’s Roundhouse earlier this month for Channel 4’s 2018 Upfronts.
On the 4th July, Channel 4 brought famous faces to the stage to announce several future programming launches – including a Brexit referendum drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch, a Victorian comedy featuring Matt Berry named Year of the Rabbit, and a new dating show titled Flirty Dancing.

On top of this, Channel 4 announced plans to inject an extra £10m funding into E4, and also gave the industry a sneak peek of an exciting new advertising product called “Contextual Moments” – soon to be available for brands to trial.
Contextual Moments is an ad proposition allowing brands to appear on TV within contextually relevant environments. For example a character in a show might be seen enjoying a plate of chips at home, and consequently a brand’s oven chips advert would be placed in the following break.

The pioneering technology will be powered by artificial intelligence – using algorithms to recognise visual and audio cues to identify the right contextual moment for an ad of a particular product or category to be served.
However, until the algorithms have been properly developed, the system will be manually overseen by humans, who will remain vital for approving each contextual moment before going live at this stage.

Channel 4’s own research into the technology sounds promising – in their study, placing contextual ads next to regular spots meant spontaneous awareness went up by 34%, while positive brand perception increased 12%, and purchase intent by 13%.

After development of the AI-driven tech, Channel 4 will be looking to sell contextual moments in bundles to brands across different product categories.

The chief commercial officer of Channel 4, Jonathan Allan, said: “Our pioneering ad tech provides an exciting opportunity for advertisers to test a global first in linear TV ad targeting which we know delivers strong results”.
Channel 4 are currently on the lookout for partners to test the new technology, with an aim for more research and a full market launch in 2019.

While an interesting tech-led development in the otherwise relatively traditional space of linear TV, advertisers are likely to have reservations – particularly when it comes to negative contexts and brand safety.

The challenge for Channel 4 will be in ensuring its algorithms correctly identify brand safe scenes or contexts. However, despite potential uncertainties, Channel 4 are taking a bold step in the right direction to enable smarter and more effective TV planning.

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All Ears: Podcasts Go Mainstream

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This month podcasting service Acast announced that they’ve passed 100m monthly listens – doubling the amount they achieved this time last year.

For regular podcast listeners, its surging popularity may seem unsurprising, but Acast’s thriving fan base actually represents a major milestone in the significant growth of podcast listenership in the UK, and raises the question: are we taking the medium as seriously as we should be?

Podcasts are perhaps unjustly considered ‘niche’. For example, although coming from humble beginnings, fan-favourite ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’ recently sold out the Royal Albert Hall with its live show – not bad for a series that launched just three years ago, having been recorded in one of the presenters’ living rooms.

Acast’s own Audio Intelligence report also shows that 23% of the UK population have listened to a podcast in the last month – while 27% of 16-34s listen at least once a week. On average, Brits spend more than 3.6 hours per week with the channel. Moreover, AudioBoom – another main podcast platform – reported YoY revenue growth of 329% in Q3 2017, showing that brands are becoming more and more interested in the medium to showcase their brand.

The channel is growing rapidly in terms of reach, and thus has real advertising potential. Podcasts offer a unique way for brands to connect with their audience on a more personal and integrated level.  Brands are waking up to this and becoming smarter in the ways they’re using them. The channel lends itself well to branded content, on top of being a pure audio delivery mechanism; we’re seeing more brands actually working with content producers to create their own episode/series in addition to bespoke sponsor reads from the podcasters themselves.

The IAB has also identified podcasts as a channel that needs to be given full attention in the digital audio space. In August 2017, they released a Podcast Playbook to guide marketers in how they approach advertising on podcasts.

Perhaps the key part of podcasting’s immediate future is in how advertisers can go about buying it in conjunction with other audio activity, both to ensure consistent brand messaging but also manage frequency.

Acast have recently started their venture into programmatic buying, with DBM’s fairly recent rollout of audio buying – it’s only be a matter of time before the likes of Acast & AudioBoom work out a better way to work with tradedesks.

Ultimately, this recent news has confirmed what we all know anecdotally – that podcasting is a unique and valuable channel as yet untapped by brands who may be unsure about how to use them in the most effective way. Re-purposing audio ads is one way into the channel, but partnering with talent can be an even better one. One thing is for certain – the future is bright for the medium and for brands who are able to unlock its full potential.

Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: YouTube Music

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Last month Google launched their music streaming platform, YouTube Music. The premium service allows users to stream tracks; listen to playlists and receive tailored music recommendations.

The launch has prompted an overhaul of the charts. Since streaming overtook downloads and physical sales in early 2017 (1), we’ve seen the music landscape continue to shift. Arguably the most famous example being last year, when the Official Chart Company announced changes to the way streaming data is processed in light of Ed Sheeran’s Divide taking up 16 of the Top 20 singles in its week of release (2). Now, with the introduction of YouTube Music, the rules around streaming will change again. From the chart week that the service was introduced, there will now be a distinction made between ‘free’ views or streams (now valued at 600:1) and returning to 100:1 for premium users (3).
As 40% of all music streaming in the UK currently occurs on YouTube (4), will the introduction the new service and the chart changes change the landscape as we know it?

The demographic who will potentially have the most interesting part to play is Gen Z. YouTube is a huge brand for this audience – it’s reported that it is one of the six most popular apps for teenagers (5). Incidentally Spotify or Apple Music don’t get a look in – the other five are made up of either social media or messaging apps. With such a stronghold in this market, will we start to see the more mainstream success of artists or even genres that themselves skew younger?

Interestingly, however, the OCC believe that virality won’t be a way to guarantee a hit – arguing that in the case of the recent Childish Gambino video ‘This Is America’ which garnered a huge amount of chatter online, under the new chart rules the views on YouTube would have moved the track up a maximum of three or four places higher (6).
While we wait to see what impact the new service has upon the charts, Google themselves (of course) stand to be the obvious winner. The messaging used in the ad campaign for the service makes YouTube the single destination for all the content a fan could want – music videos, live performances and now the album itself.

Additionally, with the Google Home gaining popularity, and 32% of consumers using the device to play music (7), the integration of a music streaming service is another way of increasing time spent in the Google universe.


(5)U.S. True to Selfie. Cassandra Study commissioned by Snap Inc.
(7)YouGov Profiles 5th February 2018

Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: A Musk-read

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Now that the dust has settled on the Thai cave rescue, and apologies have been made, it’s a good time to look into the impact of having a ‘one man-brand’.

From the philanthropic Bill Gates, renegade Richard Branson, and…well…Donald Trump, companies being synonymous with their celebrity leaders is nothing new. Recently, another has risen to celebrity status and is arguably one of the most polarizing, Elon Musk.

Musk’s brands (Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company) are often said to be overvalued and driven by a cult of personality (1). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, a strong and outspoken leader that’s happy to take on the nay-saying internet trolls drums up plenty of PR if done correctly. However it’s a fine art, a brand that relies too closely on its figurehead as a source of brand building is at the whim of that person’s foibles.

Musk’s recent outburst against the hero diver of the Thai cave rescue mission (2) is an eyebrow raising reminder that it’s hard to win a PR battle in 280 characters, but very easy to lose one.

With 22.2 million followers, anything tweeted by Musk is far reaching, and though his tweet is now deleted, the wake of it remains. Sentiment analysis for Musk on the day of the tweet was overwhelmingly negative, with 75.9% of all tweets being negative (3), compared to his usual ~30%. Tesla shareholders were also rattled, as a significant source of their brand’s value (fandom for Musk) faltered, resulting in a stock value drop valued at $2 Billion (4%) (4).

Whilst some claim Musk’s shocking statement was a distraction technique from news that he donates regularly to both the Republicans and Democrats to maintain his influence politically, I don’t think his PR team (if they exist) would deem it a worthwhile trade off.

One-man-brands are a risky strategy for building a brand, but it can pay dividends if the right person is at the helm and they have a modicum of PR understanding. Ironically, it’s Musk himself with the best advice: “If somebody attacks you on Twitter, should you say nothing? Probably the answer in some cases is yes, I should probably say nothing more often.”

(3) Crimson Hexagon

Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: The long and short of Pride

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Pride month and Pride in London are well and truly over, time to furl the rainbow flags and box up the glitter for another year, but what’s next for LGBT inclusive brands?

Each year we see more and more brands engaging with Pride whether that’s popping a rainbow in their logo, marching at various Pride events, or partnering with LGBT+ charities to create new products. Brands are all too aware of the profits to be made: Pride in London saw approximately 1m attendees this year, with massive potential for purchasing power giving retailers huge spikes in on-the-day revenues. But to what extent is this just jumping on a bandwagon for the sake of short term business effects?

Many clothing retailers such as TopShop, Primark, ASOS have all been known to release ‘Pride’ lines to help celebrate equality and diversity. However, how much of this is genuine support for a cause and how much is simply rainbow washing for the sake of an easy profit? Many of these clothing brands are still trading with countries which show little support of LGBT communities, and in some cases countries where being gay is still punishable by imprisonment (1). Brands must navigate this territory with caution, LGBT consumers are passionate about their cause and savvier than the average. They will be the first to see right through rainbow washing and are willing to hold a mirror to those brands completely missing the mark. In 2017, Pride in London’s very own campaign saw backlash for using the slogan ‘Homophobia is so gay’ (2), proving that even the most au fait can get it wrong.

In the UK June is officially LGBT Pride month but stamping a rainbow logo on your branding for one month of the year just doesn’t cut it. This year saw July marked as the first ever LGBT Wrath month. A play on the seven deadly sins, Wrath month started as a comic meme that went viral but had a serious undertone (3). The feeling is that Pride shouldn’t be a one off, and not simply a tick mark in brands retail calendars, along with Christmas and Black Friday.
Long term support of the LGBT community makes business sense, if the global LGBT+ were a country its GDP would be the world’s 4th largest (4). And LGBT consumers are loyal, 64% of LGBT+ consumer and allies said they were more likely to spend with a brand if they deemed them inclusive (5).

Much like all marketing theory, when it comes to targeting the LGBT+ community, long term endeavours will always trump short termism. After all if you’re gay in June, you’re probably gay all year long.

(1) (Turkey, Kenya, India
(3) (
(4) (
(5) (

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Does ‘The Long and the Short of It’ need ‘The Wrong and the Shit of it’?

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In July, the nervous wait will be over when the IPA Effectiveness Awards shortlist for 2018 will be released. These are the big ones – awards judged solely on campaign effectiveness, and not ‘brand purpose’ or the shiniest production. The IPA uses these award submissions as a wider litmus test to gauge an understanding of what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to long-term marketing performance; the association’s most famed book on the subject, The Long and the Short of It, is widely lauded by marketers.

In a recent BBH Labs blog post of the same name, Harry Guild disputes the ad industry’s obsession with trying to find a magic formula for success by looking at what works. He makes the point that by only focussing on success stories, as per The Long and the Short of It, we’re all falling victim to survivorship bias – what he refers to as “our tendency to construct faulty ‘learnings’ from winners at the expense of more complex
contextual datasets”.

It’s an entirely valid point. And we’d also add that the IPA’s case studies tend to be centred around large brands with the budgets to match, and so the relevance of their findings to most advertisers can be questioned.

As with most BBH Labs posts, Harry’s observations prompted a wave of firm agreement. “Yeah! What do Binet and Field really know anyway?!”. But Les Binet doesn’t suffer challenges to his throne gladly. In true rap battle style, he made an immediate (albeit very well-mannered) comeback in a post entitled “Good, better, best and f*** the rest?”.

Binet’s riposte highlights his belief that there’s sufficient variance in the quality of the case studies submitted (there are some right ‘clunkers’ in there apparently) to draw statistically robust conclusions. Before dropping the mic he went on to highlight his agreement with Harry by name-dropping his new book: How Not to Plan – 66 Ways to Screw It Up. Always one step ahead.

Our view is fairly simple. The IPA’s analysis is the single most useful source of evidence for advertising effectiveness in the world. While the datasets are much smaller than the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute’s, their relevance to most UK advertisers is unparalleled. And while we should never blindly follow their advice, it’s to be ignored at our peril. Big up Binet and Field – we’re a more effective industry thanks to them.