Monthly Archives

March 2019

Programmatic is Dead

By | Featured

Programmatic is Dead. Long live Programmatic.

Or whatever we’re gonna call it this year. Real-time data-led decisioning is obviously now behind pretty much every ad that get’s booked, as are the technology solutions to connect to addressable media – 90% of 2020 display spend (£6.8B) is expected to be programmatic*, and ever more so in the evolving OOH and TV broadcasting landscape.

*eMarketer UK ad spending report 2019

As such, we thought we’d put together 7 quick viewpoints that (continue to be) high areas of interest;


  • Trust

Buying through a programmatic specialist team, or through technology, shouldn’t reward with bonuses, increased margin, or anything else – it should be the soley based on the best solution for the campaign activation and optimisation.


  • Agnostic

Campaign deliverly should not be swayed by anything other than a campaign goal – client’s are investing more and more now, and shouldn’t have to question whether any other KPI is at play.


  • Humanist

Client’s should have an honest and open opinion, and agencies shouldn’t take budget or campaigns just for the sake of it. Can this budget go direct to a publisher? Is there a way programmatic can work alongside a tradional buy? Is there a justifiable attribution towards channels? Will the creative just not work and need push back?


  • Fully integrated and holistic planning and buying

Data and technology is a tool, not a line on a plan – programmatic needs to stop being considered a budget.


  • Creative at the heart

Internet users should never see a bad ad! The behavioural impact of CTA, colour, branding, audio, emotions, etc, is undeniably highly important in a campaigns performance. Digital creative strategy, consultancy and solutions should sit on the same table as everything else to ensure that every ad is optimal for every user.


  • Data informed, not data led

Data is great, and with the right tools traders have more than enough to make every penny count. But there are other elements at play during a campaign that should always be considered, and used – trending news, weather, competitor offers, and obviously hundreds more. Sometimes the DSP goggles need to come off!


  • Transparency

At the7stars, we provide 100% transparency across our programmatic campaign buys, running only on Ads.txt inventry, and recently IAB Gold Standard, and DSTG certified.


It’s an obvious one this….but if a business can’t offer transparency and agnosticism along the programmatic supply chain, to the best of their ability, then clients should always be asking questions.


Lightbox Loves: Is Other the New Mother?

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

In a world where a mother figure is defined less and less by biology and more by the values they embody, what is the future of motherhood?

Whilst Meghan Markle may be one of the most famous pregnant women at the moment, she embodies a very traditional, pristine image of ‘being with child’, while the future seems much more unruly. Waves of the new dawn of motherhood have been afoot for many years, with celebs regularly making an event of posting their bare all pregnancy pics. More recently, pregnancy and motherhood have taken a defiant turn. Notably, Slick Woods walked the 2018 Fenty show while having contractions, and Model Valaria Garcia strutted the runway wearing a breast pump in the same year. No longer is motherhood a distinct segment of a woman’s life, and one be sanitised. The future says it will be in your face and unapologetic.1

On the other hand, while motherhood is increasingly being ‘seen’ in society, finally we are also moving away from it being every woman’s raison d’être. Welcome to otherhood! For those gals and guys who actively choose not to have children, there is now a term that doesn’t sound like it crept out of a tragic Victorian novel. Otherhood embodies those who do not have children because they have actively chosen other priorities, namely change and mobility. They appreciate the value of not needing to set down roots and live by linear lifestages, with the added benefit of keeping their carbon foot print low by not having kids.

For marketers, otherhooders are the favourite “Aunts” and “Uncles”, who have money to spare and spend! To appeal to the group it’s all about inclusivity, and normalising an often stigmatised lifestyle choice. Otherhooders are particularly attracted to brands that support their restless lifestyles such as the various ‘rent a dog’ platforms and flexible subscription services like Zipcar.2


  1. Mums the Word: Representations of Mums & Motherhood in Advertising by Bridget Dalton, Sign Salad
  2. The Otherhood by Jim Mott & Tom Kingham, BAMM

Lightbox Loves: Give a brand the mic

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

With all the power they yield and the influence they can have on our lives, should brands play a bigger role in paradigm shifting moments like Brexit?

Just to illustrate to you the immense wealth (and therefore, power) that these brands possess, research conducted by Business Insider revealed that Walmart had, “out-earned Belgium in 2017.” In fact if Walmart were a country, then they’d be the 24th richest. Ludicrous, right? If that’s not shocking enough, Volkswagen’s revenue is greater than the GDP of Chile, equalling $276,264 million (2017) compared to Chile’s GDP of $250,008 million (2016), and Chile is one of the most stable economies in South America, ahead of Argentina and Brazil. This depicts the sheer ability brands have to buy themselves a whole country (hypothetically speaking, of course) and still have some change left over. Such purchasing power brings with it some huge perks and usually a voice worth hearing.

Moreover, the cultural importance brands hold should not be overlooked. It wasn’t long ago when Nike dared to go near the ever controversial Kaepernick with their “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” campaign. Such bravery to embark on a heated situation like that showed the world that brands are willing to speak for people (no matter the repercussions) when the government didn’t. And although this caused an uproar for some, it did something that politicians on their own have never been able to tap into; the ability to stand for a cause rather than just for themselves. To be first the cause, then to attract the believers.

Lastly, Brexit is a showcase in its unpredictable infancy of how brands react when they don’t get what they want. We are still yet to leave the EU or to decide on a deal, and yet companies are pulling out of contracts and closing production in regions with untold consequences. For instance, Honda plans to shutdown their operations in Swindon – that’s potentially 3,400 jobs and further thousands of unforetold indirect jobs, to be lost. We have already seen the impacts that such lost of jobs can have in a region. Can we afford to test this out, again and again? On the other hand, brands have the power and extra resources to aid in matters that fall short of government priority e.g. Patagonia donating $10 Million to the Trump Tax Savings for the aiding of green groups.

YouGov found that 52% of Brits think that companies should be able to express how they feel on a certain topic. 42% are also in favour of brands that are willing to get involved in social issues. Therefore, my question is: if brands had voiced their views on Brexit in the same way that politicians did, would you have voted differently? Or more compellingly, would the result of been different?


Lightbox Loves: Balance for Better

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

From June 2019 onwards, ads depicting men or women in stereotypical roles will be banned by the ASA. This rule change is intended to mitigate real-world harm that comes about as a result of gender inequality, such as the gender pay gap or male mental health issues[1].

With the new rules, Yorkie’s “Not For Girls” ad campaign or Asda’s Christmas ad showing a Mum rushing around whilst Dad puts his feet up, would not be allowed. The wider context of the rule will also ban ads aimed at new mothers that suggest looking attractive is necessary for their emotional wellbeing.

These new rules are in line with the direction many advertisers are already going down. Many of the old tropes don’t cut it with consumers anymore. Since the “Beach Body Ready” outcry of 2015, the social media impact of having a controversial ad has been clear.

Though there is a question over whether ads could become too politically correct and whether potentially humorous scenarios would now be banned for fear of causing offence. For example the MoneySuperMarket ad, showing a group of men dancing in hot pants and heels, was not upheld by the ASA[2] as they “…thought most viewers would recognise the ad’s intended take on humour.” However with this new ruling coming into place, brands might not be as brave, in fear of their ads being removed or ridiculed in an environment of heightened sensitivity.

Going in the right direction is the current campaign from Mothercare[3], celebrating the beauty of real mothers. In the #BodyProudMums campaign, they have photographed 10 mothers in the weeks or months after birth. With no photoshopping, these images show all the lumps, bumps and scars that pregnancy and childbirth can cause and are intended to instil confidence and pride in new mums, whilst removing the pressure to “snap-back” to a previous size or shape.

With International Women’s Day theme this year being “Balance for Better” [4], the day will be focussed on striving for a gender-balanced world. We expect to see many brands embracing these themes on 8th March and beyond.





Lightbox Loves: Brexit means Brands

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

At the end of an exceptionally turbulent week in British politics, when divisions in parliament, reflecting the divisions of the UK as a whole, are shown at their most stark, we see very little cohesive vision of what the future holds. For many, this discord and lack of direction raises a spectre of very real and imminent chaos in their lives as geo-political shifts threaten short term access to medicine, food, and, for almost 4 million, the foundations of their lives in the UK.

As the chamber rang with the brays and shouts of MPs, a white coach pulled into Parliament square. On it was emblazoned the slogan ‘Deal or no deal, our customers will save £187 million on roaming charges. Vote Three’. This stunt by the mobile provider is, of course, not the first foray by a brand into the maelstrom of Brexit. Most recently HSBC’s We are not an island campaign appeared on billboards across the nation. The polarising ad was as divisive as the referendum campaign and, as a result of a Twitter backlash, HSBC downplayed the political message.

Three, in aping one of the most recognisable symbols of the referendum campaign activate a powerful association while offering a solution to an, albeit small, aspect of uncertainty. They also make the cheeky point that a fiscal promise on the side of a bus coming from a mobile provider, in the current climate, is actually worth more than a politician’s promise. Brands have a net trust among the British public of 15%, far exceeding the net trust enjoyed by the government (-62%), the political system (-66%) and UK Political Parties (-72%). They can therefore offer a more respected voice than the country’s leaders.

Brands will be able to smooth the transition in small ways for consumers. In contrast to HSBC, Three offers a tangible benefit to consumers. We can find a political message in it, from both sides of the division, but its primary purpose is to offer certainty; a valuable commodity at the moment.


EU Migration to and from the UK. Migration (Dec 2018)

HSBC says we are not an island campaign isn’t about Brexit. The Drum. (Jan 2019)

The QT. the7stars. (Feb 2019)


Migration of the Millennials

By | Featured, What's Hot

Younger audiences are watching less TV than in 2018, it was revealed this month. The number of linear television adverts seen by 16-34 year olds has slumped by a fifth year-on-year, with Sky and Channel 4 most affected by the drop in commercial impacts.

The latest BARB data shows that both Sky and Channel 4’s 16-34 impacts have dropped by 23% year-on-year, while ITV’s has dropped by 7%. TV ad revenue has however remained fairly flat during this time period.

It is often reported that the increasingly popular subscription video-on-demand services are stealing their fair share of the younger audience, but what’s interesting is that linear Sky and Channel 4 have been hit the hardest.

Sky’s Premier League schedule in January is often diminished due to the live FA Cup fixtures on BT Sport and BBC, and this year also saw the loss of Celebrity Big Brother.

Channel 4’s schedule at the beginning of 2019 was weighted towards public service broadcasting versus the same time in 2018 – and may have been affected by their position on the Sky TV Guide (“Electronic Programme Guide” or EPG) having been moved too.

Although we see this decline in linear 16-34s impacts, Thinkbox have demonstrated that when linear and broadcast video-on-demand are combined, reach amongst the audience now is roughly the same as a stand alone linear campaign ten years ago.

As Thinkbox’s Matt Hill has argued, broadcaster VOD services are “now a necessity, not a luxury” – particularly for brands wanting to reach this younger audience.

Consumers are now willing to pay for content (provided it is good of course) and often sign up to more than one subscription service – although for the first time Apple TV has signed up some platforms to allow users to make one payment through the app to access multiple streaming sites.

Britbox meanwhile – another subscription service announced recently – will allow both ITV and BBC to keep hold of their own created content rather than sell them, as seen when ITV shot themselves in the foot with their sale of the ever popular Bodyguard to BBC and then Netflix.

Young audiences may be watching less linear TV but viewing of non-linear and catch-up content is higher than ever before. In fact, All 4 recorded its best ever viewing figures during March with 19.4m impressions in a single week. This was thanks to a schedule consisting of Leaving Neverland, Derry Girls, and Celebs Go Dating and far exceeded their previous record of 16.5m achieved during October 2018.

At a time of uncertainty in the economy and political environment, it is pleasing to see TV ad revenue remain stable.

For some time it has been difficult to target the younger 16-34 audience on linear television alone and some argue the growing popularity of paid-for and ad-free subscription services has provided another stumbling block to get in front of this hard-to-reach audience.

However the demand for high-quality video content is high and the use of broadcast video-on-demand among this age group is only increasing. With binge-worthy programmes such as Game of Thrones, Love Island and The Circle appearing back on our screens in a few months, the future’s bright – the future’s on-demand.

The Modern Family: Motherhood or ‘Otherhood’?

By | Featured, What's Hot

The modern family is changing: childlessness in particular has nearly doubled in the last 30 years. A generation ago in the UK 11% of women aged 45 were childless, while today that has risen to one in five (18%).

Welcome to “Otherhood”. The term was introduced by Melanie Notkin in her 2014 study of women who don’t have children – either by choice or by circumstance, and more recently cultural insight agency BAMM conducted research looking into both women and men who have actively chosen not to have children.

Otherhood embodies those who do not have children because they have chosen other priorities: namely change and mobility. They appreciate the value of not needing to set down roots, with the added benefit of keeping their carbon footprint low by not having kids.

For marketers Otherhooders are the favourite “Aunts” and “Uncles” who have money to spare and to spend.

To appeal to the group it’s all about inclusivity, and normalising an often stigmatised lifestyle choice. Otherhooders are particularly attracted to brands that support their restless lifestyles. Brands will need to cater to flexibility  such as the various ‘rent a dog’ platforms and subscription services like Zipcar.

Otherhooders want to improve themselves and gather valuable life experiences – so brands have an opportunity to offer experience and learning as part of their service.

On the other hand motherhood is increasingly being ‘seen’ in society. Whilst Meghan Markle may be one of the most famous pregnant women at the moment, she embodies a very traditional, pristine image of being “with child”, while the future seems much more unruly.

Waves of the new dawn of motherhood have been afoot for many years, with celebs regularly making an event of posting their bare-all pregnancy pics.

Cultural signals of pregnancy and motherhood have taken a defiant turn more recently.  Notably, Slick Woods walked the 2018 Fenty show while having contractions, and model, Valaria Garcia, strutted the runway wearing a breast pump in the same year.

No longer is motherhood a distinct segment of a woman’s life, and one be sanitised.  The future says it will be in your face and unapologetic.

Brands should adapt to this new world – whether targeting this group specifically or not they should be sensitive to the understanding that a modern family no longer means two parents and 2.4 children.

For more from the Cultural Insights Forum on the make-up of the modern family, get in touch.

Watch It: Big TV Festival 2019

By | Featured, What's Hot

Following a successful debut last year, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Thinkbox collaborated again to host The Big TV Festival, hosted by TV personalities Scarlett Moffatt and Jamie Laing.

Similar to last year 2019 saw a selection of the industry’s rising stars, broadcasters, advertisers, creative powerhouses, analysts and commissioners taking up camp to discuss all things TV; from the best new shows through to a new generation of cars with TV screens instead of windows.

The major news of the festival came in the announcement of Britbox; the joint venture streaming service from the BBC and ITV aiming to be released in Q3 of this year.

According to ITV 43% of all online homes would be interested in having access to a service which focuses on the best of British content. Britbox will satisfy this need, featuring archive British TV shows and freshly commissioned programming.

Channel 4 is yet to team up in the joint venture – having them on board would certainly add scale to the proposition – however it remains to be seen whether the offer of the “Best of British” will be enough to entice consumers to sign up to yet another subscription service in a marketplace dominated by Amazon and Netflix that is growing evermore fragmented.

Plenty of quality new content was on show at the two-day event with each of the saleshouses providing previews into their most notable programming coming up in 2019.

ITV gave a sneak peak of the new series of The Voice Kids, which promises to be as much of a pull on the heartstrings as ever, while Channel 4 played a sequence from the Celebrity edition of their hit show SAS: Who Dares Wins.

However, the Golden Globe of the event goes to Sky and HBO and their new drama Chernobyl; the gritty and shocking portrayal of the human side of the natural disaster promises to be a stand out moment of the TV calendar.

Outside of the showreels, further highlights included Natalie Pinkham talking about the power of live sport – with the almost unbelievable stat that 97% of the UK population watched live sport in 2018.

Meanwhile Lorna Hawkin prophesised about the benefits of a growth mindset in relation to advertising effectiveness, and Thinkbox hosted a panel showcasing best-in-class TV campaigns.

Rory Sutherland also returned to the top of the bill; this time exploring the dangers of a model becoming a mindset and the pitfalls of rational versus emotional thinking in advertising.

With the pace that the video advertising market is changing it’s imperative to have events like this in the calendar, both to inspire new thinking and stay ahead of the curve.

Roll on BTVF 2020.

Cast Away: Spotify Makes Its Move On Podcasts

By | Featured, What's Hot

Music-streaming service platform Spotify has this month announced the acquisition of yet another podcast platform. Following the buyout of Gimlet and Anchor earlier this year Spotify has now also acquired Parcast – an LA-based production studio specialising in true-crime – in a deal suggested to be worth $100 million.

By acquiring the companies – taking on popular true-crime podcast series such as Serial Killers and Unsolved Murders as well as the mystery scripted series Homecoming – Spotify hopes to compete with current leader Apple Podcasts. These purchased shows will sit alongside Spotify’s original content and will be curated by the team that has built its Discover Weekly playlist feature.

It comes as no surprise that Spotify is attempting to open up its platform to the spoken word, especially following Ofcom’s recent report that the amount of weekly listeners of podcasts has almost doubled in five years.

According to these latest figures nearly 6 million adults tune in to podcasts each week, including one in five of those aged 15-24. Interestingly this represents not just a shift in consumption but an increasing demand for audio content in general; almost all podcast listeners (96%) also listen to the radio.

For brands, podcast advertising provides an opportunity for them to tap into an engaged audience. This mobile-first audience can be targeted in a specific way (via cherry-picking podcasts for example) and yet ads can be delivered dynamically through real-time creative optimisation based on factors such as location or time of day.

This approach has unfortunately fallen into the digital approach of old, however, with marketers often asking all digital inventory to be measured on a CPA or traffic basis.

For many it is still a temptation to report digital metrics on a last-touch CPA basis. Most podcasts now feature an advert for a subscription or offer with a unique code to enter online – but this approach underestimates the power of podcast advertising and feels more in tune with ripping Big Mac vouchers out of the newspaper than providing an intelligent and attributable measure of effectiveness.

Recently there has been an increasing focus on advertisers integrating seamlessly into the content rather than buying standard airtime, for example with a sponsored series or a “host read” – having the talent themselves record the ads.

Spotify will do well to follow the lead of podcast platforms such as Acast by investing in high-quality production and keeping up with the growing demand for more interesting content.

However, unless they invest simultaneously in a system to measure brand effect and educate their clients and agencies on the same, they may well struggle to see a return.