Monthly Archives

July 2019

The Seven Trends 2019: #6 New Interfaces

By | Featured, The Seven Trends

New interfaces.


Our interaction with different interfaces as a means of experiencing the world is changing.


According to Ray Kurzweil, change – social change, cultural change, technological change, all kinds of change – and the rate at which it happens can only do one thing. Get faster and faster and faster.


We seem to have hit ‘peak social’, evidenced by the shift to chat-based messaging such as WhatsApp and community-orientated platforms such as Twitch, and away from news feeds and posting.

Meanwhile, voice continues to grow – smart speaker penetration has doubled in the past year. Tech brands continue to launch new hardware, competing for the highest share of our homes, and our wallets. The likes of Alexa are moving into integrated appliances, cars and our devices, as well as screens. Combining voice with screens (and other interfaces) drives greater uptake of services, especially shopping, as users can see what they’re buying.

The Crest Chompers skill for Alexa turns a chore into a something kids look forward to.

Contrary to expectations, Amazon don’t plan on selling the ‘top voice spot’ akin to paid search. Instead an algorithm driven by price, usage and reviews will select the top three choices and give them out in a random order. It is important that brands start testing and adapting to the algorithm so they can get onto the Choices shortlist and feature in the most frictionless way possible.

When it comes to taking photographs on your phone, after selfies and other people, ‘reminders snaps’ of things you need to remember are next. A billion photos a day are utility pictures. This is why ‘visual search’ is poised to take off in 2019. Google will finally make their Augmented Reality lens available, turning the smartphone camera into a device that can ‘read’ objects, text and the world around us.

Use cases for AR include as a ‘realworld browser’ (think browsing the menu of a restaurant by pointing your phone at it) and identifying similar products at the best possible price (recognising the clothes worn by a celebrity in a magazine and helping you ‘get the look’). Mercedes used AR to scan their dashboard, acting as a pocket manual, inspired by the insight that 70% of features in a new car go unused.

Any clear picture or text can trigger content anchored to visual search, from brand advertising to products, and data (such as the individual user journey, demographics and location) can be used to serve relevant messages. Expect to see websites anchored in the real world, such as products unlocked by smartphone camera.

So, while change is afoot, really we are seeing new interfaces fit into long established human needs of communication, sociality and expression.

Lightbox Loves: Stranger Things

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Coca-Cola, Burger King, adidas, Pentax, Cadillac and Casio are just a few of the 75 brands reported to appear in the record-breaking third season of Stranger Things (1). Nostalgia is an important theme in the show and brands have intertwined themselves with the series since the beginning. Benefitting both the brand and show alike, it offers mass exposure for the products as well as supporting the Duffer brother’s storytelling. However, has this season taken it too far for consumers?

A study found that, based on viewing figures and screen time, the value of the brand placements amounted to $15m over the first 3 days of the show launching (2). This is a sizable figure considering Netflix have stated none of the product placements were paid for. When the placements were culturally relevant, the products featured benefited from a rise in interest. For example, Coca-Cola saw searches for their 80s product “New Coke” rise by 250% on the release day of the new series (3).

However, consumers took to social media to condemn the makers for allowing their show to be flooded with product placement, particularly when this included forced dialogue and lingering logo shots (4). These negative brand experiences may have taken some of the shine off of the pure media value received by brands.

The show itself has been met with great reviews and, despite some viewers being surprised and annoyed by the product placements, the show is now synonymous with nostalgic 80s brands. However, if there is a season 4, brands should think more about the consumer’s experience and whether the co-promotion fits naturally with the plot, or otherwise risk an inauthentic diversion from the show itself.


  3. Google Trends UK
  4. Twitter

Lightbox Loves: A Step Forwards for Sustainable Fashion?

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

At their 2019 annual shareholders conference fashion giant Inditex (the holding group behind high street favourite Zara and other brands including Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear and Bershka) announced their plans to transform the business into something more sustainable.

Inditex pledged that by 2025, all of its eight brands will “…only use cotton, linen and polyester that’s organic, sustainable or recycled,” which make up 90% of the raw materials they use. They also detailed plans to transition to zero landfill waste and renewable power sources, aiming for them to make up 80% of the energy consumed at their offices, distribution centres and stores. They now join other brands, such as H&M group and Marks & Spencer, in having information about their sustainability targets publicly available.

While premium brands like Stella McCartney have been flying the flag for more ethical practices for the best part of a decade, the transition of these attitudes onto the high street has been much slower. The industry accounts for a staggering 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil. So why the rush for fashion brands to join the conversation around sustainability?

The answer can be found in the next generation of shoppers. Gen Z’s passion for the environment is well documented, and it appears be influencing their approach to fashion. “A 2017 study from NDP Group found that Gen Z is willing to spend as much as 10 to 15 percent more on sustainably produced clothing. Meanwhile, a Nielsen study from 2015 found nearly three-quarters of 15- to 20-year-olds would pay more for a sustainable product, compared to just 51 percent of Baby Boomers.”

There has been speculation recently about whether this claimed behaviour translates to where they’re actually spending their cash, neatly summed up by Missguided’s now infamous £1 bikini. Despite there being an almost immediate backlash on social media questioning the ethical and environmental implications of creating such a low-cost item, the Guardian reports that Missguided’s biggest concern was actually that “…the bikini was selling out in every size – from 4 to 24 – within 45 minutes after each restock.” This begs the question, is Gen Z’s approach to fast fashion all talk?

Brands would do well to remember that the spending power of Gen Z is just in its infancy, and to build for long-term success, they shouldn’t ignore the increased noise around the topic of fast fashion and its environmental consequence. Whilst it may not be an obligatory requirement for the industry currently, it will undoubtedly become the norm as more brands establish greater sustainability agendas.

Facebook Audience Insights: Interests > Additional Interests: Missguided

Lightbox Loves: Meme This

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

In 1989, the World Wide Web was conceived and some 30 years later (after a few life changing revelations), the storm settled. Waiting for us, all giddy at the altar, was the untapped world of memes.

Netflix’s Birdbox, watched by a staggering 45 million accounts globally in its first week of release, is a great example of a film that harnessed the power of memes. The interesting story here is that the marketing for the movie wasn’t at its most powerful pre-release date, but rather post it. This was down, in part, to a little creativity and to the plot of the movie, where characters blindfold themselves.

Many of the meme wizards hiding amongst us right now are probably feeling their neurons firing in the brain; scheming and plotting funny pictures, clips (from the movie) to coincide with even funnier captions. This was the gold mine which Netflix tapped into. Aaron M. White, a civil litigation attorney in Chicago, said it was when his inbox became flooded with memes from Twitter and Instagram that he considered watching Birdbox. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a glimpse at the power of memes and their ability to spread like wildfire.

Another example of this weapon of mass interaction (see what we did there) is British music artist Jay1, who boldly and un-boldly used a situation that had appeared in Love Island to promote his new single ‘Your Mrs’. The results are telling: a 27% increase in followers, along with a notable +3k increase in Spotify listeners. This was all achieved through 4 posts across 2 influencer pages.

Memes work because their primary intention isn’t to promote a brand or movie, that’s just a side effect; rather they aim to give something else to the consumer – laughter and a dash of happiness.

  • Jay 1 – Your Mrs X Love Island Reactions EOC Report – the7stars

Lightbox Loves: Beyond Proud

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

After a month of rainbow coloured logos, it can feel like a different world when high-profile homophobic attacks in London, Southampton and Liverpool make national headlines or a national politician suggests science may ‘produce an answer’ for being gay. What can brands do to address the fear, prejudice and bigotry that provoke these attitudes?

There’s a lot that can be learnt from New Queer Cinema (NQC). Emerging from the American Independent Film scene of the 1990s, it focused on taking back representation from mainstream film that had first been ignored, then limited LGBTQ+ characters to a handful of narratives. While the movement itself was short-lived, some directors found mainstream success with The Kids are Alright and Carol and its influence can still be felt in contemporary films such as Booksmart.

First, NQC insisted on representing LGBTQ+ people. This sounds obvious, but in a world where advertising and marketing communications still has a dearth of LGBTQ+ figures and campaigns, brands can really stand out by acknowledging the community. As well as talking directly to this audience, brands should do the work of representation; 57% agree that brands have a duty to represent modern life and at least 23% of the UK have a sexual identity that is not completely heterosexual. This positive effect extends to allies, with 56% actively supporting brands that are inclusive.

Secondly, NQC avoided the ‘coming out narratives’ that had been the only acceptable stories within which LGBTQ+ characters could be framed. In NQC by contrast, characters have rich lives that are not reducible to their sexuality. Brands can challenge stereotypes in exactly the same fashion; by showing lives beyond sexuality and directly challenging bigotry stemming from lack of understanding and they can do this beyond pride, recognising LGBTQ+ people all year round.

Thirdly, NQC’s complex view of sexuality as a changing, fluid and sometimes counter-intuitive concept is something brands will need to start working with to connect with Gen-Z. 18-24s are far more likely to inhabit less definite sexual identifies; 43% describe their sexuality on the Kinsey scale as something other than either completely heterosexual or completely homosexual (compared to 19% for UK adults). Brands will need to understand this to relate to a group that, as the QT found, are 30% more likely than the UK average to reject brands that do not represent them.

  • The QT. the7stars. (Feb 2019)
  • 1 in 2 young people say they are not 100% heterosexual. YouGov. (Aug 2015)
  • 56% of Britons support brands that take a stand on LGBT+ issues. YouGov (July 2019)

Lightbox Loves: Is streaming about to lose its lustre?

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

It has been dubbed the golden age of streaming[1] . For the past few years, the consumer has been winning; with just a couple of cheap streaming subscriptions, you can currently have all your on demand viewing needs covered. From box sets of the classics, to high-quality original content, all your viewing needs can currently be serviced from just Netflix, Amazon Prime or NOW TV.

However, this might be about to change, with Disney launching Disney+ later this year, they will ring-fence a whole load of content. Not just the likes of Frozen or Pocahontas, but ABC shows, Marvel, Pixar films, Lucasfilm, The Simpsons and everything else made by 20th Century Fox. And this looks to be just the start.

In the States, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia are both launching streaming services[2], so their propriety shows such as The Office or Friends will also require separate subscriptions to access. BritBox is launching here soon too. Apple are also joining the streaming market too with the likes of Stephen Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey on board to provide content. Everyone wants a slice of the streaming pie (and revenue).

Streaming services were previously seen as a budget option, with research from The QT[3] showing that consumers were willing to pay around £10 per month for a streaming service without adverts. This was most popular amongst 18-24s, with 90% willing to pay to avoid adverts. However, once they need to subscribe to four, five or six services to access all the content they would like, will this be as appealing?

It is not yet clear where advertisers will sit within this new market place, but there could be an opportunity for cheaper or free models of the services in exchange for adverts. Recently in the US, a partnership between Heineken and Billions meant that viewers on Roku could unlock the earlier seasons in return for interacting with an ad[4].

So with the golden age over and costs looking like they will rise for the consumer, the opportunity for brands could be ripe. They can be the good guys and provide savings, or additional content on the services in exchange for adverts.





[3] The QT Wave 11, May 2019. the7stars proprietary quarterly tracking survey.



Digital Sets Best Practice

By | Featured, What's Hot

Google has this month extended its in-browser ad blocking to global markets, in a move that will push publishers to conform to Better Ads Standards, or see their ads blocked by the Chrome browser.

Last year Google Chrome – which has a 64% global share of browser use – implemented ad ‘filtering’ for intrusive ads (i.e. those not within the standards established by the Coalition for Better Advertising) in North America and Europe, and has now launched the functionality on a global scale.

The announcement comes as eMarketer again downgraded forecasts for future growth of ad blocker use, for the second year in a row.

In the US, ad blocker use is expected to remain stable, at 27%, with the majority of those using a blocker saying it is because “there are too many ads online”, or that they are “annoying or irrelevant”. Globally, ad blocking is slowing, with rates falling to 10.3% last year from 11.6% in 2017.

As the use of ad blocking software decreases, marketers could look to benefit from potential increased presence. However, brands must learn from the mistakes of the past, and focus on providing a positive ad experience for all users.

The Coalition for Better Ads seeks to advise on this, having developed the Better Ads Standards through extensive consumer research. These standards lay down the least preferred ad types, including the most intrusive ad formats that give users a particularly poor experience.

As well as shifting towards best practice ad formats, advertisers should remain wary of frequency capping, so as not to bombard consumers with online ads.

Recent research by Sublime, the high impact marketplace specialist, found that spontaneous brand awareness increased most when users were exposed to an ad two to three times. When users were exposed more than four times, brand awareness dropped by 3%.

In addition, while campaign recall was at 26% after one exposure, this dropped significantly to 6% after 10+ exposures. Similarly, the study proves the impact of frequency on other brand metrics such as familiarity and favourability.

According to the IPA’s latest Bellwether report, digital is one of the only channels to see continued growth in investment. With steadily increasing spend, marketers must continue to ensure that whilst generating profit, online advertising still delivers value, and a positive experience for the consumer.

It Is What It Is: How Love Island Became ITV’s Breakout Hit

By | Featured, What's Hot

As the pool floats are deflated and as contestants begin their return journeys to the UK, wheelie suitcases in hand, the sun has set on the fifth series of the ever-popular Love Island.

ITV has seen its total advertising revenues fall 5% during the first half of 2019, however online revenues are up 18% year-on-year – boosted by the hit reality show.

The show has allowed ITV2 to grow its share of the ever evasive 16-34 adult audience by an impressive 7%. Even more astoundingly, the episode that aired on 3rd July, showcasing the fall out from Casa Amour, broke ITV2’s all-time ratings record, with more than 4.7 million individuals watching the show on TV sets (BARB), while a further 1.4 million tuned in on phones, PCs and tablets.

Dame Carolyn McCall, chief executive of ITV, said the show had “definitely” contributed to an “uptick” in ad sales on both linear TV and VoD channels, meaning ITV ended June in a better-than-expected position.

Although spot sales of the show would have benefitted ITV’s bank balance, it was the incremental £8 million raised in revenue from commercial partnerships that set the property apart.

As a result of revenue into the ITV market, this month the station announced it would extend its suspension of late booking fees for another three months until the end of October.

In addition, the success of the show for ITV has led to the broadcaster announcing a new “winter” series to be filmed in South Africa, and currently pencilled in for January 2020.

While Love Island has come under fire for its supervision of contestants’ wellbeing, the show has been regarded by most as a breakout success.

Mirroring the early successes of cult shows such as The Inbetweeners and Big Brother, each Love Island episode conjures relatable moments, and sparks debate in front of the TV set as well as online.

With bedroom antics and alcohol intake reduced this year, the show has acted on becoming more mainstream and family-friendly. Following the suicides of two former contestants, ITV has also increased its aftercare package, with this year’s contestant Amy Hart stating she “couldn’t fault the support” provided by the team.

Love Island is ITV’s golden goose, reaching the much sought after younger audiences – although surely there are only so many eggs it can lay, as seen when Channel 5 introduced a second series of Big Brother.

In the meantime, Love Island re-enforces the cultural power of television, with its mass reach and engaging content, helping to initiate conversations on even the quietest tube line.

With the second series incoming, the catchphrases may well live on year-round.