Monthly Archives

November 2019

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas: Findings from the winter wave of The QT

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas: Findings from the winter wave of The QT

13 may be unlucky for some, but here at the7stars we’re thrilled to have launched our thirteenth wave of our proprietary consumer tracking study: The QT. This wave we’ve asked our usual core topics of consumer confidence, happiness, spending intentions and of course opinions on Brexit, but we’ve also branched out into holidays, climate change and eating out. All in a day’s work…

We’re less happy than we were in August

It may be no surprise, but happiness versus both last year, and August 2019, has seen a decline of 6%pts. Only 30% of Brits are happier, with the majority feeling no different. The trend in this measure is inextricably linked with comfort on disposable income, which is at the lowest it has been since tracking began.

Get ready for… an anti-climax.

In August 2019, 30% of Brits felt their biggest emotion towards Brexit was worry. This has eroded ever so slightly in the aftermath of the missed 31st October deadline, but it still remains our primary emotion, with 27% of Brits feeling worried. This is closely followed by the 25% who are simply bored of the whole debacle.

Are we, as a nation, eating our feelings?

This time round, we wanted to ask the nation their feelings towards eating out. Almost 3 in 4 (73%) said that they felt eating out should be a special occasion, not an everyday thing. This is perhaps linked to the sociable nature of a trip to a restaurant, with 64% agreeing that its more sociable than simply ordering a takeaway. Only 22% said they are dining out more than in the past, and this was most pronounced amongst 18-24s, for whom the figure rose to 42%. For this group however, there is stiff competition from the takeaway and delivery sector, as 61% agreed that takeaway food is getting better quality.

The importance of streaming earnest.

With November representing the much-heralded launch of Britbox, and Disney + also making a splash, we wanted to ask Brits their real priorities when it comes to choosing streaming services. Number one on their list? A good film selection of course! 22% of Brits cited this as the most important factor, with exclusive celebrities/actors only important for 1%.

We’ve got that festive feeling…but are we alone?

It wouldn’t be a November wave of The QT without some questions about Christmas! 1 in 3 Brits claim that Christmas doesn’t start until December, which is a significant increase versus the last time we asked in 2017. However, the likes of John Lewis and Coca-Cola needn’t fear, festive advertising still marks the start of the season for 17% of Brits.

Keep an eye on @the7stars on twitter for more nuggets from this wave of the QT.

To find out more on any of these topics, or ask for more information please email


Lightbox Loves: The Ambitionless Youth

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

With the release of Foresight Factory’s report on the tribes of 2019, we have two new groups to examine. Tribe One, ‘The Hyper Quantifiers’, are commonly addressed by brands across sectors from tech to entertainment and indeed by any product that can help measure aspects of life. In an age of optimisation, they are the perfect subject for companies to cheer and engage as they strive to go better, faster, and more efficiently. They have become the go-to group for youth marketing. In the UK, however, the 16-34 market has a similar sized tribe (about 1 in 5); the self-described Ambitionless Youth.

This tribe consists of the 20% of under 35s who admit to lacking ambition. They might sound disengaged, negative or even nihilistic but this group is not lazy. The percentage desiring a shorter working week, and more leisure time is within 1% of with their more ambitious peers. In truth, they aren’t closed off to new experiences; with 84% feeling the need to learn more – just like their ambitious peers. Instead the phenomenon is, perhaps, a result of lesser faith in the link between work, satisfaction, and professional achievement. Ambitionless Youth are more prevalent in slowing or contracting economies, notably Japan and Brazil, with 47% and 35% of their youth ‘ambitionless’ respectively. In these states of macro-economic decline, the perceived link between unbridled hard work and professional achievement is further eroded.

To talk to this engaged but unambitious audience, brands need to understand the differentiation between ambition and passion. While the ambitious, as Deloitte’s John Hagel has observed, typically follow linear goals, with extrinsic motivations (money, status etc); the passionate will follow more diffuse goals, often at the expense of linear professional progression. While Hagel sees the passionate as useful for an organisation for the innovative thinking of which they are capable; for brands they represent an audience who are willing to invest time and emotional energy in products without needing to justify this with extrinsic reward. While Ambitionless Youth remain the minority, this 20% will find goal orientation alienating. This offers an open space for brands discussing a more immediate value exchange, or indeed more intrinsic and lateral goals.


Lightbox Loves: Christmas Adverts

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

There are several clear themes coming out of the Christmas campaigns this year. Some have focussed on their brands’ own cultural heritage, whilst others connect with popular cultural from the year. Brands that have focussed on their product offering tend to showcase the breadth of their range, whereas others choose instead to entertain with their own Christmas stories. However, are these campaigns as big a marker of the Christmas festivities as they use to be, or has their heyday been and gone?

Leading the way on the focus into cultural heritage is Dogs Trust, which in an emotional advert reminds the viewer that “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas,” a phrase the charity coined itself back in 1978. Sainsbury’s takes the viewer back 150 years in its Christmas story, which builds on activity across the year celebrating its 150 anniversary. Playing on a more recent cultural heritage, Argos celebrates their “Book of Dreams”, drawing on the nostalgia of circling your ideal gift in their catalogue and dreaming about what it would be like to get it.

Iceland’s partnership with Disney’s Frozen 2 anticipates what is likely to be the most popular film over the festive season, with an ad that sees Olaf experiencing a traditional British Christmas. Aldi have also chosen to reference popular culture in their ad this year, with a scene reminiscent of Peaky Blinders and The Greatest Showman, whilst Ikea chose to use Grime music to tell their Christmas message.

John Lewis have once again created an advert around an original Christmas story. This time we meet Edgar an excitable dragon who keeps accidentally breathing fire and melting or burning all the enjoyable parts of the festive season. Asda have also created a unique story about a girl spreading Christmas magic around her home town. These adverts, although not directly linked to the brands offering, provide entertainment in themselves.

Many of these brands are utilising products to keep the association with their Christmas adverts alive at the point of sale. John Lewis has a range of Excitable Edgar products and Iceland have Frozen 2 themed products in-store, which as well as a food range, includes a life size Olaf toy and the charades game which is played in the advert. More than ever, Christmas is allowing brands to step outside of the box with their creative and tell a different message to the rest of the year.

However, public interest in the Christmas ad race does appear to be in decline; Google searches for Christmas ads peaked in 2016 and social sharing is down year on year. The #BusterTheBoxer John Lewis campaign had a net sentiment score of 33%, vs 22% for #ExcitableEdgar. the7stars QT report also noted a decline in those saying that notable Christmas ads defined the start of the season for them.

This could be why more brands, such as Boots, Debenhams and TK Maxx are going purely product focused this year, emphasising the breadth of their range and the ability to be a one-stop-shop for presents. M&S have taken this product centricity one step further by only showcasing a single product: Christmas jumpers, with 50 different ones from their range featured in the advert.

Although Christmas is still a time to for brands to get creative, this may not be translating into as much social chatter as in previous years.



Brandwatch, November 2019

Lightbox Loves: A fairer value exchange in online advertising?

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Consumers are becoming aware of how valuable their personal data is to advertisers. While many are open to a fair data exchange, this does not mean that they are altogether resistant to sharing their information. However, with around 43% of 18-24-year-olds using adblockers in the UK, it’s clear that brands need to find new ways to improve the online advertising experience to regain this audience’s attention.

Two brands that appear to understand this value exchange are Brave and Pick My Postcode!

Brave is a privacy-centred browser that is looking to transform the relationship between advertisers and consumers. Their adverting platform, Brave Ads, is an opt-in system that is designed to reward consumers for their attention; they claim that ads viewed through their platform have a click-through rate of 14%, compared to the industry average of 2%.

So, how does it work? When a user actives Brave Ads, Brave looks at their browsing history to privately match them to an appropriate advert. Brave then pays the user 70% of their revenue ad share in the form of a Basic Attention Token (BAT). The BAT token is a cryptocurrency that can be exchanged between advertisers, publishers and consumers. Consumers can use the BAT that they’ve earned to anonymously donate to their favourite publishers –YouTube, Twitter, or website content creators.

Pick My Postcode! is another brand that is offering consumers ads in exchange for the chance to win daily cash prizes. They’ve also gone one step further, allowing brands to survey their community for the same tangible rewards. Could these be the alternative experience consumers have been waiting for?

However, there are some questions surrounding their effectiveness. How can these sites be sure that users are actually paying attention to the ads, and not using their platform to just receive rewards? Will this be enough of an economic incentive to encourage more users to the platform?

Regardless of whether you’re impressed by these innovations or not, through rewarding consumers for their attention, respecting their privacy and only showing them relevant adverts, there is the potential to radically improve the relationship between consumers, publishers, and advertisers.

Data as Currency, Foresight Factory, October 2018

Online advertising in the UK, DCMS, January 2019

Brave Browser wants to pay you to view ads but there’s a catch, PC Mag, January 2019

Picture Johan Viirok – Hacking



Lightbox Loves: Pride & Patriotism

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

In today’s culture, patriotism is waning. In particular, young people aged 18-24 are far less likely than their 60+ counterparts to feel very patriotic. In this particularly divided Brexit Britain, there has been much debate on what it means to be British, and according to YouGov data, a fifth of Brits claim that they would be ashamed of their national pride if it were to be aired in public.  So, while British pride is on the decline, how, when and why should brands capitalise on peak moments of nationalism?

The Football World Cup in 2018, and the London Olympics have been the most expressed occasions where Brits feel comfortable expressing their patriotic side, particularly with England’s advance to the quarter finals last year. This past weekend marked England making it to the Rugby World Cup finals, a feat last achieved in 2007 after defeating New Zealand in the semi finals, so hopes were high for England fans.

Many brands advertised around the love of the game, such as Land Rover’s ‘It’s what makes rugby, rugby’ ad, and Guinness’s ‘Liberty Fields’ ad championing Japanese women’s rugby as pioneers. These ads have heroed the game itself, whereas O2, the primary sponsors of the England Rugby team, have consistently framed their advertising around the iconic #WearTheRose campaign, this year encouraging the nation to support the team by ‘being their armour’ and wearing what the CMO of O2 has called “the symbol that represents the very heart of England”.

In an effort to appeal to the masses, it appears as though more brands have placed focus on the sport itself versus the emotions towards the sport and the sense of pride in one’s nation. Studies have found that when consumers have heightened levels of patriotism this positively influences their attitude towards patriotic advertising and towards the brand in question, particularly in the context of international sporting events. And so, sport sponsorships might be a great way of getting mass reach, but they are also a highly effective platform in connecting to consumers over love for their country, particularly for brands where ‘Britishness’ is at their core. With the next Olympics & Paralympics coming up in 2020, how can British brands get involved?

Nostalgia: Is It What It Used To Be

By | Featured, What's Hot

We are a nation of nostalgists. At least, this was our hypothesis when earlier this year we partnered with YouGov to conduct a piece of research into why the UK is so keen to spend our time looking back to the past, instead of ahead to the future. More importantly, we wanted to understand the specific cues, cultural symbols and behaviours which most represent our favourite decades, and get to grips with how advertisers could use these to their advantage. We recently launched the results of this study with lively and discussion filled panel events in both Manchester and London.

Our latest whitepaper, ‘Nostalgia – is it what it used to be?’, has unearthed that 55% of Brits would rather go back to the past than travel ahead to the future, with a mere 28% desiring a quick fast forward. 9 in 10 Brits reminisce at all, and there is a cohort of misty-eyed millennials who are almost always looking back fondly. This isn’t, however, always a past they were part of.

One of our most interesting findings was around the sheer scale of Fauxstalgia – where we dream and pine after a period within which we didn’t even live. For example, 58% of those who were positive about the 1950s weren’t even born then, and as such were perhaps more shielded from the social and political realities of living during that decade.

The 1990s was unanimously our favourite decade. Recent enough to be of relevance to many, but not associated with the global economic crisis that marred the noughties, it is most closely associated with Friends being on TV, and the new wave of advances in technology such as mobile phones and the internet.

Standout mentions remained, however, for the Spice Girls and the battle of Britpop.

There is also the danger (and opportunity) associated with NOT-stalgia. The phenomenon whereby people remember things, or claim to remember things, which weren’t actually authentic to the time itself. For this, brands can have creative licence to produce new content or products which use the cultural symbols and iconography of the past, but in a fluid and new interpretation. We don’t remember the details, but more how we felt at the time.

However you view it, this desire to escape the present is unlikely to be short-lived. Dr Kate Stone once remarked “the future will look more like the past than the present” so perhaps we should be dusting off those record players, vintage fashions and bringing brand heritage to the fore.


Netflix: The End As We Know It

By | Featured, What's Hot

Netflix’s dominance of the SVOD market is under threat. Earnings may be up 8% year-on-year but subscriber growth is slowing which, on the eve of AppleTV+ & Disney+ entering the market (November 1st 2019 & early 2020 respectively), is a worrying sign. Careful forward planning is needed for the market leader to succeed in what is about to become a seriously noisy VOD market.

Netflix have now missed two consecutive subscription targets; domestically (US) Q2 saw a loss of 130,000 subscriptions with Q3 growing by only 500,000 vs a forecasted 800,000. Global forecasts for Q3 were also off the mark with a 200,000 subscription shortfall v forecast (6.8 million v 7 million).

Content, or lack of, is a significant driver of this. Netflix are the victims of aggressive-walled gardening from their competitors. Once upon a time they paid HBO £78m to license Friends for a year. This arrangement concludes at the end of 2019 and will see the cult classic live on HBO Max. The same will be true of The Office UK & US which will be moving onto Britbox & NBC Peacock respectively, while all Star Wars, Pixar & Avengers films will eventually be housed on Disney+. Top content is leaving the Netflix portfolio and has so far been replaced with a deal to license Seinfeld globally from Sony for a reported $500m from 2021.

Despite this hefty investment Netlfix have made it clear that their long-term strategy is to focus on original content. A reported $15bn has been set aside to create fresh content this year; threefold growth on the $5bn spent in 2016. Back in 2017 just 26% of all Netflix content was original. By Q1 2019 this figure reached 46%.

Apple concur with this approach; 100% of AppleTV+ content will be Apple made. A-List stars such as Reece Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston & Will Ferrell have all had future programming confirmed on the platform. Oprah Winfrey, too, has been confirmed with a docu-series alongside Prince Harry set to launch later in 2020.

Evidently Apple are leaning on a blend of Hollywood stars in a fresh environment to build their video proposition. This approach though will take time before a library of content is

built up and customers may be hesitant to commit their hard-earned cash to; even with the app being pre-installed across the Apple device portfolio.  Apple claim that a budget of $6bn has been set aside for content creation this year. However, with a cash reserve in excess of $200bn there is every possibility that content expansion will be rapid.

And then there’s Amazon, rocking a blend of original and licensed content with significant investment in live sports, most notably the Premier League. Holding the rights to 20 games across a busy December schedule (including all 10 games on boxing day) is their golden ticket. Luring consumers onto the platform with a free month Prime trial over the festive season will see a groundswell of consumers engaging with the platform at a key time of year. Whether this short burst of consideration will lead to long-term investment from customers remains to be seen, though.

This is the crux of the VOD conundrum. Consumers are spoilt for choice. Mass content fragmentation means that there is no holistic option for consumers and hard decisions are going to have to be made. For the majority it will be the players with the best content that wins, although where brands are able to bundle benefits outside of video (such as Prime next-day delivery and access to Apple ecosystem) the value for money equation becomes ever more enticing.

September saw Reed Hastings announce he was willing for Netflix to be measured by BARB in the future, a big deal for a company that, until recently, wouldn’t disclose programme viewing data even to its own stars.

A willingness to be measured by a third party indicates that Netflix are fully aware of the challenges that lie ahead for them in the medium to long term. Third party measurement would pave the way for advertisers to get onboard and move Netflix from an SVOD to an AVOD revenue model. In a video space where consumers are being asked to spend more and more this could be a smart move to both differentiate as a product and survive a competitive decade to come.


Safari And Firefox Double Down On Privacy

By | Featured, What's Hot

Both Safari and Firefox, the two browsers leading the way for further privacy features and web tracking prevention methods, have had recent updates that seek to further hinder efforts by advertisers and publishers to track users browsing habits.

Safari, which has been most notably active with the rollout of its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP 2.2) which heavily impacted 3rd party tracking and 1st party tracking, now has publishers in it’s sights. To work-around this clamp down on publishers and 3rd parties collecting audiences using cookies publishers have been activating metered “paywalls”. This means users have to create a login “tethering” them to the publisher, effectively giving the publisher consent to then create audience profiles for it’s now “logged in” userbase.

Picking up on this trend, Apple has already released an update to mitigate this effect. The latest versions of Safari will now prevent sites from detecting users that have the browser’s private browsing mode enabled.

This mode prevents publishers reading/writing cookies meaning that publishers will no longer have a way to count and detect how much content a user has consumed, rendering the metered paywall completely useless and denying publishers from both protecting their content and adding another user to it’s audience pool.

Firefox, who have been on a year long effort to block tracking in their browser, have taken the plunge to block 3rd party tracking cookies by default for all users (previous updates only enabled this by default for new users since June 2019).

Much like Apple’s ITP, Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) seeks to block all cookies and will take it’s current userbase doing this from 20% to 100% as users update their browsers. The rationale? Both Apple and Firefox want to put users back in control of their online experience by giving them the tools for protection the moment they start using the browser.

The impact of these measures is that both 3rd and 1st parties are finding it harder to measure and target audiences given the reduced userbase. Now, a combined global market share of 20% of internet users can no longer be tracked, with potentially more on the way with upcoming Chrome updates to their privacy measures as well.

As this ongoing ‘cat and mouse’ battle continues it does seem that it is getting harder and harder for advertisers to reach “the right users at the right time”. Advertisers and ad tech vendors are working to find ways to preserve the measurement and targeting capabilities they’ve become so accustomed to.

Get Ready For Brexit! …Or Not

By | Featured, What's Hot

Touchpoints was launched by the IPA in 2005, with its primary function being to provide the media world with more cross-platform and cross-data media planning data sets.

Respondents are asked to keep a diary detailing their media habits, and also complete an online questionnaire detailing their attitudes, shopping and media habits.

As a result Touchpoints allows advertisers to map the media landscape much like a GPS – and reveals the opportunities that can arise from the integration of different media channels in campaigns.

The IPA and Facebook have now undertaken a joint venture to investigate how the media landscape looks today.

Fourteen years after the first survey, this research has revealed that there is now no single media channel that will allow advertisers to reach 90% of GB adults in a week, further highlighting today’s fragmented media landscape – and illustrating the importance of combined planning tools such as Touchpoints.

Commercial TV continues to reign as the largest channel when it comes to reach and time spent with the medium. This is followed by social media and the internet; unchanged from the last research conducted by the IPA in 2015.

However, we see interesting results when we look at these channels more closely. The amount of time spent on social media has gained six percentage points since 2015 (now at 24%) while commercial TV lost six points in the other direction (now 34%).

As media consumption shifts, brands should consider accessing a greater range of channels in their mix in order to reach their target audience.

Advertisers that have historically focused on a single channel – such as those heavily reliant on TV – are increasingly having to revaluate their media plans in order to make for more impactful campaigns.

It is often said that just one spot in Coronation Street in 1970 will have reached 30 million people. Nowadays, short-term campaigns looking to drive sales, or launch campaigns hoping to provide immediate impact, may no longer find it sufficient to utilise singular channels which in the past had been chosen for their ability to reach a huge proportion of a target audience with just one spot, or with a short burst of activity.

For now TV remains the largest media channel for all adult reach, but the generational shifts we’re already seeing may reveal what the future holds.

According to the earliest Touchpoints data, TV viewing habits of 15-34-year olds and the 55+ age group were not dramatically different. However in the last four years we have seen more and more young people favour subscription VOD (SVOD). Now only 77% of 15-34-year olds watch live TV each week, a significant decline from the 82% reported in 2015.

Ultimately, shifting media consumption adds another layer of complexity to media planning. Advertisers will need to consider a wider channel mix, but also be more creative in their approach, if they hope to reach a broad audience in their campaign. Tools such as Touchpoints more useful now than ever before.