Monthly Archives

March 2020

Lightbox Loves: new habits

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Consumers are spending an unprecedented amount of time in their homes, meaning we are all looking for new and exciting ways to keep busy, active and entertained during isolation. Although lockdown period is still in its infancy, brands are already starting to see changes in our behaviour, particularly when it comes to what we’re buying online. For example, Dixon Carphone, the UK’s biggest electrical and mobile phone retailer, has said that online sales for electricals in the UK and Ireland had surged 72% in the past three weeks alone.

This uplift in demand for electrical goods, which could be down to increased home-working, but also an enhanced desire to have the most up-to-date home entertainment products, also extends to gaming. Nintendo’s sales for their latest game: ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ has surpassed all initial sales records previous game releases, and more traditional entertainment brands such as Hasbro have experienced increased searches for their board games and jigsaws on Amazon. Whilst demand for entertainment is surging, so is our desire to keep fit, as we turn to online platforms to buy the equipment we need to stay active. Stationary bike company Pelaton is seeing a rise in stock value, and Amazon seeing yoga mats and resistance band sales increase over the past few weeks. This is correlated with the increase in demand for at-home fitness programmes such as FIIT, Barry’s and The Body Coach, who have all reported an increase in engagement on their owned social content during recent weeks.

As consumers are continuing to adapt to new ways of life, brands must also be flexible to meet the unexpected changes in our behaviour and needs. For example, many restaurants have adapted to delivery, with fast food chain Leon even turning some of their shops into mini supermarkets. Disney surprised their customers earlier on this month by releasing some key blockbusters to our screens early, such as Frozen II. When done authentically, brands have a real opportunity to show they understand their consumers and can adapt to the fast pace of change accordingly, which will pay off in both the short term and long term


Lightbox Loves: Being Social, Distantly

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

So far, the events of 2020 have been weird; with the changes to life in the UK in the past 7 days making things even weirder. As the whole nation becomes “socially distant” in an effort flatten the curve, we are seeing growth in digital channels that allow us to be social without physical contact.

On Monday 16th March, Boris Johnson directed the nation to be as socially distant as possible. Human’s are, by their nature, social creatures, so this directive has driven some quick innovation and growth in areas which provide social interaction and entertainment though channels.

Online gaming is one area which has seen a large growth. On Tuesday Xbox Live reported seeing a spike in users and PC gaming platform, Steam, has seen record figures of 20 million concurrent users globally. Twitch has also seen 15% year-on-year growth in the hours streamed.

Expectedly, we have seen growth in VOD platforms, with Broadcaster VOD up around 10% week-on-week. Netflix has reduced the streaming quality in its platform across Europe in order to cope with demand. However, the social hunger is being aided by a Netflix innovation, the Netflix Party Chrome extension, which although not new, has seen growth. This allows friends to socialise whilst they all watch a show or film together at the same time, creating shared moments and events whilst staying home.

Other apps which will likely see growth at the moment are technologies to connect households together. The Houseparty app can be used for just that, to party from your house, so everyone’s party arrangements don’t need to be postponed. This, combined with pubs and breweries now offering delivery or drive-through services, means that we don’t need to worry about running dry.

At the same time, local groups who would usually meet face-to-face, such as toddler entertainment or keep fit classes, have been moving to video platforms such as Zoom or YouTube. Courtesy of The Body Coach Joe Wicks, the nation can now get fit together every morning at 9am. This connectivity enables businesses to still provide a service (and earn revenue) remotely. The transfer from community halls to online will likely encourage older generations to embrace these technologies too.

Ultimately, what the consumer needs in order to weather this storm is the ability to connect and experience things with the people they know. Thinking outside of the box will be required, but as this unfamiliar situation continues, we expect to see more brands and media platforms innovating and diversifying in order to continue keeping us together, yet apart.

Lightbox Loves: The Road to Empathy

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

When Virtual Reality (VR) first came to mainstream market, it was thought its best use cases would be for jazzing up the entertainment or education sectors.  However, as years have gone by, we’ve discovered another important use case for VR – it actually helps build empathy. Although timely, given that half of Brits feel that empathy in culture is declining, how can turn this insight into an opportunity?

Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, tested multiple hypotheses surrounding empathy using VR. One of these was to see whether showing a 65-year-old avatar of yourself in the future encourages you to save money for retirement; it does. Therefore, it’s no wonder that the marketing industry has cottoned on to its power to drive social change.

In 2016, ‘Charity: Water’, a charity which aims to bring clean drinking water to developing counties, showcased their immersive VR story to donors. The footage allows prospective donors to see through the eyes of a 13-year-old Ethiopian child named Selam, who spends her life struggling to provide water for her family while studying at school. However, as the simulation progresses, we see the transformative power of the donors’ money has on Selam and her community. Raising $2.4 million in one night, it can be argued that, through VR, this campaign has effectively used immersive storytelling to evoke empathy among its audience.

Another application of VR can be seen in the Toms ‘A Walk In Their Shoes’ campaign. To prove their commitment to social change, Toms used VR to follow a consumer’s trip to Colombia to meet a child who benefited from his purchase. The footage allowed consumers to witness the brand’s dedication to helping others, through tapping into our emotions.

Ultimately, when combined with effective storytelling, the positive outtake is that VR has the potential to make us more empathetic. Whilst we may still be some way away from VR being widely available for brands to use, it is exciting to envisage a future where we can experience new and unique perspectives through technology to better understand others as humans.

Lightbox Loves: International Women’s Day

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

It’s 2020 and we’re no longer short of empowering and remarkable female role models.  Now that’s something worth celebrating this International Women’s Day.  Whether your preferred female motivational hero is Sheryl Sandberg or the Spice Girls, this recent quote from Lizzo hits home- “You are capable. You deserve to feel good as hell, if I can make it, I know you can make it. We can make it together.”

As one of the Sunday Times’ Top 100 Best Companies to Work For (now eight years running!) as well as Campaign’s Best Place to Work, we’re constantly aiming to improve our understanding of what it takes to be both a great employer and a progressive place to work – one where women and men feel they can make it and help colleagues to do the same.

In our latest Lightbox Pulse we surveyed 2,000 adults in full time employment to explore some of the enablers and obstacles to creating a great place to work, with a focus on what differences, if any, there are for women versus men.

We discovered that both men and women find asking for a promotion or a pay rise intimidating. When asked which topics they felt most uncomfortable talking about at work, the top taboo cited was asking for more money – 49% of women said asking for a pay rise made them uncomfortable compared with 40% of men. This was considerably ahead of other taboo subjects of conversation such as how much sex they are having (46% of women found this difficult compared with 37% of men), or taking drugs (both a no-go area for just 25% of women and 22% of men).

But how does this compare with colleagues’ responses at the7stars?

Asking for a pay rise or talking about the amount of money earnt were also considered to be the most uncomfortable subjects for discussion.  And it is our female colleagues who were most likely to find asking for a pay rise a taboo topic, whereas males were more likely to agree that talking about salaries was a taboo topic.  One point of significant difference was that colleagues at the7stars found talking about mental health was felt to be less of a taboo subject than the national average (32% versus 43%) – thanks to Team BOOST for all their great initiatives in this area.

A progressive workplace comes from being more open, transparent and inclusive – creating an environment in which both women and men feel empowered and supported by each other.

As Lizzo would say – you deserve to feel good as hell, so have a great day.

Lightbox Loves: Listening

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

As an industry, we spend billions of pounds and countless hours talking to different audiences. But how long do we spend listening?

Listening to people isn’t just the remit of a focus group. By leaning in to listen, we can all help brands make more powerful connections with culture and customers.

Brands optimise messages; agencies use mass channels to reach as many people as possible with each message. Even social media, once heralded as a platform for dialogue, increasingly has broadcast only formats, such as Instagram stories, where users can’t comment back.

The wealth of datapoints makes it easy to think we know what’s going on with customers. Digesting sales metrics, brand trackers and digital activity reports tell us what has happened to a brand. They provide incredibly useful direction of how to amend, optimise and evaluate our campaigns.

But rarely does data tell us why something has happened: at best, it provides a hypothesis. Often, the best insights aren’t found in existing information, however much we look. Focussing solely on available data you become a bit like a drunk looking for his keys under a lamppost, “because”, he says “that’s where the light is”.

This is why listening matters. Opening our frame of reference opens us up to new stimulus.

Focus groups illuminate audience’s attitudes in surprising and directive ways. The multi-award winning “This Girl Can” campaign, a huge part of the revolution in female marketing, owed much of its success to working sessions aimed at uncovering the hidden barriers to women exercising.

So, whether it is probing your aunt about her gardening, or listening to a radio chat show outside your usual preferences, taking the time to curiously listen will inspire in new ways. Foster’s “Your Call” campaign was famously inspired after ana evening eaves dropping in a pub.

You never know where inspiration might strike, so be curious, be nosey. Take out those headphones and listen.



Is Google Under Threat?

By | Featured, What's Hot

DuckDuckGo, the privacy first search engine, will be a default choice on Android devices from March after pressure on Google from EU regulators. But does this represent a significant moment for challengers of GAFA and encourage a potential shift in user behaviour?

With data-privacy continuing to be high on the new agenda. Big tech companies are falling over themselves to prove they can responsibly handle user data without 3rd party regulation. Their empires have been built on the collection of vast swathes of user data to aid targeted advertising. Depending on your point of view, this has either provided users with increasingly relevant, free and useful internet experiences or contributed to an ever-murky advertising ecosystem where the value of user experience has been relegated in favour of extracting more ad value per person, at all costs.

The reality is both of those things. But continued negative media coverage around the use of personal data has meant that the latter has bred greater feelings of annoyance and distrust.  Concerns over the ability of tech companies to know the more intimate details of your habits and behaviours have raised questions. There are plenty of stats that point to the majority of users being more concerned with their online privacy than ever before.

This represents a slither of an opportunity for tech challengers who put user-privacy at the forefront of their offering. Enter DuckDuckGo. Founded in 2008 it made the decision to not track user search history in 2010 and has made this it’s USP since then. Its position is now starting to bear some fruit. In 2019 it was the only US search engine to manage positive growth in market share.

Verizon also launched OneSearch, another privacy centric search engine that doesn’t track, store or sell user data. So even major challengers to Google are probing opportunities for potential shifts in behaviour.

And challengers to Google are now also being given an extra leg-up because of scrutiny over anti-competitive behaviour. Last year Google were fined a record 1.5 billion EUR for breaching EU antitrust rules.  One of the results of that case is that Google has had to provide users with options on which search engine they make their default choice on android devices. For a search engine growing as quickly as DuckDuckGo this is good news. However, they still don’t believe this goes far enough and are pushing for Google to change their choice mechanism to give users more context

The important point DuckDuckGo want to make explicit to users in this selection is that they don’t track you! With android having over 50% of UK market share, this is a big opportunity to increase user awareness of their offering.

Of course, the likes of Google are recognising their need to address privacy concerns. But their approach is one that requires balance. Much of their revenue stream is built on their use of user data and they need to protect this. So, they must at once increase user-controls over personal data to appease dissenters but also persuade them and the public that sharing it is contributing to better experiences and vital in the maintenance of a free internet. And for all the survey data suggesting people are more concerned with data privacy, actions speak louder than words. Google have still maintained 92% global search engine market share over the last 12 months. If users are concerned, it doesn’t appear that they’re too concerned with Google.

Ultimately Google have maintained their search market dominance by consistently providing the best experience for users. They have used data to improve the quality and relevancy of their search results over time. And unless the competition can challenge that, users will often revert back to Google to get the answers to their questions more swiftly and successfully. DuckDuckGo won’t win on privacy issues alone and it must provide users with a comparable or better search experience than Google to seriously challenge long-term. This is a monumental ask. And for all DuckDuckGo’s growth, 1.4% share in the US and 0.6% share in the UK is still nowhere near high enough to warrant real consideration from advertisers.

Making Sense: The Commercial Media Landscape

By | Featured, What's Hot

IPA Touchpoints was created in 2005 as an industry tool to give marketers insight into the daily habits and media moments of target audiences, as well as help planning and measuring the scale of ad campaigns.

Whilst the media landscape has changed fundamentally since that launch, the latest white paper from the IPA, Making sense: The Commercial Media Landscape, suggests that in the marketing world, we may be inflating these changes beyond the true effect on the daily lives of consumers.

Pulling an average day time diary from both 2005 and 2019, the pattern around broad media formats of video, audio, text and OOH take the same shape, highlighting how consistent media consumption has been for the last 15 years.

How people access various media may be changing but the same need states remain; people must travel to work in the day (OOH) and crave some form of downtime before bed (video).

The only format which looks to have altered slightly is audio, peaking higher throughout the day due to the increase in on the go availability via digital access. Unsurprisingly, the impact of digital was a running theme throughout the presentation.

In just 4 years the shift towards ‘digital’ platforms has been phenomenal. In 2015, there was a minority 42% digital share of commercial media amongst all adults, whilst in 2019 this percentage had moved to a 50/50 even split. For a 16-34 audience the shift is even more stark, moving from a 59% digital share to 73% in the same time period. Older audiences are going digital, just at a slower rate.

The disparity between Gen Z & Millennials vs a wider all adult population is becoming more and more pronounced when it comes to media consumption. Never before has the commercial time share between younger and older groups been so dissimilar; there was a 58% correlation in all media consumption in 2015 but only 25% correlation in 2019. Grabbing attention with broadcast media that speaks to both groups has never been so difficult.

Lastly, the IPA report discussed that not all impacts are equal and this is another factor we must take into account when planning our ad campaigns. Whilst measuring reach and frequency remains the cornerstone of media planning (one of the core roles of touchpoints) influential reach is what we should really be considering. The impact of a beautifully shot 60” ad in an immersive cinema environment is not equal to a digital display format in 50% view for 1”. Both have key roles in a media plan but we need to be mindful of the true meaning of impact, reach and frequency when planning and measuring our campaigns.

Brand Safety, And The Potential Consequences Of A “Better Safe Than Sorry” Attitude To Contextual Targeting

By | Featured, What's Hot

On the 22nd of January, the IAB launched their Content Verification Guide to help create a safer online environment, lead the charge on regaining consumer trust in digital advertising and ultimately help highlight how much scale brands are currently losing out on. While brand safety is still as important as ever, we as an industry need adapt our approach to create both a safe online environment and help brands reduce wastage and grow faster.

Research from the Advertising Association has shown us that consumer favourability in advertising is at an all-time low, coming from 50% in the 90’s down to just 25% in 2018. It also shows us that trust and favourability are highly correlated, which means consumers have lost a great deal of trust in advertising over the years. Trust matters, as it can determine whether or not an individual is likely try a brand’s new products or to stay loyal to a brand in the face of disruption from competitors.

Brand safety is key to maintaining trust, particularly in the digital landscape. IAS research from 2019 has shown that just over half of UK consumers will feel less favourable to a brand after seeing brands in low quality environments and 70% would stop using those brands altogether. On the other hand, they also found the ads seen around high-quality content see 30% greater memorability and consumers who read higher quality content are 20% more likely to engage.

Brand safety efforts in the industry thus far has been far more focused on using methods such as exclusion lists or content verification technology to prevent appearance in low quality environments, at the risk, however, of not being able to appear on high-quality content. When users trust the contextual environment, it can improve brand love by 21%, so although there should still be a focus on excluding the negative, we should also look more closely at not excluding the environments with rich potential for ad revenue. The IAB identify keyword exclusion tactics in particular to be a blunt tool that does not account for semantics, i.e. when excluding the word ‘shooting’ from a campaign, advertisers run the risk of missing out on valuable, higher quality content around football or photography for example.

Extensive exclusion lists have led to a huge loss of ad revenue both on publisher side and advertiser side, estimated at $200m per year. Grapeshot, Oracle & Reach have all worked to develop a solution, the latter having come out with their new natural language processing and visual recognition technology called Mantis. In line with IAB guidelines, as an industry we should all move towards a system of semantic analysis versus the current more limiting method of keyword exclusions and content blocking. This can lead to increased revenue from quality contextual environments that may have previously been blocked and increase in brand love and trust which in turn leads to brand growth. Brand safety is still as important as ever, but there is plenty to be gained by moving away from “better safe than sorry”.