Monthly Archives

April 2020

Lightbox Loves: A Dance Challenge

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

TikTok, one of the newest kids on the block is already starting to change the social media landscape, with now over 1.5 billion users worldwide, it is one of the fastest-growing social media applications out there (1), currently it’s the third most downloaded app after Strava and Zoom on the App Store. This platform has really come into its own during the lockdown and self-isolation due to the uptake of its increasingly popular dance, fitness and other viral challenges. After remaining stable over the last 12 months according to Google trends, searches since March for the term ‘TikTok Dance’ have significantly spiked in popularity (2). Even if you haven’t downloaded the app itself, many are starting to find these video challenges flooding into their other social media platforms (3) – with many of our family/friends and favourite celebrities sharing videos, even NHS staff are taking part in a bid to boost morale whilst treating patients (4).

An example of a particularly popular dance trend is The Weeknd’s: Blinding Lights challenge. Even though this song was released in late November and charted in the Billboard Top 40, it dropped 41 places in its second week (5). It wasn’t until a dance challenge associated with the intro of the song became popular on TikTok in this last month that it really started to take off – coinciding with the world now being in lockdown. Many who are isolating with their families saw it as the perfect track and dance routine to get everyone involved (6). This in turn has contributed to the rise in popularity of the single and its stellar performance back up the charts worldwide – it currently stands at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (7) and receiving 64 million listeners monthly on Spotify, a first for The Weeknd (8).

In fact, nearly every single in the current top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 has found some traction on TikTok (9) – this includes Dua Lipa, Doha Cat and Bobby Ritch and previously Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’

Music artist Drake has recently taken the TikTok dance challenge concept to a whole new level – by creating a track and dance routine specifically for the platform in order to catapult his new single into the public conscious before it was released (8). Using a popular hip-hop dancer named Toosie and getting him to post a clip of himself and some of his friends doing a choreographed dance, to a snippet of the then unknown and unnamed song. People started to accept the dance challenge tagged #ToosieSlide. In just a few days millions of views were amassed on the video app, all before the track was available on streaming services (10).

It will be interesting to see what the future brings beyond lockdown and whether this cultural trend will continue. It does seem though, that after being viewed as an ‘additional social media channel’ with most popularity amongst Gen Z, TikTok has finally begun to find its place in the cultural mainstream.













Lightbox Loves: It’s In The Game

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

In recent years, we have seen the growing prominence of product placements within narrative media with nostalgia hits like ‘Stranger Things’ and their team up with Coco-cola. Have we understated the presence, and cultural impact, of product placement within video games? NBA 2K and the FIFA series (to mention only two) have successfully connected with brands to create some of the best harmonised advertising without having to waiver authenticity or fight for attention with other advertisers.

The ‘real-life’ experience offered by sports franchise games is heightened by the real-life advertisement that takes place, from trainers to endorsement deals. NBA 2k in-game product placement includes: Gatorade energy drink and trainer brands Jordan, Nike and Adidas – with which you are given the ability to dress your avatar. As the player progresses in the game, they are given the choice to pick brands with which to associate, altering what you and your avatar sees during your gameplay. This works by subconsciously creating brand infinity with the gameplayer, in a relevant context, further inclining the person to, for instance pick Gatorade the next time they finish a workout or a basketball game in their real-life activities.

In addition, gaming allows brand an unprecedented exposure time. As infographic report released by EA Sports shows that in FIFA14 during a single quarter, users played an accumulated 18 billion minutes, compared to a total 11,430 minutes played in total in the Premier league over that same period. With the 260 million+ units FIFA games have sold during its inception in 1993, you are able to connect with a massive and committed audience. Sports brands have noticed this, The Drum reported that the Vanarama National League – fifth tier in English football – filed a petition to be included in the game as a reflection of the commercial value they would stand to gain, including: in-game dynamic advertising as well as digital and social exposure.

However, for Non-endemic brands, the challenge posed is much different and so to the solutions. Nintendo have found that with the experience between virtual gaming and the real world blending with tech advancements; an opportunity to position their brand in the virtual world and become more culturally connected to a younger audience. Birthing the release of their latest project the Ring Fit (a game where you become the physical character in your living room and use motion sensors to move your character around) – a lesson for non-endemic brands to take heed.

So the next time you hear someone say ‘gaming is the future’ don’t let it pass you by, rather ask yourself what is your brand’s future in gaming.

Lightbox Loves: A Social Media Surge

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

During self-isolation and lockdown, people have been flocking to social media platforms, using them as a replacement to face-to-face contact. As the world as we know it is turned upside down, social media has become an anchor as the nation rely on it to keep in touch with the people in their lives, steer away from boredom, and to stay up to date with news on an international level.

In their Webinar this week, Facebook shared that as people stopped going out, they had seen total messaging on the platform increase by more than 50%, while time spent voice and video calling had increased by 1000%. In Italy specifically, 70% more time had been spent on Facebook owned apps in the past month. Furthermore, with venues and gyms now closed, artists, celebrities and fitness instructors have taken to the livestream stage, doubling Instagram and Facebook live views in just a week.

Other platforms have also seen major increases in usage as more people search for an online escape –TikTok saw an 18% boost in downloads this month, and was downloaded 2 million times between March 16 and 22, an increase from the previous week’s 1.7 million. The video app Zoom has also seen its popularity sky-rocket, now gaining 200 million daily participants, up 150 million from December.

Expectedly, consumers have now become more responsive to digital marketing as more of their lives move online. This uplift in social media means that there has been a significant drop in cost per clicks on online platforms this month. Click-through rates in the UK have had a 60% increase in the last week, and these results are expected to continue.

For those looking to connect with audiences during this period, these numbers suggest that social media is where brands should be optimising. Not all businesses are in the position to be spending, however it is worth considering for those in the position to do so.

It’s The Thought That Counts

By | Featured, What's Hot

In today’s world where our physical social interactions have been restricted, we are searching out ways to demonstrate our ‘love’ for our nearest and dearest. As such, the act of giving a gift has never meant so much.

This is because gifting isn’t just about the gift itself but the wider human interaction surrounding the gift. It allows us to show our appreciation and gratitude for the relationships we have. This is why the UK spends so much on gifting for others (£3.3 billion a year¹). This huge market has evolved to not only being driven by the tradition of gifting at key milestones such as Christmas, birthdays or anniversaries, But gifting to celebrate the small moments or the ‘just because’ moments. These moments have created more opportunities for people to demonstrate the importance of the relationships they have, especially those relationships where we can’t always be there in person.

This is particularly pertinent right now when much of our physical social interactions have been removed, so we are seeking out methods to compensate from the lack of physical contact. It is therefore predicted that the upcoming events of Father Day’s along with the 22m UK birthdays due before July² will see consumers increasing the amount they spend this year. But also looking to add a thoughtful touch to the gift, whether that is playing into the trend of experiences over stuff such as ‘sunny day gifts’ (when a gift is purchased with the intention of using it at a later date) or personalisation of a physical gift.

Another area of gifting is self-gifting, a trend which has grown over the last few years. The idea that you don’t need to wait for someone else to buy you a present but rather, “treat yo’self”. Whether that is a one-off purchase or a subscription box (26% of Britons say they buy a subscription box as a pick-me-up³ and this market is expected to grow 72% by 2022 to £1 billion4) the UK are buying into the culture of self-care.

The culture of self-care is now more important than ever. Whilst UK disposable income is under pressure and almost two in five (37%) believe they will be spending less overall5, there is an appetite for small indulgences. A phenomenon known as the ‘lipstick effect,’ a way to boost mood during these uncertain times. Whether it is a new lipstick or ‘quarantire’ (searches for ‘grey joggers’ up 35% since Jan 20206) or hammocks (up 1,292% YoY7) or purchasing digital content and subscriptions (spend increased by 17.4%8) consumers are seeking out cheap thrills.

As the coming months unfold, consumers will continue to seek out gifts for their loved ones to acknowledge the moments they are missing. Personalisation will be key for these gifts to help consumers showcase how much these relationships mean to them. Whilst self-gifting will be about using spare disposable income to provide themselves with pockets of indulgence through the small treats or upgrades on purchases they would usually make.

The New Nostalgia

By | Featured, What's Hot

Nostalgia has a new kid on the block, with the ‘good old days’ now being more recent than ever.  So much so that we’ve coined another new phrase – ‘neo-nostalgia’ – to sit alongside the ‘faustalgia’ we identified in 2019 (defined as those who think fondly or feel nostalgic about decades they have not actually experienced) as part of our study Nostalgia: Is it What is Used to be?

‘Neo-nostalgia’ is defined as a fondness for the recent past.   Exacerbated by the current climate and enforced lockdown, 1 in 3 Brits agree they are feeling most nostalgic for a time within the past 12 months, 1 in 10 admitted their nostalgia was for a time earlier this year.    Those most likely to be feeling ‘neo-nostalgic’ are the 18-34’s, with their top reasons cited as ‘missing my friends’, feeling ‘life is on pause’ or feeling ‘frustrated and bored’.

Nostalgia for any era has a key role to play in helping people cope with lockdown.  Research with the7stars Lightbox Pulse in the past two weeks identified that looking back makes people feel happy (44%), comforted (41%), grateful (32%) and relaxed (31%).   So it’s not surprising that nostalgia provides a welcome relief from the here and now, with a further 30% agreeing nostalgic activities are helping them to avoid COVID-19 related communications.

There’s been plenty of evidence that points to nostalgic behaviours taking place across the country, from a surge in online searches for baking and retro recipes, to traditional board games and jigsaws selling out.   Another interesting area of nostalgic referencing is also evident in music and TV media consumption habits, with 4 in 10 realising their nostalgic indulges in this way.  Topping the nostalgic music charts so far has been music from the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Whatever your preference music is a facilitator of transporting to another time, whether that’s Iron Maiden or The Spice Girls.   One respondent put it aptly – “I’m listening to Backstreet Boys, Five, Spice Girls, NSync – that reminds me of the best time of my life”.

Interestingly, the majority of British adults would like to go back to a previous time rather than go forwards to the future with 49% saying if time travel were possible, they would prefer to go backwards rather than forwards (30%).  It was only the 18-34’s who were more likely to want to go forward in time (40%), reflecting the fact that they feel lockdown has interrupted the forward direction of their personal lives and future careers.

We’ve identified three ways brands can capitalise on the trend of ‘neo-nostalgia’:

Capitalise on brand equity

Building on what brands and products are already known and appreciated for through the reassuring confirmation of tropes and familiar assets is a potent way to connect to audiences in uncertain times.

Help people face the future with confidence

It’s clear that people aren’t feeling confident about the future. Brands should think about how they can add the most value to consumers – whether educating those looking for new skills or entertaining people in need of light relief.

Fuse an analogue aesthetic with digital distribution

There’s plenty of opportunities to tap into stories of a resurgent past, and digital still has a huge role to play in how this content is distributed at scale.  Listen to the conversations taking place and take inspiration for how your brand can join in or put a spotlight on (re)emerging communities of interest.

Rise In Connected Viewing

By | Featured, What's Hot

Increased hours spent indoors has resulted in a rise in media consumption with 80% of the UK saying they’re consuming more content than ever before. But it’s how we’re watching this content where there are some interesting shifts being seen.

Connected TV viewing in the home has risen exponentially in the last month, with 41% of millennials and over 1 in 5 boomers spending more time on online TV1. Throughout 2019, we had already seen signs that online TV viewing was catching up with linear (1h 20m v’s close to 2 hours per day1). During lockdown however, we’re seeing both at an equal level of viewing1.

The UK is now the largest market globally for watching YouTube via a connected TV, with 30% of all YouTube viewing now done on this device2. Whether it’s DIY tutorials or fitness classes (13% of the UK are now working out to a livestream class via connected device1), we can’t seem to get enough of non-linear content on our big screens. In fact, 10% of all UK TV viewing at 9am is now Joe Wicks teaching us how to touch our toes3.

51% of us are now watching more streaming services than ever before, and in a bid to cope with demand, platforms like Netflix and Disney+ are temporarily reducing their video-streaming quality across Europe1. The launch of Disney+ last month further highlighted our love for on demand content on our TVs, with UK consumers proving happy to add another platform to their viewing portfolio, with 15% likely to consider purchasing Disney+ as they are Netflix at 14%1.

For advertisers, this means more opportunities to buy connected TV viewers at scale, and with more sophisticated targeting capabilities.

This week, RTL AdConnect, the advertising sales house for European broadcast company RTL Group, rushed out its automated programmatic buying platform to buy ad campaigns across Europe on connected TV – taking full advantage of the European lockdown. Called VMP Connect, it is compatible with major demand-side platforms, including The Trade Desk (its preferred DSP partner), without requiring additional set up.

Earlier this month we saw Samsung launch their ad-supported video service, Samsung TV Plus, with the ability to buy programmatically across the platform. Samsung claim it is one of the top OTT services, with “millions” of monthly active users and “billions” of viewing minutes per month. “With our scale, technology and proprietary data, we’re uniquely placed to offer this free, OTT video service …” said Alex Hole, vice president at Samsung Ads Europe.

However, as a relatively new ad channel, lessons are being learnt from across the pond.

Cybersecurity company White Ops recently uncovered what it reports to be the largest-ever connected TV fraud operation in history. Named Icebucket, the operation has counterfeited more than 300 publishers to date and spoofed at least two million internet protocol addresses from more than 30 countries (99% of which claims to be US-based) impacting millions of dollars in adspend. As the case develops, it has highlighted a clear issue – that as an ad channel in its infancy, there is a serious lack of transparency and regulation in its supply chain which is yet to be resolved.

Assuming the current challenges can be fixed, connected TV viewing and ad revenue is undeniably set to grow. According to Digital TV Research, the UK is predicted to be the world’s third largest OTT market with a revenue of $6.8bn by 2023. So even if lockdown has accelerated connected TV viewing, it’s a habit that’s likely to stick. We will see more advertising opportunities arise as audiences continue to increase, although personally I can’t wait to work up a sweat outside, instead of in.

Cutting Through The Corona Clichés

By | Featured, What's Hot

With a new aesthetic fast emerging amid restrictions in production capabilities, advertisers are finding new ways to avoid the dreaded ‘Corona clichés’.  In this article we’ll take a look at the opportunities for brands to remain distinctive and get noticed.

As usual, Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson was quick to the punch here, describing the ‘flood of generic messages’ that hit our screens in April that threw out the usual rules of branding in favour of empty streets, tinkling pianos and webcam shots ending with a fuzzy ‘together with you’ conclusion.  This aesthetic echoes the wider shift towards the ‘left-brain’ in advertising and culture in recent years, that favours fast, bite-sized abstractions over in-depth stories set in a specific time and place.

However, the reality is that when Virgin Media aired an early version using most of these tropes on 2nd April, it absolutely nailed the format, while also appealing to ‘right-brain’ tropes such as empathy, humour and spontaneity.   It was fresh, inspired and featured the perfect piece of music, ‘Keep Your Head Up’ by Ben Howard.   Not only that, it was also bang in line with the brand’s values of keeping their customers connected.

It is a measure of how quickly the market zoomed in (no pun intended) on the UCG format that it now feels established and harder to make your own.  It’s not that there aren’t still some excellent executions out there, which have fun with the homemade look as this ad for Voxi shows.   But it’s becoming harder to standout with every subsequent Zoom mosaic ending.

There are three ways that brands can cut through this new aesthetic.  One is to focus on core product truths, particularly when the product in question helps people navigate uncertain times.   System1’s research shows that ads with a strong connection to place and community and ads showing human connection, self-awareness and ‘betweenness’ are connecting better right now.   This is something that recent ads for TSB and Pinterest share – showing how products help bring people together and offer solutions with human empathy.

The second is to build upon the brand codes they are already known for.   This may mean remixing and revamping existing assets in a knowing way.  System1’s research found that ads using established brand characters (so called ‘fluent devices’) and ads sets in the past are doing better than usual at the moment.  Budweiser have brought back their classic ‘Whassup?’ ad from 1999, which combines nostalgia with a famous set of characters and a memorable device, revamped for quarantine times. The Patak’s paste pot ads also use familiar brand cues to great effect, shifting from past to present and featuring the recurring fluent device of the founder as a boy.

The third approach is to use media in different ways to aid the chances of getting noticed. Most advertising still works via association rather than persuasion, and opportunities to associate are abundant right now.  With media owners eager to work with advertisers on new formats there are plenty of ways to achieve additional standout, from achieving extra SOV in underused channels (Emily Crisps brilliantly ran an OOH campaign pondering if they should have made a TV ad), to integrating brands into advertiser-funded programmes, breaking new ground in gaming and audio formats, and finding untapped contexts within the ‘new normal’, such as social distancing in retail queues.

Advertising is undergoing something of a metamorphosis right now, as we shift from left-brain to right-brain sensibilities.  It is under times of constraint that we are forced to get creative with what’s possible.  By leaning into product utility, building on existing brand values, and focusing media on standout channels and formats, advertisers can cut through the coronavirus clutter and increase their chances of getting noticed.

Communicating In A Crisis

By | Featured, What's Hot

As we move into the sixth week of lockdown, one thing is clear: we’ve never read, listened to, or watched more thought pieces than now.  This article sets out our view on the most useful advice to help brands navigate through the crisis. With the aim of emerging fit for the future. 

While the context in which we’re living has never looked so different, many of the lessons learnt reinforce the best practices of marketing we knew long before COVID-19. The challenge now is how to deliver best practice in a world where reacting and adapting has become our way of life.

Overall, we think there are three areas for marketing to focus on.

 Firstly, maintain sight of the longer term (where possible):

While the long term may feel like a distance future, it is never more critical than in a crisis.

Learning from the past shows that strong brands recover quicker following recession. Maintaining, or indeed increasing, share of voice during tough times pays off disproportionately in the longer term (in 2008, brands that invested in ESOV saw 5x as many very large business effects and 4.5x annual market share growth1). Conversely, the cost of going dark does far more damage in the long term than good in the short (0% of brands with <0% ESOV saw very large long term profit effects1).

For brands with challenge in supply, demand or both, focusing on comms that builds brand (vs sales) in the short term becomes even more important, either in paid media or via content and owned comms.

Thinking about how comms can adapt according to “now, next and future” is therefore key to ensuring any short-term approaches do not come at the expense of the long-term health of your brand.   

Secondly, put yourself in the shoes of the consumer:

Lockdown has caused unprecedented behaviour change in the short term, and with that, consumer need states are changing. In many cases, we are seeing previously emerging trends accelerated – eSports, working from home, eCommerce and the rise of direct to consumer brands to name a few.   This means existing customers are behaving differently, and new customers are experiencing products for the very first time (sometimes under distress).

Finding a way to pivot and adapt can ensure that brands remain relevant and front of mind in the immediate future, while anticipating what the green shoots of normality might look like to stay one step ahead.

Being in tune to opportunities as well as challenges is key, especially within media. TV viewing is up 21% YOY in April2, OOH weekly impacts are down 89%3 and web traffic related to gaming is up 75%4 – so shifting channel mix and testing new formats is key to find the opportunity among the disruption.

Monitoring shifting customer bases to understand new occasions and audiences is also critical to plan for recovery and assess which behaviours and customers are here to stay.

Thirdly, find your role to get noticed:

With consumers expecting more from brands, finding a clear role that genuinely adds value is critical.

We have seen four roles for brands emerge during lockdown – being useful by providing practical help to customers or communities; connecting people or communities who can’t be together; entertaining those in need of light relief; and educating those looking for new skills or home-schooling help.

Whichever role chimes closest with brand values, as more brands gravitate to similar techniques and aesthetics in comms, finding a distinctive way to communicate is important to get noticed.

As we continue in unprecedented times, we should focus on the things we can control.  Keeping the long term firmly in view, putting ourselves in the shoes of consumers, and finding a clear and distinctive brand role are all key to navigating the changing landscape and building a plan for now, next and future.