Monthly Archives

July 2020

Lightbox Loves: Can ad bans make the nation healthier?

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

This weekend saw the UK PM announce further measures to tackle UK obesity. These measures include a pre-watershed TV and digital advertising ban, with further measures- a permanent digital ban and limits on promotions for unhealthy foods- still being reviewed.

Following the 1962 Molony report findings that problematic advertising should be “tackled by effectively applied voluntary controls”, the government have allowed the ASA, Ofcom, et al, to be responsible for ensuring standards are upheld. However, public health concerns have necessitated some government imposed regulations across categories seen to present potential issues. A blanket ban on cigarette advertising, and prescriptive ABV ranges for ‘low alcohol’ drinks are two such measures. Now, with 64% of the population overweight, advertising restrictions on HFSS products- introduced in 2010 and extended in 2017- have sought to combat this trend.

The new measures have actually been kicking around for some time in one form or another. David Cameron was set to introduce them in 2016, before Brexit stopped him in his tracks. Theresa May then abandoned the plans before a change of heart two years later when health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, started consultation on the measures. This too ceased when Theresa May’s time in No.10 came to an end. With the current PM previously declaring his views of tackling obesity to be “libertarian” many felt these measures would flounder once more. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has again thrown the nation’s health into the spotlight; evidence that being overweight is one of the biggest “co-morbidity factors” meant that Boris Johnson’s hands were somewhat tied.

Caroline Bovey, Chair of the British Dietetic Association, describes obesity as “a complex disease with many contributing factors” and adds that “any policy approach must take account of all of them”. If the challenge is so broad, how much impact can the advertising ban have itself? Not very much, is the answer offered by the Advertising Association who cited the Government’s own research that identified that the 9pm ban will only reduce children’s intake by 1.7 calories per day and have warned against the measure. Dame Carolyn McCall, chief exec at ITV, added that there is evidence that a wider ban on all ads between 5.30am and 9pm would have next to no impact on childhood obesity.

However, Sir John Hegarty, disagrees with the anti-regulatory call from the AA and others, stating advertising has “responsibilities beyond just selling us things” and that we “must be seen [as] a valuable partner in an evolving society”. He suggests that whilst the ban itself may not have a huge impact; the pressure it puts on manufacturers to produce healthier alternatives they can advertise makes the ban a worthwhile endeavour. The issue will continue to be debated publicly as we see the impact these measures have on the nation’s health in both the short and longer term.

Lightbox Loves: 2020, The Future’s Past

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

It is safe to say that 2020 has presented itself in a way no one expected it to. We have witnessed what seems all but certain to be a historical and paradigm shifting moment in an already illustrious history of mankind.

Lockdown has helped change our viewpoints on how our fates are linked but also how we tackle our work life and the role technology plays within it. For instance pre-COVID, the use of virtual meetings such as Google hangouts were seen as instruments for remote working during special circumstances. A lot of businesses viewed remote working as inaccessible for their line of work. In 2019, only 30% of UK employees worked from home. However since lockdown took place, it was reported that 49% of the UK workforce were working from home (in April) – almost 20% more than the whole of 2019 – bringing in a new era of working. Despite this massive change, productivity of work output has not lapsed as some thought. The success of this has been led by the use of collaborative, shared based working solutions such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft Office 365 to allow people to work and chat on the same documents, spreadsheets and projects all at once.

Ironically, the social distancing measures have called for less individualism and greater stress of community. An article written by Eric Klinenberg outlines that the pandemic would call for us to “reconsider who we are and what we value…”. This should also resonate with brands. As society begins to rebuild and build new structures (as seen with the working from home example), brands have the opportunity to cement their names within these times; much like Disney during the Great Depression by bringing smiles at a time of economical turmoil. The trick was to not neglect the things that were happening, but to rather show how their brand could see a way out of it, by either revolutionising their industry or depicting some sort of escapism. In Disney’s case, it was both. Some event firms have already begun doing this, with the likes of Notting Hill Carnival announcing online performances for people to enjoy whilst obeying social distancing measures from their homes.

This change in environment and success of remote working also means saved time on stretched out commuting (the7stars QT showed that 19% of people are going to miss the time saved not commuting during lockdown) and has enabled workers to be simultaneously ‘at their desk’ or ‘in a meeting’ at the single press of the button. This shift opens the door to more people being able to do jobs they wouldn’t have previously been able to (i.e. new parents and those who are caretakers), which in turn increases diversity along with helping the battle with Carbon Dioxide emissions.

Without a doubt society has been called to rethink its many structures as a result of COVID. However, there is a sense of opportunity and optimism here, as with any fallen building lies the opportunity for another building or something completely different to rise.


Lightbox Loves: Acts Of Kindness

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

On the 6th July, nine advertisers took part in turning their OOH ads in Piccadilly Circus upside down for the day. In collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), all ads on the big screen were flipped to raise awareness for the difficulty that blind people have faced as a result of COVID-19 measures. RNIB in collaboration with The & Partnership aimed to encourage kindness and empathy towards blind or partially sighted people who rely heavily on touch and human contact, and so have been heavily affected by social distancing.

COVID-19 has made more people than ever go the extra mile to care for others, with over a million people having volunteered to help the NHS and charity groups since the start of lockdown. Our QT data shows that 3 in 4 have confidence in the NHS, compared to many other institutions (e.g. the UK political institution) which have negative confidence. Mass recruitment of volunteers has not been seen at this level since World War II, and has brought people closer together, both in their families and communities. However despite the surge in altruism,  charities across the country are struggling; 9 out of 10 will struggle to meet their fundraising objectives this year. This collaboration with RNIB demonstrates that brands have the opportunity to take control of their own social responsibility and power to help, at a time when it has never been more relevant.

In spite of Covid-19, social responsibility is still high on the agenda for multiple brands. Papa John’s partnered with the Trussell Trust to donate money from meal deal pizza orders to food banks around the country to feed families affected by the pandemic. In addition, Iceland proved how important wildlife causes are to the business and its customers, through adopting the penguins at the UK’s largest charity zoo, Chester Zoo. Last but not least, The Body Shop has partnered up with NO MORE – a charity fighting against domestic violence – to create their ‘Isolated Not Alone’ campaign to highlight and combat the rise of domestic violence cases during lockdown.

Amidst the uncertainty, anxiety and dread of COVID-19, the shining hope is that our continuous support as a nation for the NHS and for members of the community who need it most has created a greater atmosphere for kindness and support of one another. The more brands engage with this and demonstrate their own social responsibility authentically and effectively, the stronger resonance and connection they will create with consumers when they look back on the turbulent year that was 2020.


Lightbox Loves: All Down The Pub

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

“Super Saturday” saw the eagerly anticipated reopening of hairdressers, bars, restaurants and the holiest of British establishments – the pub. With audiences slowly and tentatively returning to some aspects of “normality”, we’re now in the midst of mass habit forming moments. This can be a great opportunity for brands looking to gain customers via changed behaviour.

This weekend’s allowed openings were caveated with government advice on how to make an inherently social space as socially distant as possible. The new rules created uncertainty of what to expect from the experience.  This combined with existing caution created over the past 100 days led to a modest turnout. Records show a c.35% increase in footfall week-on-week though this is still around 50% less than usual Saturday footfall.

With Super Saturday out the way, Brits who have been waiting and watching will gradually head back to the boozer . 1 in 3 Brits have been looking forward to things getting back to normal, and these are the ones likely to be making the most of restrictions being lifted. Others will be influenced by the behaviour of others, mimicking what they think is the social norm. By reflecting this herd mentality, brands can align with the national mood.

Tapping into collective consciousness is always a powerful way to build brands; during the “Christmas ad” moment advertisers have learnt, successfully, to mirror the nation’s emotional mindset. The return of the pub is a similar opportunity for brands. It provides a sense of connection with others, a moment of time and occasion.  IPA research Lemon demonstrates that appealing to these more holistic right-brained attributes makes advertising more effective.

This week, our client South Western Railway launched a partnership with Global Radio which encourages Brits to celebrate the local businesses they missed during lockdown. Providing a platform for the re-opening of establishments on their network gives SWR a reason to speak to audiences about their destinations in a relevant way as audiences reconsider their leisure habits.

By staggering the relaxation of lockdown, the government has inadvertently created a shared calendar for the country. Brands that can tap into this evolving emotional progression will prove they are in touch with their current consumers, whilst providing a reassuring presence for future consumers once they’re ready.

Lightbox Pulse, May 2020

Generation Game

By | Featured, What's Hot

Lockdown united the nation, but as we emerge, underlying concerns faced by audiences are diverging once more. These play out differently by generation: baby boomers face short-term unhappiness driven by fear of the virus, whereas Generation Z face an uphill uncertainty over their future. Brands should adapt their comms to address these differing anxieties.

Touchpoints’ data from earlier this year showed an increasing divide between the media habits of Baby Boomers and Generation Z.  But then COVID-19 arrived, along with a swathe of lockdown restrictions. The result? The nation was united by Zoom calls, Thursday nights clapping and daily government TV briefings.

Differences in lifestyles were smoothed over as younger audiences, usually out and about, were homebound. They rediscovered the joys of in-home experiences such as live TV and took up new hobbies to pass time, like baking and crafts (1). Meanwhile, older audience adopted new digital behaviours to keep connected with the outside world.  Over half of 55+ used video calling to stay in touch with family and trialled online shopping (1). This gave brands an opportunity to reach both generations in new places.

But as we come out of lockdown, it’s important to acknowledge the differences re-emerging in these audiences – while there may now be more similarities in media consumption than pre-lockdown, their concerns and challenges post-lockdown differ significantly.

On the face of it, Generation Z seem able to bounce back from the disruption of quarantine. They have more spontaneous lives and so are more responsive to changing advice: over a third are already comfortable returning to pubs (2).  However, this short-term confidence disguises the longer-term uncertainty they face. They are now more likely to suffer unemployment and financial concerns, added to their existing worries for the future of the planet more broadly. This makes them more susceptible to two different levers: value and brand values. This means showing why a brand is worth share of their wallet by demonstrating what it stands for in the current cultural context.

By contrast, Baby Boomers, who profited from booming property prices, are less concerned about finances. Despite this security, almost half report feeling less happy than this time last year (1), and 80% are worried about a second wave (2). For them, the worry is not financial health, it is personal health. Their need for short term reassurance means brands should use trusted comms channels and create customer experiences that address these concerns.

Are there new audiences or new advantages that brands can speak to by solving the issues faced today? Likely yes. But first, just as audiences have adapted to the changing world, brands must challenge their pre-lockdown beliefs.


1 the7stars QT

2 YouGov “Returning to the Pubs”


How Will The HFSS Ban Affect Advertisers

By | Featured, What's Hot

On Monday 27th the government released their latest policy paper “Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives” which includes a ban of HFSS products being shown on TV and online before 9pm. The government intends to bring the ban into place by the end of 2022.

During the next year the government intends to research making the ban stricter for online advertising which would ban HFSS products all together.

Next stages in roll out of the legislation:

  • The government will publish the results from their consultation in 2019 on the pre 9pm ban by the end of 2020.
  • The government will launch a new consultation on a full ban on HFSS advertising online as soon as possible.
  • Following this they will then propose the new legislation to the House of Commons and House of Lords for a vote before being presented as a new law which the government aims to have completed by the end of 2022.

Leaders from across the UK’s advertising and media industries have written to the Government. The letter has been signed by the following leaders: Stephen Woodford, CEO, Advertising Association; Paul Bainsfair, DG, IPA; Jon Mew, CEO, IAB UK; Phil Smith, DG, ISBA; Lynne Anderson, Deputy CEO, NMA; Owen Meredith, MD, PPA; Richard Reeves, MD AOP.

“A pre-9 pm watershed ban is an out-of-date solution that has been discredited as an effective solution to obesity, whilst a total ban online is a blunt and totally disproportionate proposal that completely disregards the fact that advertisers target their ads very accurately at adults and away from children online. These measures would have far-reaching consequences for businesses large and small, as well as for broadcasters, producers and publishers. They would ride rough-shod over ASA self-regulation which has proved to be so successful over the last 60 years. Furthermore a complete online ban has not been consulted on.”

Channel 4 have said, “we remain ready to collaborate with the Government to identify solutions and play our part in supporting this vital objective of combating obesity, as we have done in the past through a wide range of programmes that have focused on healthy eating and get fit initiatives”.

This change comes at a time when TV houses have only just started to recover from the impact of Covid-19 and is a further blow to the advertising industry. Estimates are the proposed bans could cost British broadcasters £200M in lost revenue.

It puts greater restrictions on media channel selection with the ban across TV and online channels. This may see advertisers move towards channels which are not covered by the ban such as Radio, Print, Cinema and OOH outside of TFL.

The biggest question for brands, due to the vague nature of the report, is whether HFSS deemed brands will be able to still advertise at brand level with just HFSS products prohibited or if it is a complete ban all together. In addition,  what level of categorisation will be used to determine whether or not a product is HFSS. At the7stars we will keep up to date on the latest developments as we move towards the ban coming into place.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

By | Featured, What's Hot

Since the start of lockdown brand trust has become more important and consumers are more willing to call brands out for inauthentic and bad behaviour, especially on social media. Understanding and reflecting the mindset of the nation has therefore never been so important for brands.

As we spend more time on social media our expectations of platforms are also evolving. Ofcom’s Online Nation report shows we spend 18 minutes more on social media since lockdown began (vs 3 mins on news sites)1. Alongside this 40% agree they feel less pressure to portray perfect or unrealistic images of themselves on social (rising to 51% of GenZ & millennials)2.

This desire for authenticity and humanity is something consumers expect from brands as well. Kantar’s latest BrandZ report highlights the increasing importance of brand trust as a driver of growth (3x rise in contribution of corporate reputation to brand equity over the last decade), with “honesty & openness”, “respect & inclusion” and “identifying with & caring for consumers” the three main traits shown by trusted brands.3

This emerging ‘Era of the Public’3 is playing out faster than ever on social media. As the most responsive and reactive channel most marketers have, consumers expect progression not perfection from brands.

A recent study by Twitter found that only 7% of surveyed users want brands to return to their ‘normal’, pre-COVID tone of voice on the platform4. And in the context of wider societal issues and injustices that have played out alongside the pandemic on social platforms (from Black Lives Matter to trans rights and misinformation to name but a few) brands must build an open and accountable voice within social channels.

Social media can also drive understanding of the mood and mindset of the nation to inform paid campaigns alongside organic responses. Carlsberg’s recent campaign “Welcoming Back to the Pub” was fuelled by close daily monitoring of consumer sentiment and opinion, ensuring no message was tone-deaf or out of sync with ever-changing attitudes to lockdown easing5.

With ever-increasing scrutiny on social media platforms, brands must take the time to reflect the authenticity and openness that consumers expect from them. Humanity has been one of the defining features of COVID, and brands that fail to use social media to understand and connect with consumers will be called out quicker than ever.

1Ofcom ‘Online Nation’ 2020 –

2Global WebIndex & WeAreSocial June 2020 –

3Kantar BrandZ Report 2020 –



Pandemic Programming Home (Made) Is Where The Heart Is – For Now

By | Featured, What's Hot

As the global pandemic pushes every sector to think out of the box creatively, the UK’s commercial broadcasters have played their part, none more so than the production of new TV content in these tricky times – pandemic programming.

Like with any sector the show must go on, as normal routines have been cast aside, it is up to the broadcasters to provide some sort of comforting normality in the schedule. From breakfast to chat shows, from afternoon quizzes to evening news, then finishing with a soap or drama to end the fifth Monday feeling of the week. Since the beginning of lockdown on 23rd March, we’ve all been glued to our televisions, with individual impacts across the major stations up  year-on-year (March +26%, April +20%, May +8%, June +8%) and broadcasters have had to adapt in order to produce new content.

The viewer like anybody has the desire for new material and in the current circumstances broadcasters are making ends meet. Every broadcaster has utilised homemade content, from Channel 4’s The Last Leg: Locked Down Under which broadcast simultaneously from Melbourne, London and Huddersfield to ITV’s Isolation Stories, four short dramas depicting life in lockdown and what families are going through during isolation. Even our very own Smithy has had to perform his Late, Late Show amongst a backdrop of some fetching décor in his garage on Sky Comedy.

In late May, the UK’s biggest broadcasters agreed guidelines endorsed by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to resume filming popular programmes such as Coronation Street, EastEnders, Emmerdale and Top Gear as archive episodes began to run out. This came as a timely response, with the UK being one of the most important film and TV locations in the world with a record £3.6bn spent on making more than 300 movies and high-end TV productions last year (Guardian). Yes broadcasters have saved money in producing this pandemic programming, but has it come at a cost of quality? We may in the future see an amalgamation of cheaper homemade programming (instead of repeats), supplemented by our big production shows. The fact that every broadcaster is in this current position aids the popularity of pandemic programming, but no broadcaster will want to be left behind and still show this user-generated content whilst their rivals brush off their shiny cameras and large production sets.

Television has always provided the element of escapism and fantasy for a viewer, such as Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic), Tiger King (Netflix) & Derry Girls (C4). The popularity of these lockdown created shows may be down to the fact that everybody is doing it and there is no other alternative. Once our lifestyle becomes more ‘normal’ and restrictions pass, everybody will be dying to meet Lord Sugar’s next Apprentice,  gripped to see who’s the latest to have a soggy bottom in front of Paul and Prue,  and keen to see who is who’s type on paper around the firepit in

Is The Happiness Rebound Amongst Brits Set To Be Thrown Off Course?

By | Featured, What's Hot

This month we learnt that seeing friends and family in real life is one of the most important antidotes to the anxiety caused by coronavirus. But is the “happiness rebound” among Brits set to be thrown off course?

the7stars proprietary quarterly tracking study of 2,000 Brits found happiness levels hit a record low in May among all consumer groups (the lowest recorded over a period of 4 years of tracking).  In the month of May when most people were still suffering the full force of lockdown measures 55% felt anxious – a 31% spike from the same point in 2019.

Yet, stress levels improved dramatically in June, when groups of six people were given the go-ahead by the Government to meet up together outdoors and in household bubbles.  Evidently, seeing friends and family in real life became one of the most important antidotes to anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the happiness recovery was very much felt to be in motion.

This change was especially pronounced amid groups who rely heavily on their peers for contact and support.  Anxiety dropped by 36% for Generation Z (those aged 15-25) in June, while those living in London also experienced a 28% decrease in anxiety compared to May.

This highlighted the pivotal role that friends in particular play when it comes to combating emotional turbulence and feelings of stress.  It’s no coincidence that anxiety levels reduced most in the groups that place the greatest value on having contact with close friends.

Previous research has shown that a person’s friendship circle peaks at age 25: the same age group who experienced the most dramatic improvement in mood in our research. Anecdotally, many talked about the relief and joy of being able to socialise with their friends in real life once again. Londoners also felt this difference acutely once lockdown lifted, perhaps because of the emphasis that city living places on friendships and community ties.

There’s a limit to what virtual connections over Zoom or Houseparty can offer. By going out and meeting loved ones again in real life, some Brits were able to access a potent remedy to feelings of stress and uncertainty caused by lockdown.

Human beings are social animals. Isolation and prolonged social distancing have been a well-documented cause for mental ill-health issues. Longitudinal research also shows that close social relationships are the number one factor when it comes to feelings of happiness and positivity.

Having experienced a “happiness rebound” last month we’d like to hope that this trend will continue.  However, the fear of a second-wave of the coronavirus looms, along with the threat of localized, or even national, lockdowns, meaning the sensitivity of Brits happiness could once again be impacted by their contact and closeness to friends and family.

This presents an opportunity for brands to connect with people through empathy.   Brands can become relevant to the rhythms of consumers happiness – knowing how and when to help.  While brand purpose has recently been at the forefront of communications strategy, it would appear now is the time for brands to really listen and connect with consumers through understanding what’s going on in their lives and being there to support them through it.