Monthly Archives

June 2021

Commerce Uncovers: Instaffiliates

By | Featured, News

The social platforms have long provided a great environment for brands to inspire potential customers. In particular Instagram, with its increasingly high-quality visual platform has been responsible for helping some of its creators launch their own brands such as Huda Kuttan’s beauty line ‘Huda Beauty’ and Kayla Itsines fitness program ‘Sweat.’ 

Despite this rich, inspirational environment it has often been difficult for creators to allow fans directly to retailers site. Instagram has traditionally not allowed third party links to be easily tagged, as it endeavoured to keep users within the app. However, at the first ever Instagram Creator Week conference Mark Zuckerberg announced that was about to change.  

Amongst products such as its redesigned Instagram Shop and Shopping in Reels, Instagram announced the launch of its own native affiliate program. This new program will allow creators to tag any products featuring in their content and earn commission on those sales. Not only does this provide an additional revenue stream for creators but should increase conversion for retailers, promoting their products through creators on the platform.  

Whilst this is a great opportunity for retailers and creators alike, it won’t bring great news for affiliate networks, or sub-networks built around monetising social platforms. Over the past few years, thanks to increased diversity of affiliate programs, networks have been actively encouraging influencers to use their tracking but with better integration directly with Instagram will be much more appealing.  

What’s most exciting, is Instagram’s first foray into the world of performance marketing using the cost per acquisition model. It’s a demonstration of the next evolution in what defines affiliate marketing. Whilst traditionally pigeon-holed to cashback and voucher, we’ve seen the concept of “an affiliate” evolving to include business to business partnerships, onsite technologies and some programs using people and locations as real-world affiliates. What Instagrams new product demonstrates is that affiliate marketing can be stripped back to a basic principle of a partnership working on a cost per acquisition model. Using that simplistic definition, we can really start to get creative with what affiliates are and what they can do for retailers’ businesses.  



Lightbox Loves: The One With All the Sitcoms

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

On the 27th of May, after years of speculation, the “Friends Reunion” finally aired on Sky. It has been seventeen years since the final episode which saw the coffee-loving friends move out of their New York apartments after ten seasons, 236 episodes, Ross’ three failed marriages and one iconic couch. Recorded in April, the one and three-quarter hour special saw the cast reunited to take a trip down memory lane, revisiting the characters’ old haunts and recreating classic scenes. For one night only, Monica, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Phoebe and Ross were back.

The Reunion, watched by an estimated 29% of U.S. streaming households on the first day, demonstrates how enduringly popular the show is: HBO reportedly paid $425 million for the sitcom in 2019 and it is regularly voted one of the most loved of all time.

It’s a stalwart of popular culture. To mark the show’s 25th anniversary in 2019, Lego launched a 1,079-piece collectible set including pieces to build a miniature Central Perk, Ralph Lauren advertised a Rachel Green-inspired collection and US furniture company Pottery Barn recreated the infamous apothecary table. Experiential installations were constructed across the globe; Primark, for example, installed its own Central Perk in Manchester. Even Google demonstrated its enthusiasm with Friends-related Search results throwing up interactive graphics (a search for Ross, for instance, caused all the results to “pivot”!).

“Friends” is not alone in inspiring such terrific levels of nostalgia. The return of “Gavin and Stacey” in 2019 for a Christmas Day special was watched by 11.6 million people, becoming the biggest festive ratings success in over a decade. Meanwhile, it was announced in April that popular comedy “How I Met Your Mother”, which ran from 2005 until 2014, is getting a reboot. This nostalgia seems to have reached its zenith during Lockdown: “The Office US”, for instance, was Netflix’s most streamed series last year.

In 2019, the7stars’ Nostalgia Report found that most Brits (90%) spend at least some time thinking fondly about the way things used to be, with the 90s, the decade “Friends” was first broadcasted, thought of most warmly. Brands who ride the wave of this nostalgia reap the rewards. Foxy Bingo, for example, was the only gaming brand to see year-on-year improvements to consideration, up 19% (May20), when it sponsored “Friends” on Channel 5.

The recent audience figures suggest that fondness for the past has only increased over the pandemic with viewers seeking comfort in re-runs of sitcoms. Brands can harness this nostalgia by aligning with well-loved comedy shows that offer consumers a shortcut to something familiar and fun amidst such uncertainty. Despite Courtney Cox crying “it’s not like we will do a reunion in another fifteen years,” only time will tell how durable our love for the sitcom will be.

– Emily Blatchford


Lightbox Loves: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

In 1943, the American psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced his theory of The Hierarchy of Needs, a theory that is still relevant to understanding human behaviour today. In this theory, he shows that humans have different levels of needs that motivate them throughout life. Tapping into these different need states can help brands meet the right consumers with the right message at the right time.

In its most simplistic version, Maslow’s Hierarchy splits into five levels, each one needing to be met before a person can go on to meet the next. Level one is based on our physiology – the need for food, water, sleep and warmth. Level two is the need for safety, which includes shelter, financial and job security, and health. Next, psychological needs are introduced. The third level includes belongingness and love needs, such as creating social connections with friends, family and romantic partners. The next level up outlines esteem needs: the need to feel important, respected, purposeful or accomplished. The final level of human needs is for self-fulfillment. This includes any creative activities and, unlike with other levels, the motivation to meet this need only ever increases, even once this level is achieved.

Brands can effectively reach their audiences by feeding into multiple consumer need states. For example, Lidl’s price comparison campaigns tap into both the basic physiological need for food and the need for security of finance by demonstrating lower prices than competitors. On the other end of the hierarchy, Tesco’s “Food Love Stories” campaign focuses on the importance of food shared with others, tapping into level three and our need for social connections with friends and family. Understanding where a brand or product sits within these levels of needs can help to frame benefits for the chosen target audience.

the7stars’ Joydex tool can help to identify when a consumer might be most receptive to messaging around a particular need state. Using IPA TouchPoints data, the Joydex maps emotions over the course of a week, helping to pinpoint times of day when consumers are most happy, stressed, relaxed or feeling a whole range of other emotions. When a consumer is feeling stressed, messaging around basic comforts and securities might be more relevant, whereas in moments of happiness they may be more open to messaging around esteem or self-fulfillment needs. Paying attention to the context and mindset in which marketing messages reach consumers will ensure that they cut through the noise in a cluttered media landscape and land in a way that resonates with individuals.

– Katie Gebbie



The All In Summit

By | Featured, What's Hot

The past 14 months have been difficult for a number of reasons, but the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement last year, due to the harrowing murder of George Floyd, has led the advertising industry to take a hard look at itself and wonder whether it’s doing enough about inclusivity.

Consequently, in March a survey was launched by the industry’s “Inclusion Working Group” made up of the Advertising Association, ISBA, and the IPA. With 16,000 respondents, the inaugural “All In Census” survey managed to reach around 20% of the whole industry. When results were released a fortnight ago, they provided powerful reading, posing questions of whether our industry truly represents the country. The Advertising Association itself then followed up survey results with an online seminar, the “All In Summit”.

During the summit we heard from disabled actors about the Maltesers campaign, launched ten years ago, which remains one of only a handful of advertising campaigns to feature disabled talent. This issue is underlined by the survey results in which disabled talent is shown to be vastly underrepresented in the industry with just 9% working in advertising vs 20% of the working age population. We heard from prominent colleagues from working class backgrounds who spoke candidly about the challenges they face in a relatively middle-class industry, and the conversational code switching that they frequently have to employ. This was backed up by findings of the All In Census which revealed that 28% of advertising professionals attended a fee-paying school (the national average is 8%). The summit touched upon recruitment as we heard about the effects of unconscious bias, with just 1% of executives being black, compared with the national average of 3%.

The session closed with an action plan, focusing upon three immediate aims:

  • Improving the experience and representation of black talent
  • Supporting disabled professionals and the immediate audit of websites across the industry to ensure full accessibility.
  • Encouraging talent from working-class backgrounds and the uptake of the Social Mobility Commission Toolkit.

Inclusivity is profoundly important; not only is it the right thing to do but it also makes commercial sense. Many studies have pointed to the positivity that a diverse workplace brings to the bottom line: “the relationship between diversity and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time” (McKinsey, 2018).

Ultimately, though, it’s by our actions that we are all judged. Here at the7stars we launched our anti-racism charter last year with just a few examples below of what we have already done:

  • Creating our own ethnicity pay gap investigation to identify any issues.
  • Designing bespoke ally training for the whole agency.
  • Changing our Foundation grant-giving strategy to include charities who are actively involved in anti-racism.

We see this very much as just the start of our journey into inclusivity, but we are emboldened by the knowledge that steps are being taken to spotlight disparity and to improve inclusivity across the industry.

Connected TV – What Next?

By | Featured, What's Hot

It’s no secret how ConnectedTV consumption has accelerated in the last year or so, with the Global Pandemic leading to a significant uptake in both penetration and time-spent watching content on the device. In the US, YouTube is the most-used digital video platform for OTT watchers, with March 2020 seeing an 80% increase in watch time year-on-year. However, the questions remaining are: how do publishers adapt their offering to make best use of this consumption, and how might agencies advise clients on the best way to utilise it for their campaigns?

Unsurprisingly, Google are leading the way in their attempts to further bridge the gap between CTV advertising and typical consumer behaviour. The imminent release of a new feature expects to make their YouTube CTV ads more shoppable. Upon the click of your TV remote, or console controller, you’ll be able to send a website link or other call-to-action straight from the CTV advert you’ve been served, through to your mobile device. This serves to remedy the challenge of not wanting to disrupt the viewing experience, while ensuring that YouTube CTV advertising isn’t seen solely as a branding platform. The new feature is strategically aligned to Google’s recent push of products, such as YouTube for Action, which are designed to drive consideration and ultimately sales uplift.

Other CTV publishers are finding their consumption growing and now need to ensure they maximise their ad offering.

Samsung saw streaming overtake linear TV on their Smart TVs in 2020.  Samsung offers the flexibility to target users based on the programmes that they watch. As an extension of your linear TV activity, or as a way to follow a similar approach without the steep budget requirements of linear, this affords considerable advantage. However, in order to constitute more than a “portion of spend in a programmatic buy”, they and other players, such as Rakuten, must answer the challenge: what can you offer that YouTube can’t? To emphasise their relative merits, they must show how they can feed into a larger AV plan.

Here at the7stars, the growth of CTV fits beautifully into our established viewpoint on AV. Rather than formulating AV plans in silos across TV, BVOD, YouTube and so on, we determine our approach to video based on audience consumption. Is our audience going to care whether the advert is on demand or on linear TV? Or are they going to care that we’re not delivering a 30-inch landscape video to their mobile device? Spoiler; emphatically not. CTV, and the new products being developed, support our “AV by Device” approach to planning. We look at how viewers behave and deliver assets across the screens, putting consumer experience first, and then measuring and optimising accordingly.

CTV further blurs the line between AV channels. For advertisers who are receiving recommendations that are suited to video consumption in 2021, this is only going to benefit plans once measurement catches up.

Preparing For A Greener Future

By | Featured, What's Hot

While the 47th G7 Summit was being held in Cornwall, the7stars and other leading media agencies joined with the IPA to launch our industry’s own effort to combat the climate crisis – the IPA Media Climate Charter.

The Charter provides tools and resources, including a new media carbon calculator, to support our transition to a zero-carbon future.

Housed on a new IPA hub:, the Charter offers a pathway for us to demonstrate our commitment and action in response to the climate crisis.

One of the core tools on the site is the carbon calculator for media plans. This new tool will allow us to measure the overall carbon footprint of the campaigns we plan and buy across all channels, identifying where we need to reduce the climate impact of each activity.

It calculates carbon emissions associated with a media plan based on the media mix. Using a range of data sources, including DEFRA electricity emission factors, device power outputs and energy intensity, it can determine the carbon footprint of a media plan at a channel level.

The Charter addresses one of the five core areas identified by the cross-industry Ad Net Zero initiative, Point 3, to “curb emissions from media planning, buying and distribution.”

Alongside the calculator, the charter provides us with additional guidance via reports, research and recommendations to help reduce the carbon impact of our own operations and aims to advance the industry’s sustainability goals through an ongoing programme of research, education and events.

IPA President Julian Douglas says: “The science is clear. We need to turn fast and hard if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and mitigate [its] worst effects.”

Douglas cites incrementalism as an enemy of sustainable progress. He calls for bold action across the sector in a unified response and transition to charter standards and recognises that we cannot succeed by acting in isolation: “We need fully committed industry-wide coalitions that drive the change we need to see.”

The IPA Media Climate Charter was drawn up as a response to that challenge for collective action. Douglas asserts that it sets the pathway for sustainable transformation. A range of tools and resources have been developed explicitly to empower all charter members to make genuine impact within the work of their own agency and for that impact to accumulate into collective benefit for everyone.

“Most importantly,” Douglas adds, “Climate Charter members will join a community of motivated media agencies, which together can solve problems, share lessons and inspire the 10x change that we know is required.”

If you would like to find out more about how the Charter can help with your media planning, please speak to your account team at the7stars who will be happy to help.

The Measurement Of Attention

By | Featured, What's Hot

The emerging field of advertising attention measurement is hotting up fast. Advances in the ability to determine who is viewing digital and TV ads and for how long are changing the game. New ways of planning, measuring, optimising and, ultimately, trading media are evolving. Not to be mistaken with viewability (whether an ad was displayed or not), attention uses mobile eye-tracking and big-screen head tracking with large audience panels to give us insight into which ads are seen, and for how long.

This new way of thinking about media has already ruffled some feathers. One of the leading players in the space, Lumen Research, annoyed Facebook by saying that in-feed advertising should be regarded as an outdoor channel, rather than a video channel. The short bursts of attention paid to Facebook, Lumen suggests, indicate that static ads with creative like outdoor 6 sheets are most effective. Instead of inserting video in-feed, they advocate ads with snappy copy that deliver the message at a glance.

As with any new advancement in advertising, it pays to consider the full implications. Multiple studies show that people naturally pay more attention to adverts when they’re in market for a product – this means that optimising plans only to attention could risk undercooking the vital role advertising plays when priming audiences with longer-term brand awareness and consideration.

There’s also nuances in how to use attention dependent on the nature of your brand and its campaigns. Launches, for example, likely need more attention than a salience-driving campaign from a well-known brand. The former needs to introduce a brand and convey the proposition whereas the latter typically focuses on reinforcing existing memory structures. Naturally the former demands more of the audience and needs their eyes on screen for longer.

Ultimately, an open mind when it comes to the implications of attention is key. Discussions around ‘cost per attention’ measures must consider that reach will always be a big factor in effectiveness too. Instagram Stories are an attention big-hitter, but reach remains low vs Instagram in-feed ads. As always, a balanced, considered approach is needed for media planning.

the7stars has an exciting approach to attention in development that touches planning, measurement, optimisation and trading. Watch this space for news and, firstly, a whitepaper that explains all.

Oh, and the most cost-effective way of capturing attention? Good old-fashioned TV ads top the charts, proving why it’s still the starting point for many brands. But YouTube is running a close second!

Cinema Is Back

By | Featured, What's Hot

Monday 17th May brought with it hotly anticipated freedom for the UK; being able to hug your family, sit inside at a restaurant, and finally visit the big screen. Cinema visits were the third most missed activity (Metrix Labs) throughout the pandemic, ranking higher than visiting a pub or returning to the gym.

Prior to the first lockdown in March 2020, visits to the cinema were a popular leisure activity, with 41% of UK adults visiting at least once a month (Verizon Media), ranging from family visits to midweek date nights. The channel allows brands to reach audiences when they are most receptive to advertising and “feeling their most positive” (IPA Touchpoints).

In recent years, cinema has been particularly strong for reaching a young, affluent audience. 500,000 of these traditionally light TV viewers (16-34s) enthusiastically returned to watch Christopher Nolan’s Tenet during the brief period cinemas reopened in summer 2020.

2019 saw the second highest admissions in over 50 years, with the UK box office raking in over £1.25bn for the third year running. Fast forward to 2021, and we’re living in a climate of mask wearing and social distancing – not the typical image of a carefree cinema visit. From research gathered before the start of lockdown-easing in May, 75% of the UK had already planned their return, with 60% of people expecting to visit the cinema within two months of reopening (Metrix Labs). This is largely due to a particularly strong 2021 slate, with the inclusion of eagerly awaited blockbusters, the biggest being: No Time To Die (Bond franchise, September) – having been pushed back multiple times since the original launch date of April 2020.

Audiences have flocked back to cinemas since reopening on the 17th May, with admissions eclipsing original forecasts. For example, DCM reported a 129% increase over predictions for their first week. This trend is expected to continue, with weekly admissions across the summer anticipated to reach highs of 2.2m.

Although the pandemic saw a rise in direct-to-streaming releases, such as Disney’s Mulan, which was released exclusively on Disney+, recent figures have shown that, now consumers have the option, the big screen is still the place to be. Disney’s latest release, Cruella raked in £6m during its opening week, placing it third highest for the UK box office, despite also being available for a fee on their streaming service.

With a wealth of movies still to come in the second half of the year, including Fast and Furious 9, Disney’s Jungle Cruise and Marvel’s Eternals, there are exciting reasons for everyone to return to the movies. It’s clear that cinema is reclaiming its place in the entertainment market and proves, if anything, that absence does make the heart grow fonder.