Monthly Archives

June 2022

Lightbox Loves: If It’s Good Enough for Marketing, It’s Good Enough

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Since the beginning of time, it was expected that those with more had a responsibility to use those resources to do more. And as brands begun to dominate our world the same demands were asked of them. Some brands deliver on these demands better than others, while others are accused of greenwashing or being profiteers of social issues. This article will explore why brands should use proven marketing strategies when seeking to further social goals.

We all have the heart to do good but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are best placed to attempt to this alone or fully committed to delivering. Coca-Cola as an example, are a company that has been adamant for a while that they are making progress in tackling packaging waste, but in an annual report released by Break Free From Plastic, Coca-Cola was ranked as the world’s number one plastic polluter (for the second year running). Of course, the company’s detractors jumped at the opportunity to shun them for failing to decrease their use of plastic bottles but also for their statement claiming they would not abandon the use of plastic bottles, as it was a popular choice of their customers, as such passing responsibility onto their customers and demonstrating their lack of sincerity and commitment to the cause. But it does also raise the question that can you make change as a brand if the people in that world don’t want to be saved? Businesses like Coca-Cola operate (like many of its kind) on the principle, if it makes money, it makes sense. Therefore, if their customers, prioritised the environment over their convenient ‘popular choice’ Coca-Cola would be more inclined to make the change. And, like I say, fast food restaurants may cook unhealthy food, but you put it in your mouth. Secondly, for those versed with the story of Avatar, you don’t send Jake Sully to save the people you’re hurting unless you want him to really save those people and burn you down. What I mean by this is that if there is a genuine yearning to give meaning to your brand beyond money making, but you don’t have the credibility within that space, look to partner with someone who does. Had Coca-Cola really wanted to honour their promise they should have been prepared to burn some of their earnings. So, if not by removing plastic bottles, then by partnering or supporting another cause, which supports the environment.

On the other hand, to Coca-Cola, at the vanguard of excellency in marketing and social endeavours, is Nike. They have excelled in almost all their attempts because they understand even though they make sports apparel and footwear, they are nothing without the athletes/people who associate themselves with it. If there is no Michael Jordan, there isn’t a cult of hungry Jordan sneaker heads for generations to come. In 1994, an article was released which exposed Nike for their use of Child Labour and subsequently ushered a lot of backlash. In stark contrast to Coca-Cola, Nike responded by appointing Kirk Stewart, and set alight a new dawn for the brand which took the position to own up to their mistakes as part of an effort to be transparent and accountable, which was their redemption by burning themselves for the world to see. Because it is only by true sacrifice, that penance can be accepted and only after then can you ensure that you not only keep public favour but continue attracting athletes and partnerships, which provide the additional brand legitimacy. Additionally, their partnership with DyeCoo Textile Systems, which removes water waste from the production process and makes sure that no chemicals are released into the water table, reduced energy consumption by 60%. Even today, Nike continue their efforts with initiatives like ‘Made to Play’ which focuses on the kids that face the greatest barriers by giving them opportunities to play and see role models like them, so in effect through meaningful partnerships. Continuously, Nike have showed their strength by understanding the importance in partnering with people and organisations that are much more credible than themselves, after all they specialise in selling clothes not serving social causes.

To conclude, when as a brand you decide to make the decision to align yourself with a cause or a movement it is paramount to its success and acceptance from the public that you fully commit to it and don’t just go with something that is a buzz topic or a popular movement, that introspectively doesn’t agree with your business beliefs, you wouldn’t do the same with marketing decisions. So, why do it with social ones?


Top image of a woman doing work on her laptop whilst holding a cup of coffee and with documents on the wooden floor.

A People First Response in a Crisis – Whitepaper

By | Featured, Whitepapers

Please download 'A People First Response in a Crisis', our whitepaper on the Cost of Living crisis, which helps brands understand people's attitudes and behaviours towards today's challenges and how they can respond by demonstrating resilience, integrity and purpose.

    The New Effectiveness Normal

    By | Featured

    Talk of a ‘new normal’ has been a hot topic of conversation – both culturally and within the advertising industry – ever since the pandemic hit.  Translating this specifically to the world of marketing effectiveness has so far raised more questions than answers.  What does a new normal look like, how do we know when we’re there, and how will it affect us?  All very good questions for any marketer to have.  

    Keep Calm, Keep Spending 

    For many UK businesses, ongoing supply chain issues that started with Brexit are now being exacerbated by the economic impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the COVID-19 lockdowns in China, alongside 40-year high levels of inflation. 

    Previous IPA data continues to prove useful evidencing the survival code for winning in tough times – brands fare best when they maintain their investment in longer-term brand-building media, complemented by a smaller ratio of sales activation media.   The mantra has always been clear – Keep calm and keep spending. 

    Many brands are doing just that.  According to the Q1 2022 IPA Bellweather report, total UK marketing budgets were revised up to an almost eight-year high during the first quarter of this year.  The economic health of the industry is looking buoyant as advertisers seek to return to both sales and brand driving communications. 

    However, this is coupled with a crisis of confidence in how we effectively measure returns on investment.​  

    In MediaSense’s ‘Media 2025’ report, published in March, concerns highlighted included ongoing measurement bias, inadequate legacy measurement systems, and the ineffective integration of data across silos. 

    Revisionary change

    A big lesson over the past couple of years has been that change is inherent. 

    We have certainly borne witness to significant changes in both the cultural landscape and in consumer behaviours during recent times, and we will continue do to so as wider geopolitical and economic events play out in the year ahead – both globally and locally.  British consumers and brands will be impacted, whether it’s the cost-of-living crisis, rising energy costs or supply chain challenges.  

    However, the overstating or oversimplification of these changes can be at best a bit misleading and, at worst, dangerous for decision making for marketers.  Mark Ritson recently referred to the ‘obsession with the pornography of change’ that our industry has.    

    It is the overegging of the scale of change that can make marketing budgets feel more volatile and riskier.  The reality is that revisions will likely be gradual. 

    Spoiler alert. The new normal doesn’t look as drastically different from what’s been before.   

    Yes, there have been significant changes, and yes some of them are here to stay, but even the sudden shifts we saw in behaviours such as the huge growth in eCommerce during COVID are now flattening out to becoming a more normalised and consistent trend. 

    ​The predictability of the unpredictable

    Whether it’s evolving the key performance indicators that we focus on to measure success, planning for the impact of privacy legislation and the implications for measurement, or trialling new measurement techniques that help us to collectively move the industry forward. 

    It’s time to get comfortable with a new normal that embraces ongoing change.   

    At the7stars, we recently hosted a seminar for clients and colleagues dedicated to all this and more. From learning about the emergent and disruptive trends in the measurement landscape to furthering our understanding that metrics that matter. 

    We were joined by industry experts Peter Field, Jenny Bullis (Meta), Orlando Wood (System1), Grace Kite (Magic Numbers) and Pete Robins (13minutes) to share their thoughts on how brands can navigate The New Effectiveness Normal. 

    Considering Phobias Within Advertising

    By | Featured, What's Hot

    The need for brands to consider mental health in how they communicate with consumers has been under the spotlight over recent years and, rightly, continues so in a cost-of-living crisis and a post-pandemic world. But an issue somewhat overlooked is how creatives reflect both common and uncommon phobias within their visuals.

    A recent article posed this question in relation to a new Malibu advert triggering trypophobia, a phobia which is a significant aversion or negative reaction to the sight of clusters of small holes, bumps or irregular patterns. It prompted a conversation around the lengths to which brands should go in trying to avoid triggering more common phobias in their adverts. Whilst this is not a popularised discussion, it is an area in which the ASA receives complaints, although a limited number are eventually upheld. Whilst there’s no record of complaints or banning of an advert based on trypophobia, this is not the case regarding snakes (ophidiophobia), insects (entomophobia) or clowns (coulrophobia).

    Clowns are perhaps the most interesting to consider in this question of how far brands should concern themselves with phobias in their creatives. Horror films such as ‘IT’ would be nothing without the reveal of Pennywise the clown in its trailer, but this was delivered across all channels ahead of the film’s release without any question of removal – even though it’s arguably at the extreme end of triggering coulrophobia. Whereas Norfolk Dinosaur Park had its Halloween event poster removed due to the placement of the advert, this was more to do with the ‘scariness’ of the image in relation to its proximity to children.

    Even when looking at these examples, the ASA judge adverts by their propensity to create a negative reaction. However, this is more to do with the subjective view of how ‘unsettling’ it is, based on the context of how the phobia-triggering element is depicted. For example, a Norfolk Dinosaur Park poster of a blood-soaked clown will be removed, even though McDonald’s built a brand by championing the clown Ronald McDonald. So, is the consideration of phobias actually a motivating factor in any complaint decision? Perhaps not.

    The question for brands, therefore, is this: to what degree is the triggering of phobias amongst an audience a risk for which they need to plan, when briefing creative agencies and generating ideas. Creativity is all about a defined, yet open, platform to produce the best asset possible, but can you do that when the potential list of phobias is never-ending? Or is putting the question of ‘is this idea/creative potentially triggering to a large number of people?’ on the QA checklist enough to ensure it’s been factored into discussions?

    It remains a tricky subject and one for which no precedent is likely to be established soon. For now, bringing phobias into the early discussion of campaigns, in the same way as mental health stigma or diversity, is the most effective way that brands can ensure any decisions are proactive and not reactive. Inclusion of elements that are potentially phobia triggering can then be opt-in, after relevant consultation, rather than dangers that are left to chance.

    The View from Ad Week: How Can Advertising Help Build a Net-Zero Economy?

    By | Featured, What's Hot

    High on the agenda at last week’s Advertising Week Europe event, unsurprisingly, was the climate emergency. In an inspiring session MPs, Advertisers and Media professionals came together to discuss what we as marketers can do to help.

    Advertising has an astonishing impact on CO2 Emissions and the environment, be that from the placement and running of media to the excess and waste that come out of production. The average IPA agency produces 84K tonnes of CO2 from its business practices (for reference, an elephant weighs one tonne). As Europe’s largest advertising industry, the UK can and should lead the way in transforming our industry’s impact. Ad Net Zero was launched in late 2020 to ensure that, as an industry, we achieve real net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. They set out a five-point plan of action that agencies should take to reduce their impact:

    1. Curtail operational and individual carbon emissions
    2. Curb emissions from production
    3. Curb emissions from media planning & buying
    4. Curb emissions through awards and events
    5. Harness advertising’s power to support consumer behaviour change

    Making these changes need not be at the expense of growth for brands. From the standpoint of enlightened self-interest, we should care about climate change not just because we are environmentalists but because we are businesspeople. The impact of climate change will affect a huge number of industries – we have a responsibility to act now to mitigate that risk as well as maximise our opportunities.

    Last week also heralded the arrival of the Campaign & Ad Net Zero Awards which will recognise work from across the industry that promotes more sustainable ways of living and building a net-zero economy. These awards will act as a benchmark of excellence and inspiration with categories awarding great work across more green media planning, production, events, and business transformation. Creating and placing work with as low a carbon impact as possible is vital; so, it is fantastic to see this work being recognised by the industry. It’s equally important to consider your overall impact. Campaigns that promote a green message but don’t consider their impact has fallen foul of consumers’ opinions and the work has been accused of green-washing. The most successful campaigns will work over the longer term to promote an environmental message and won’t overclaim their impact.

    Here at the7stars, we are dedicated to ensuring that our media planning and buying is conducted in a way that minimises the impact on CO2 emissions and on the environment at large. This is why we joined the IPA for the launch of the Media Climate Charter in 2021, providing agencies across the Media industry with a series of tools and resources to actively tacking the industry’s carbon footprint caused by media activity. This came hand-in-hand with a Carbon Calculator (which is available to all of our clients) that allowed advertisers to measure the overall carbon emissions that came from media planning and buying, creating a method for identifying areas that be adjusted to reduce the environmental impact of running client campaigns.

    Marketers have the right skill set to effect change. The work we create over the course of our careers can inspire positive change in consumers and help deliver a mindset shift in the wider population. All those small acts towards a sustainable and lower-impact economy will be fundamental in helping us achieve the limits on climate change.

    All’s Fair in Representation?

    By | Featured, What's Hot

    Active representation of diverse audiences can be a crucial step to an equitable society when done properly. This is evident with the improvement in the visibility of LGBTQIA+ people represented in media in recent years, which is an amazing step in the right direction. In saying this, misrepresentation can be just as harmful as a lack of representation.

    A recent study by Nielsen, conducted in collaboration with Dynata, found that LGBTQIA+ audiences felt that advertisers could improve inclusion by taking on the following recommendations:

    • 50% of respondents recommend avoiding stereotypes
    • 44% of respondents recommend more authentic and realistic depictions of LGBTQIA+ people
    • 37% of respondents recommend involving the community when planning and creating ads.

    From this, we can see a clear need to adjust the way that advertisers represent and engage with the LGBTQIA+ community to truly make the community feel included. When there is an apparent lack of authenticity, it can lead to a perception of tokenism. This results in people feeling excluded, rather than included.

    What do we do now?

    The UN Women Unstereotype Alliance survey found that 64% of advertisers had a fear of ‘getting it wrong.’ To avoid this, it is imperative that advertisers involve marginalised communities that they want to depict at all stages of the advertising process to ensure that the endeavour is authentic.

    This means not only having LGBTQIA+ people in ads, but also in the room at the planning stage. This also extends to having LGBTQIA+ representation in the workforce, on consumer panels and gauging the community’s feedback when testing creative/copy.

    Beware the monolith

    During LGBTQIA+ History Month in February, the7stars hosted a conversation on representation in media with members of our own community and the wider industry to discuss related topics. We drew similar conclusions to those of the survey, but a key point resonated with the group: the LGBTQIA+ community is not a monolith. One individual cannot represent the entire community.

    So, even when seeking community feedback, advertisers should consider whether their counsel wants to be there and if they are an authentic and diverse representation of the lived experience in the story the advertiser is looking to tell.

    Is the Rapid Delivery Revolution Here to Stay?

    By | Featured, What's Hot

    Readers across the UK will have spotted ads for rapid delivery services popping up in recent months. Having entered the UK market shortly before the pandemic, the growth of the rapid grocery delivery category has been, well, rapid. Backed by billions in investment – Getir recently secured $768m in funding – these services have expanded into most major UK cities, each time bringing a wave of OOH ad spend and leaving advertisers asking how it all works.

    After the rapid delivery wave reached British shores, their popularity exploded during the COVID-19 lockdown, as house-bound Brits sought new ways to shop online, buoyed by attractive sign-up offers. By late 2021, the market was valued at £1.4bn, with growth expected to treble. But can this be sustained?

    In short, it’s unlikely. While the category does have room for growth, the crowding of the market and resultant SOV wars will eventually necessitate a maturing market. Already, some cannibalisation is occurring, with Getir acquiring rival Weezy, and Jiffy announcing it was ceasing delivery operations. Moreover, inflationary pressure has forced a revision of previously exponential headcount growth, with Getir and Gorillas in the process of laying off hundreds of UK employees. While funding should be enough to prevent an immediate crisis, such funds will eventually dry up, and investors will expect their return. Just look at Deliveroo, which continues to bleed cash despite healthy sales growth.

    Such a turnaround is possible – Uber Eats finally became profitable in Q4, one quarter after its big sister – but it is likely only one or two brands will survive, with public image will playing a major role in this. With brands operating in the gig economy suffering greatly from negative PR, Getir chose to recognise its workforce as company employees, thus entitling them to sick pay and other benefits. While this positions them as category frontrunners, their closest rivals, Gorillas, entered into a ‘voluntary partnership’ with GMB Union this month in a bid to assuage critics.

    So, how worried should traditional retailers be? Currently, any threat lies mostly in major cities. In February 2022, the7stars’ Lowdown found awareness of rapid delivery apps among 16-34s in London to be 94%, versus 69% outside the capital. Moreover, half of current app users admit they only order when they have a voucher code – lucrative offers which are unlikely to be sustained once delivery apps pursue profitability.

    Indeed, rapid delivery brands draw credibility from the quality of their offering, the key to which is held by legacy retailers. While supermarkets are unable to match delivery apps for speed, their products hold more appeal than dark-store lines. As such, many have sought mutually beneficial relationships. For example, Iceland partnered with Uber Eats to offer 20-minute delivery in the South East. Luxury retailers, notably Fortnum & Mason, have also dabbled, showing that rapid delivery’s rise has caught the eye of both ends of the grocery sector.

    Let’s be clear: the weekly trek to the supermarket is unlikely to be replaced by a scooter-bound rider anytime soon. Nevertheless, it’s clear that, once they iron out their business models, delivery apps will have a role to play in consumers’ lives. In the way that Just Eat disrupted a previously stable takeaway delivery market in the 2000s, the rapid delivery revolution threatens a shake-up of shop aisles in the 2020s. But such disruption need not be negative for existing supermarkets: if partnerships continue to blossom, benefitting retailers and delivery apps alike, the shopping experience may change for the better.

    Cost of Living Crisis Bites the Streaming Market

    By | Featured, What's Hot

    Since the start of the year, we have been inundated with intel and opinions on the cost-of-living crisis; it has been a hot topic here at the7stars too. With articles across news brands discussing the severity of the situation almost every day, consumers are turning inwards to readjust their personal finances. The latest research from Foresight Factory highlighted that only 34% of consumers are happy with their current financial situation.

    British households are looking proactively for more ways to save, and the subscription market is feeling the effect. Kantar reported 1.51 million subscription VOD services were cancelled by households in Q1 2022, up from 1.04 million in the previous quarter and 1.20 million a year ago, with over half a million cancellations attributed to cost savings.

    Whilst the cost-of-living crisis isn’t the sole reason consumers are cutting back on subscriptions, the end of COVID-19 restrictions and the return to socialising for many people has also had a knock-on effect. It is clear that the biggest reason for this is that UK consumers looking at their outgoings and deciding to cancel the additional subscriptions for which they previously signed up during the national lockdowns.

    This month, in an effort to combat their first loss of users, Netflix reported that they are willing to allow ads to the platform with a tiered subscription model. This would give consumers the opportunity to access the content at a lower price in exchange for advertisements. Not only could this open the service up to new consumers by offering wider choice, but it could also mitigate the risk of pausing or cancelling subscriptions and increase the lifetime value of their consumers.

    But what do consumers think of advertising-supported SVOD channels? Are they keen for video platforms to adopt Spotify’s successful freemium business model? Many would choose to believe that consumers would be despondent towards advertising across subscription services, highlighting evidence of advertising fatigue. However, new research from Morning Consult highlighted that consumers in every country would choose to stream content with advertising if it meant they could access the platform more cost-effectively.

    When given the choice, 46% of UK consumers would prefer to access low-cost content with advertising, while 25% are neutral, vs the 29% who would prefer to pay higher fees to avoid advertisements.

    We know consumers are feeling the pinch of the cost-of-living crisis, with 38% cancelling SVoD services (up from 29% in Q4 2021) and stating ‘wanting to save money’ as the primary reason. Therefore, we can expect more and more subscription services to tap into this new mindset and capitalise on the evident acceptance of advertisements by introducing tiered payment choices.