Monthly Archives

August 2022

Cinema’s Got Our Attention

By | Featured, What's Hot

It’s been a strong few months for cinema, thanks to the much-anticipated Top Gun: Maverick, an array of Marvel movies and a brilliant awards season: a triumphant return following lockdown struggles. This was celebrated in the recent DCM Upfronts session, which introduced the latest research on attention, cinema’s overall impact and provided a sneak peek of the big movie moments to come in the next twelve months.

Upcoming Movie Moments

Annual cinema audiences are on track to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023. A host of movies are due for release, starting with eagerly anticipated sequels from late Q4 including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar 2. Following the successful first instalment of 2009, Avatar 2 could become the highest-grossing film of all time. The Marvel franchise, which consistently does well with the lighter TV viewing 16-34 audiences, has more in the pipeline for next year, including Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and The Marvels. Tom Cruise returns in his seventh Mission Impossible outing in July 2023, along with, the much-talked-about Barbie movie.

Attentive Audiences

Magnetic’s ‘Pay Attention’ research has previously shown that people believe they are most attentive to cinema ads. However, with an increased industry focus on attention-based media and metrics, DCM were eager to understand whether this claimed behaviour, translated into real-life action.

In conjunction with Lumen, using viewing capture technology, they have observed ‘% of viewable time spent viewing’ to see how consumers view ads in a cinematic environment, taking into consideration time spent looking at phones, chatting amongst friends and so on, to determine actual dedicated screen attention.

Results showed that the cinema generates an average of 77% of viewable time spent focused on viewing the content, surpassing all other channels. In fact, the research revealed that cinema ad attention is almost as high as the movie trailers (77% vs. 80%). This supports consumers’ appreciation for cinema ads and helps justify their place as part of the AV plan when looking to drive attention and impact.

Big Screen Accountability

With one of the most frequent pushbacks to cinema being a lack of accountability (beyond econometrics or paid for brand lift studies), these findings can help justify why cinema can enhance plans, through its attention-commanding context. This has led DCM to recommend that at least 5% of media budgets (where AV assets are available) should be invested into the channel. By doing this, brands can reach audiences who are open to advertising and likely to respond favourably.

Bespoke media planning is essential, so this 5% figure would fluctuate on a campaign-to-campaign basis. However, the increased accountability of this research may inspire more brands to run cinema advertising as part of their overall AV approach.

Not only is cinema back, but there’s so much more to come on the big screen. With the overall fragmentation of video viewing, cinema provides a unique, attention-rich space that can be leveraged within our AV mix.

Cannes 2022: Grand Prix or Effective, but not both?

By | Featured, What's Hot

Cannes Lions 2022 showcased the ‘best-of-the-best’ in advertising and creativity. However, it has divided opinion over what was determined to be award-worthy, with the lines being drawn between purpose vs effectiveness. A high proportion of the entries and winners claimed incredible numbers in terms of impressions, engagements, and other soft metrics – but there was a noticeable lack of business results.

This discussion has been further fuelled by an analysis of the Cannes Lions film category from System1, showing that of the 23 award-winning adverts from the UK and US, 48% received a score of one star out of five. The rating is based on the film’s potential to build long-term brand growth based on the emotional response of viewers. The score of all 23 award winners came in at an average of 2.1 stars, which is slightly less than the average of their database of 80,000 ads, marking no change from last year’s scores.

Purpose-led campaigns were by far the most awarded, most of which were aimed at driving social action rather than commercial growth. While this shouldn’t be downplayed (75% of consumers believe it is the role of brands to solve sustainability issues, for example), it may point to the low System1 scores when some case studies, such as Coors or Dove, couldn’t convincingly point to a resolution of the issue raised.  Yet both won Bronze awards.

What will be interesting to see over the next twelve months is how award winners change in relation to a more challenging market. It is likely that advertisers will rightly push agencies further into the core function of driving growth for their business. Will we see a shift in Cannes 2023 where more emphasis is put on business effectiveness as a stringent part of the judging criteria?

Importantly, a shift toward commercial effectiveness should not come at the detriment of creativity. P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard stated the responsibility of agencies to drive “creativity for growth”. There was evidence from this year’s awards that suggests we can be hopeful. Contagious emphasised that when you look further into the Silver and Gold awards, there were several case studies which quoted strong commercial growth results. Even System1 highlighted examples such as Mastercard’s ‘Spotlight’ and MGM Resorts’ ‘Joy’ as Silver winners who scored 3.9 and 4.2 stars respectively.

There is always going to be contention around Cannes. However, we’re hopefully going to see an improvement in the number of nominations that are built around proven commercial effectiveness, as well as the number that are ultimately awarded. But this needn’t come at the expense of creativity. With brands competing for mental availability and action in a market that is going to be more competitive than ever, breakthrough creativity has a huge role to play.

A woman smiling and holding up a Pride flag.

Taking Pride in Inclusive Brand Safety

By | Featured, What's Hot

As we look back on this year’s Pride Month celebrations, we consider planning and buying practices that discriminate indirectly against minority groups, and how outdated methods can do more harm than good – both for advertisers and publishers.

As reported by Ebiquity earlier this year, Google, Meta and Amazon now account for more than 74% of global digital ad spending. Brand safety is a moving target for advertisers and, with such significant investment into unpredictable environments, a cautious approach makes sense.  One misplaced impression can be captured and amplified on social, or even mainstream media, to the detriment of the brand.

Consequently, for several years, advertisers pursued the most risk-averse course possible; excluding placements, relying on strict inclusion lists, or even opting out of significant media channels and platforms altogether.

Yet, the adverse impact to advertisers of such action can be significant, limiting legitimate reach opportunities and increasing costs – a bit like cutting off your head to cure a headache. However, it’s keyword blocklists that cause another significant problem for minority media.

Ad tech company Teads stated that between 30% and 40% of its campaigns contain requests for keyword exclusions, notably LGBTQ+ terms along with race and religion. As well as excluding entire audiences from targeting, minority publications that rely on advertising revenue also suffer. While figures are down from January 2021, considerable work remains.

Such measures are outdated but also staggeringly ineffective. For example, video content is hard to identify: keyword exclusions often operate only against titles, descriptions or surrounding page content. So, unable to ensure 100% brand-safe delivery, keyword blocklists can disproportionately cause more harm than good.

New technologies reduce the need to use keyword blocklists at all. Third-party tools, such as Integral Ad Science, use exclusion technology that identifies page sentiment and context rather than relying on single words or phrases alone. Unsafe content that would have been excluded by keyword blocklists is still identified and excluded; but legitimate opportunities, using words in a neutral or positive context, are open.

This is why we have taken the stance to remove keyword blocklists as a default brand safety practice. In rare instances, an advertiser or platform-specific case for them might still apply. Otherwise, we now rely only on more nuanced technology and updated native platform controls.

In our tests, removing keyword blocklists results in no drop in the percentage of brand-safe impressions delivered, as measured by IAS.

We make sure that our standards, practices and risk assessments always keep pace with emerging threats and advances in technology. For example, TikTok is assessed as a higher-risk environment, but recent updates in brand safety may change our assessment of that risk considerably and warrant reappraisal from advertisers.

A consistent review of brand safety practices not only identifies new threats but also safeguards responsible media practices that don’t restrict reach away from minority audiences or negatively impact their revenue streams.

A tennis racket wiith some tennis balls.

Passion, People Purpose: ​Harnessing the Power of Sports Partnerships

By | Featured, What's Hot

Whether you’ve enjoyed cheering on the Lionesses, been glued to Tour de France or witnessed Novak Djokovic lift the Wimbledon trophy for 7th time, this year of sport so far has delivered plenty of drama. It has brought excitement, joy, tension and frustration, whilst restoring the buzz of live audience participation. ​

Sport is one of the nation’s greatest passions and has an unrivalled ability to bring people and brands together when passion and emotion are rarely more alive. ​

the7stars’ bespoke research, Connecting with the Crowd, spoke to sports fans to identify what people look for in authentic sports partnerships. We have identified three key pillars that can help guide brands in this space: passion, people and purpose. ​


Watching sport can elicit strong feelings. Our research revealed that 40% of Brits generally feel happier during major sporting events. However, the picture isn’t always rosy – 1 in 5 sports fans also admit to crying when watching sports. ​

Brands should consider how they can bring these emotions to life through compelling storytelling to inform or even surprise their audiences. ​


We found that passion is even more powerful when experienced together. 3 in 4 people feel a sense of national or community pride when watching sport, and this feeling can linger long after the event is over. Sports fans can connect with their favourite athletes increasingly more easily, due to social media, drawing people further into the world of sport, and extending their memorable moments. ​

Therefore, brands have an opportunity to enhance the fan experience in many ways beyond the event itself, such as continuing the conversation on social media or partnering with their audiences’ favourite sporting stars. ​


Finally, fans want the sports they love to be a positive force in the world. 3 in 5 agree they want sports to make a meaningful change in society​. Furthermore, half of Brits believe that athletes should be role models to future generations, and this number is even higher among 18-34s.​

Therefore, brands need a reason to get involved. Fans not only welcome brands that can make a positive difference in sport, but they are actively expecting to witness it. ​

Tapping into at least one of these areas is a winning formula for sports partnerships. ​

To find out more about our research, as well as how the7stars can help you make the most of exciting sporting opportunities, do join us for an evening of wine and cheese on 15th September. Please contact your account team for more information.

Man holding a remote as woman eats popcord.

OFCOM to ‘Investigate’ Increasing TV Ad Break Durations

By | Featured, What's Hot

OFCOM have announced that they are ‘looking into’ proposals to extend TV ad breaks and/or allow more breaks per hour. They could also relax product placement rules, allowing for greater integration of brands in shows. This is proposed as a way to counter the rise in streaming, particularly after Netflix and Disney+ both announced their own intention to launch cheaper ad tiers to their platforms.

The Netflix Effect

Regulations have limited terrestrial stations to an average of seven minutes of ad time per hour, with only a single ad break in shows under 44 minutes duration.

With the ‘Netflix effect’ of taking linear TV viewers away to streamers, media owners have argued that the only way to compete is to be able to increase both ad times per hour and increase their product placement and brand integration opportunities.

Rumours of such a move have been circulating for years, but severe TV price inflation has put pressure on TV stations struggling to maintain viewing levels.

A further accelerant has been the announcement that Netflix has now signed an agreement with Microsoft to build their ad tier model. With the infrastructure already in place at Disney, through their ownership of titles like ABC and ESPN, we can expect these new competitors to enter the UK market in 2023.

A Split Reaction

Senior figures at ITV, C4 and Sky argue that this move is the only way of competing with the might of debt-laden Netflix, or the Disney behemoth (despite Sky being owned by US giant, Comcast).

Others observe that the loser will be the consumer. We are already in a market used to skippable ads, second screening and reduced TV reach so if the product is diluted through further ad break interruptions, fears are that viewers will be turned off.

Evidence confirms that not only will viewers complain if they feel their enjoyment is hampered, but TV stations will listen. After complaints of loading up on ads, Sky made the decision to reduce the minutage of ads in the latter Game of Thrones series to avoid detracting from the viewer experience.

An increase in TV ad impacts is likely to be a double-edged sword, with the initial reduction in CPTs gradually lost to a higher exodus of viewers (especially in younger audiences) as viewer experience declines.

A more positive option, if handled carefully, would be an increase in show/brand integrations and tasteful product placement which would open up new revenue streams and innovative options for advertisers.

Lightbox Loves: Attack of the Clones

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

When Instagram announced in a blog post this month that it was expanding its Remix feature, making it easier for users to create and share video content whilst ensuring each new video uploaded to the platform would automatically become a Reel, the backlash from disgruntled users was seismic. It was also entirely expected.

Upon launch in 2020, Meta’s Reels feature was variously described as a TikTok copycat. At the time, users took to their profiles to lambast Instagram for moving away from its core, photo-sharing premise. Undeterred, Meta quietly continued to develop Reels, waiting for the dust to settle before the next phase of its all-in gamble on video content.

History tells us we’ve been here before. Rewind to 2016, and Meta had another, share-stealing competitor in its sights. Snapchat’s short-form, finite stories had revolutionised the way users shared content online, posing a serious threat to Facebook and Instagram’s longstanding hold on the social media industry. Upon introducing Stories to these platforms, Meta was met with an at-times furious user backlash, and reporters united to label it a Snapchat clone. The response, from Instagram’s then-Vice President of Product, Kevin Weil, was unequivocal: “this is the way the tech industry works”. 

Indeed, with the latest Reels roll-out, Meta is not the only company tempted by a slice of the TikTok pie; Twitter has tested a new For You page, where users are fed a continuous stream of video content. Such developments have proved polarising among users: the7stars’ Lowdown found only 33% of 16-34s supported the trend, with 39% hoping Instagram would reverse course. But will such fierce debate among users dissuade Meta from its pivot towards video content?

Whilst the furore over the launches of Stories and Reels eventually died down, with at least the former now viewed as an essential part of Instagram’s offering, with this latest announcement Meta may have encountered more ferocious opponents. Influencers including Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner took to their stories to plead ‘Make Instagram Instagram Again’. Perhaps sweating over the immediate 6% drop in its share price – part of a year-long Meta stocks slump – Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced the company was temporarily hitting the brakes on the Reels roll-out.

But while the outcry may have prompted a moratorium on the ‘Tiktok-ification’ of Instagram, it will likely only be temporary. With Meta’s userbase ageing and TikTok growing rapidly among Gen Z, the increased homogenisation of social media platforms is likely to continue. And with the opportunity to potentially reach Instagram’s two million-strong monthly users with curated, brand-led video content, brands should be ready for the next step in the process. 

Lightbox Loves: The Media Opportunity Created by the Lionesses’ Euros Win

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

The Effect of Success

The success of the Lionesses has had a seismic impact on both consumer and commercial interest in women’s football. Sponsorships from brands such as Pepsi Max and Doritos serve as signifiers of the trajectory of the women’s game, which as been amplified by the recent success of England. Women’s sport viewership in the UK has been increasing 140% year on year, and the7stars research shows that 57% say the Lionesses’ success has made them more interested in women’s football.

Culturally, the Lionesses have already had a significant impact on changing attitudes and inspiring a generation of girls to take up football. However, this influence must be passed into the Women’s Super League (WSL) commercially in order to benefit the women’s game in the long term. Attendance at WSL games has been poor in previous seasons, in 2021/22 the WSL average attendance was 2,282; under half of the FA’s attendance goal by 2024. However, momentum from the Euros is already having an impact, Manchester United initially sold-out tickets to their opening game of the season and have opened an additional stand in order to make more tickets available. However, ensuring this momentum remains throughout the season will be a significant concern for stakeholders of the WSL. Comparisons can be drawn to the 2019 Women’s World Cup which recorded significant interest at the time of the tournament, only for it to dissipate before the WSL. However, the Euros has had over twice the amount of interest and therefore may be in a better position to avoid this post tournament slump.

The Opportunity for Brands

The growth of women’s football creates a unique and multi-faceted media opportunity, as it can expose brands who are familiar with football to a new demographic, this is particularly significant for brands such as bookmakers. The WSL could grow to mirror the Women’s National Basket Association (WNBA) which exemplifies this opportunity. The WNBA’s betting partner specifically targets women through a ‘Bet on Women’ predictor game which combines both sport and popular culture, attempting to bring more women into gambling. The UK may follow this trend as bookmakers adapt to capture a new demographic which is increasingly interacting with football.

Brands who previously considered advertising on football unviable are also presented with a new opportunity as their target demographic may be increasingly interacting with football. Women’s football can be a particularly palatable sponsorship opportunity for these types of brands due to the positivity and togetherness that surrounds the Lionesses.

Whilst 42% of people think brands must do more to support women’s football at a professional level (the7stars Lightbox Lowdown), there is an element of risk for those who follow the momentum created by the Euros. Interest in the Lionesses has had a meteoric rise, but this also means that prospective sponsors must do additional diligence to ensure that their efforts come across as authentic. This suspicion can be combatted by showing commitment to the grassroots of the women’s game by championing principles such visibility and accessibility, this approach is exemplified by Nike’s Women’s Euros campaign.

Sources: SportsProMedia, Reuters, Nielsen, Google Analytics, 90min, the7stars Lightbox Lowdown