Monthly Archives

October 2022

Making An Impact at a World Cup Like Any Other

By | Featured, What's Hot

Football fans all over the planet are starting to predict their country’s progression through a World Cup, unlike any other previous tournaments that we have witnessed. Hosted at a time of year normally dominated by Christmas preparations, advertisers are considering how best to engage with an event marred by controversy in the build-up and that begins when they’d normally be considering Black Friday deals.

An Unfamiliar World Cup

This month will see the World Cup kick off with hosts Qatar facing Ecuador on the 20th at 4pm (GMT).

The sun will set as the first ball is kicked; it will be just over three weeks since most of us will have celebrated Bonfire Night with fireworks and four weeks before the festivities of Christmas. This is the first-ever tournament that will see northern hemisphere teams and fans contend with a ‘winter’ World Cup. While it’s also arguably the most controversial World Cup of the modern era given the decision of FIFA to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Marked By Controversy

Switching the tournament to be hosted during Qatar’s cooler winter months will see players avoid dealing with temperatures in Doha that can top 45 degrees, but they will still need to cope with 35-degree heat while playing football at the highest level.

It’s not just the conditions that have caused controversy though as there has been an abhorrent human cost to the tournament. When it was awarded the World Cup, Qatar had almost no infrastructure to host a large-scale international footballing event. It has since erected 7 new stadiums in Doha to welcome both players and fans alike, and it has been reported by numerous media outlets the world over that 6,500 migrant workers have lost their lives in Qatar building these stadiums over the past 10 years.

Not only this, but the tournament has received criticism from LGBTQ+ groups following the decision for the event to be hosted in a country where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death. This was further condemned after Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stated that LGBTQ+ football fans travelling to the country should “show a little bit of flex and compromise” during a conversation on LBC.

A Different Kind of Opportunity

It’s fair to say there is plenty for advertisers to consider when planning for the 2022 Qatari World Cup. Probably the most important being whether it is even right to advertise around an event that has directly cost the lives of almost 7,000 people, in a country where same-sex activity is illegal.

There is no one right answer here, and it will depend on each individual brand’s position and audience, but we still expect to see the tournament draw in huge numbers of viewers. Over 89% of the British public followed some form of sport during 2021 and 2022, and England is coming off the back of a fantastic Lionesses win at the Euros this summer. Evidencing public interest in the tournament will be high.

What’s more, there are examples of how a brand can protest the tournament while recognising that events like the World Cup tend to transcend controversy and bring audiences together. Look at Hummels, the Danish kit manufacturer for instance. They have muted the logo and badge across the international kit to avoid benefitting from exposure during the matches but understand the players will still be present representing Denmark.

The brands that succeed in cutting through and connecting with the crowd during Qatar 2022 will be those who manage to balance the sensitivity surrounding the tournament while also recognising that it will still be a huge event that is important to plenty of fans the world over. One way of doing this could be to reframe some of the issues around a winter World Cup and think of the tournament as an extension to the festive period, using the event to bring some goodwill to fans in the build-up to Christmas.

EffWorks 2022: Effectiveness and the Advancing Cost-of-Living Crisis

By | Featured, What's Hot

This autumn, once again, we share and celebrate an annual enquiry into the latest research and hot topics around marketing effectiveness, as EffWorks wraps up for the 2022 season. EffWorks promotes evidence-based decision-making across a week-long event that consists of various speakers from leaders within the industry, to discuss pioneering research, case studies, and award-winning marketing effectiveness work. We were fortunate to attend on Wednesday and Thursday, the two days featuring industry talks, and have collated the most important take-outs.

On Wednesday, Dr. Grace Kite from Magic Numbers & Carl Carter from IRI revealed the latest results from the ARC database, which consists of an econometrics pool across 8 different marketing science teams. Their talk was focused on what we can learn from the pandemic about advertising effectiveness going into the cost-of-living crisis.

Kite and Carter explored how a brand’s marketing investment strategy and effectiveness had changed during COVID-19, and the key learning was that each brand acted differently, according to its market. At a broad level there were three sectors into which these brands fell:

  • Beneficiary brands, such as D2C or E-Commerce advertisers, who thrived during COVID-19
  • Secure brands, such as FMCG or financial services, who were broadly secure throughout the pandemic
  • Victim brands, such as transport or retail, who were making the best of a bad situation

Depending upon which category your brand occupies, this indication could heavily influence your marketing decisions going into 2023. Evidence also reveals that brands who made big bets during Covid-19 did see some reward – with a 30% uplift in revenue and £3.60 average ROI.

On Thursday, Les Binet from adam&eve took to the stage for a talk that was, unintentionally, closely related to Dr. Kite’s, on marketing in the post-COVID-19 economy. Binet discussed previous recessions noting that, typically, they enabled lower-cost media, as many brands cut marketing investment and demand was pent up for a relatively less expensive entertainment source.

Binet also highlighted the importance of optimising price and promotions prior to marketing. Price optimisation is dependent on the demand and supply of your category. Understanding your product’s price elasticity, which can be measured through econometrics, informs this planning process. Furthermore, Binet noted that excessive promotions can erode the sensitivity of price and, thus, incremental sales from promotions are often much lower than perceived – another force that can be tracked and optimised accurately with econometrics.

The rest of the week featured an abundance of engaging, evidence-led case studies – too many to list here – and, notably, there were common themes that threaded between all presentations: relationships, cost of living, and models of success. To ensure these learnings are circulated amongst our partners, we will soon share our seven key themes in detail – and what we can learn from them about effectiveness and measurement.

‘Tis the Season: Christmas Offers Light amongst the Gloom

By | Featured, What's Hot

The rising cost of living is leaving many Brits feeling strained, with nearly half reporting feelings of stress or exhaustion (the7stars Pulse), which is tied to nearly half feeling uncomfortable with their current financial situation. Additionally, for the first time since we started tracking in our quarterly tracker, the QT, the number of Brits feeling less comfortable about their income than they did a year ago has surpassed those feeling stable. The substantial shock of the cost-ofliving crisis has produced a tangible financial impact on millions of households. As a result, consumer confidence has fallen, dropping to -41 in July 2022 (GfK Group), the lowest level in 40 years.

UK-wide figures show that financial struggle is high but there are consumers who are faring better. Research from Savanta found there are four key groups when it comes to economic resilience and disposable income: Unaffected, More Cautious, Actively Buying Cheaper, and Cut All Spend. The largest segment is ‘More Cautious’ at 20 million adults in June 2022, which has remained stable since tracking began in 2019. This is followed by ‘Actively Buying Cheaper’ at 13 million, ‘Unaffected’ at 9.5 million, and finally ‘Cut All Spending’ at 5 million. The result of this is that a fifth of the population’s disposable spending hasn’t been affected by the cost-of-living crisis and over two-thirds are spending but making shrewd adjustments. Adjustment to spending is varying by category depending upon the impact of inflation and consumer intention to spend.

As we look ahead to Christmas, there is an underlying level of strain on consumers. However, the continual resilient attitude and desire for occasions that are out of the ordinary, providing distraction and joy, are high. A gratifying 85% of Brits (the7stars Pulse) agree that although there is considerable negativity, they are trying to make the best of the situation. This supports the7stars white paper earlier in the year ‘A People First Response in A Crisis’ which highlighted the resilience of Brits to adapt to new realities, with 64% agreeing that ‘in difficult circumstances, I keep calm and carry on’.

Moments beyond the day-to-day routine provide a chance to escape and celebrate. Half agree that Christmas is what they are looking forward to most in Q4. These moments offer an opportunity to spend time with friends and family. Getting together as a big group at home is the key setting for these occasions (39%) along with a quarter going out to pubs/bars/restaurants and over a fifth attending organised events (the7stars Pulse).

So, whilst Christmas this year is under more strain than in previous years when it comes to spending, Brits are going to celebrate, still prioritising what matters most: spending time with their friends and family. Brands that succeed in consumers’ minds will be the ones that acknowledge the financial pressure and focus on helping to bring people together.

Black Friday in the UK: The Beginning of the End

By | Featured, What's Hot

For decades, the extent of the British public’s knowledge of Black Friday was confined to end-ofNovember news broadcasts, where British families watched with amusement as their American counterparts – full of Thanksgiving turkey – crammed their trolleys through crowded supermarket aisles to the bargain bin. It all seemed rather un-British.

Yet within ten short years, we were hooked. Led by US-owned e-commerce retailers including Amazon and followed by most of the nation’s best-known high-street brands, Black Friday has become one of the most important retail dates of the year. British shoppers splashed out a record £9.4 billion during last year’s event, with similar activity forecast for 2022. Research for the7stars’ Lightbox Lowdown found that 50% of British adults plan to make a purchase in this year’s sales, taking place without any lockdown restrictions for the first time in three years.

Yet the cost-of-living crisis, and shifting consumer attitudes towards spending, suggest some variation to the prior form.

Lines are blurring between Black Friday events and year-round sales. As Black Friday, and its online-only sister event, Cyber Monday, have expanded from single days to whole fortnights, consumers are growing weary of sales events.

As Dr. Jonne Guyt (Professor of Marketing at Amsterdam Business School) explains, much of the appeal of the traditional event lay in successfully finding a ‘steal’ of a deal, to leave the buyer thinking they have ‘beaten the system.’ With such events taking place throughout the year, the allure of Black Friday is vanishing.

Moreover, the transparency of deals has come into question. A YouGov poll from 2020 found that 57% of Britons believed Black Friday discounts were less generous than they first appear. Indeed, a Which? study last year found that 9 in 10 product promotions could be found at the same price or cheaper in the six months preceding Black Friday. As shoppers become savvier to such devices, and with a range of free browser extensions, such as Honey, automating the bargain-hunting process, fewer will take a Black Friday saving at face value.

As the cost of living continues to squeeze household finances, those who do plan to brace the sales this year are tailoring their shopping preferences accordingly. the7stars’ Lightbox Lowdown found that Black Friday shoppers this year are slightly more likely to shop for gifts for others than for themselves, a marked departure from the vanity shopping of previous years. This tracks closely to the growing pool of research into Q4 consumer habits, with Brits spreading the cost of Christmas over several months to ensure they can still celebrate come December.

As outlined in the7stars’ People First in a Crisis whitepaper, brands should strive to display transparency to potential customers, ensuring discounts offered during Black Friday do not appear disingenuous. Furthermore, in recognition of the growing financial pressures faced by millions of households, brands must also approach this year’s sales with integrity, or risk a backlash for being seen to encourage consumers to spend beyond their means.

As the sales bonanzas approach, Black Friday remains critical for British brands. But as shoppers grow savvier, retailers must do so too.

The Evolution of the Metaverse

By | Featured, What's Hot

The ‘metaverse,’ a term coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel ‘Snow Crash,’ has garnered considerable attention lately, with brands like Nike, Disney, and Microsoft beginning to invest in earnest.

After Zuckerberg rebranded Facebook Inc. as Meta, Horizon Worlds, Meta’s mixed reality experience, launched in the UK. Now Nike has acquired RTFKT to produce digital clothing for use in virtual environments.

Arguably, the Metaverse is where the real, social, and virtual worlds come together as one. There’s just one problem. It doesn’t exist yet.

Matthew Ball, the authority on Metaverse development, describes it as a single, global-scale ‘interoperable network,’ accommodating unlimited numbers of users. But, according to Ball, it’s at least a decade away. We just don’t yet have the computational power and latency required to maintain a persistent 3D world that millions of players can play simultaneously in real time.

As James Whatley of gaming agency Diva points out, the Metaverse and its inhabitants are all hypothetical. But gamers, players, and their $200 billion industry are real – and they’re already here.

Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft represent stepping-stones in the right direction, commanding vast numbers of players with gaming available across devices.

They also represent a profound generational behaviour shift. For Gen A (those born after 2010) these games are their go-to preferred form of entertainment, ahead of both social media and video.

2010 was the year the iPad was launched. Roblox launched in 2006 and saw hardly any players for its first decade. Then it began to grow.

With 5 million monthly players in 2014, Roblox became the market leader in 2020. One of their most popular games, Adopt Me, was visited 30 billion times, more than 15 times the global tourist visits in 2019. They hit 59.9 million Daily Active Users in August 2022 with 4.7 billion hours of on-platform engagement, their content ranking 4th on Youtube. Over half of UK kids between 9-12 play.

It’s no coincidence that Roblox’s core users are the iPad native generation.

Games such as Roblox are shifting away from achievements into social-based activities; hangouts, concerts, and adopting pets. Identity and individual expression are wrapped around the user’s avatar. Of course, avatars need things to make them look cool, so virtual fashion is booming on the platform, with Gucci, Nike, Balenciaga, and more rushing to kit out the avatars.

Some futurists believe that ‘Flippening’ (when virtual items overtake physical in terms of value) is within sight. Recently a Gucci handbag sold on Roblox for more than the real thing.

Brands are experimenting. For every notable success (Nikeland), there are several more disasters (Walmart) with few initial users and even fewer returning to the experience. As ever, it’s about knowing how to add value to the audience.

To experiment in proto-metaversal platforms, the first place to consider is probably within the walled gardens of Roblox and Fortnite, where there are actual users and easy-to-activate billboard ad packages. But also consider the wider world of gaming.

If you would like to investigate further, with some examples of brands getting it right (and a few wrong) we have a deep dive ‘Exploring the Metaverse’ session currently running for clients. Ask your account team and we’ll be glad to show you more.

The Struggle and Significance of Staying Sustainable

By | Featured, What's Hot

As cost-of-living pressures increase, non-essential spending becomes a more cautious choice. Our proprietary Quarterly Tracker highlighted that intention to spend on small ticket items is at an all-time low.

The report also showed that for 30% of consumers a brand’s sustainability efforts are even more important since the pandemic. This contends with a Kantar study finding recently that some consumers now sacrifice sustainable options for the affordability of less eco-friendly choices.

As Leonardo DiCaprio (amongst others) said; ‘We only get one planet’. Along with personal responsibility, businesses and advertisers have a role to play in developing good practices and enabling consumers to make sustainable choices. Embracing the current cost of living challenges, how can brands both remain relevant and do the right thing for our planet?


Although increased cost pressures offer an easy excuse for brands to bow out, the sustainability conversation needs to remain at the fore. Our August QT also highlights the need for empathetic approaches including assessing and communicating environmental impact. Proactive measures by brands allow consumers to feel part of the solution, even if they’ve personally stepped back. We run our media plans through the IPA’s Carbon Calculator to understand the impact of individual channel activation on the earth, giving clients the opportunity to review or offset the costs, to further demonstrate their commitment to carbon reduction.


By conducting research, brands can discover which topics on the sustainability agenda matter most to each target audience. These insights can then be used to determine commercial and campaign priorities, shape decisions, and communicate in a way that attracts customers. For example, our video campaign focusing on Nuii ice cream’s support of animal conversation projects centred around being contextually relevant. This helped us reach those in the Nuii audience who are most invested in animal welfare topics. The campaign helped boost brand perception across both ‘cares about protecting wildlife’ and ‘is a sustainable brand’.


Consumers are savvy and can be quick to call out the tokenistic. Well-considered sustainability messages, rooted in authenticity, can prevent accusations of greenwashing. Continuing to invest in carbon reduction despite economic pressures is key. Even though consumers may be making personal compromises, they still want brands to keep sustainability on the agenda. Doing so now will drive long-term brand love and loyalty. A widely praised, impactful example of brand integrity would be from Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, who recently announced that he is giving away the company to groups fighting climate change. While an extremely radical approach, it aligns with a longer-term ethos, which has included advertising for repair and reuse before buying new products.

It’s never been more important for brand behaviour to be consistent. Brands need to back up their intent and insight with action. This includes conscious advertising, making choices in channel and message that indicate a wider sustainability ethos.

How to Build Long-lasting Relationships with Gen Z Influencers

By | Featured, What's Hot

Collaborations with content creators shouldn’t be a one-time thing. If an influencer is the right fit for your brand, and you’re a good fit for theirs, there is a lot to be gained from thinking long-term. This is particularly true when it comes to working with Gen Z influencers, a generation that is driven by their values – namely authenticity, transparency and genuine, meaningful connections.

Like their influencers, Gen Z consumers crawled straight into the digital age. They have been exposed to social media, smart technology and digital entertainment since birth and have thus developed a high level of cultural literacy around online interactions. They can spot a disingenuous endorsement a mile off, and nothing says ‘I just wanted to make a quick buck’ as loudly as a one-off sponsored post on an influencer’s channel.

So how can brands build long-term relationships with the latest generation of influencers?

  1. Find content creators that align with your brand values. The influencer marketing sphere is awash with platforms and dashboards offering to automate the recruitment process, but long-term relationships require a face-to-face connection. Taking the time to research, talk to and engage your partners on a human level will reap rewards for both sides in the long run.
  2. Prioritise engagement over reach. Reach measures how many people have seen your posts, but engagement metrics are indicative of deeper audience connections and perception change. Working with fewer influencers on bigger, better collaborations will foster deeper relationships over time.
  3. Allow your partners the creative freedom to deliver your message in their usual tone of voice and favour natural, authentic content over heavily polished shots. It’s all about relatability as far as Gen Z are concerned. Putting trust in your partners to be themselves will keep them passionate about your product, and generate fresh, engaging content for your brand.
  4. Once established, nurture those relationships. Interact with influencers and their content beyond the brief and in between campaigns. Treat them as friends, rather than transactional business partners, and keep reminding them that you’re there to keep the door open for future collaborations.
  5. Finally, pay your influencers well. It’s a common misconception that influencers are paid exclusively in free samples and experiences, but influencers have bills to pay just like everybody else, and no volume of samples will do that. Show them you value their work through fair remuneration. The payback comes when that influencer develops into a long-term brand ambassador.

While there is a time and a place for short-term activations with influencers, sporadic campaigns lack authenticity and damage trust between Gen Z influencers and their followers. Brands should focus on fostering meaningful relationships with influencers in order to connect with the shopper of today.

Media and Brand Responses to the Queen’s Passing

By | Featured, What's Hot

Following the news that the Queen had passed at the age of 96 on Thursday 8th September, media outlets and brands were quick to show respect with changes to their advertising and scheduling. Immeasurable throngs of Brits queued to see the Queen lying in state. Yet the day after Her Majesty’s death, our research pulse indicated, the nation turned chiefly to media channels as their main source of staying up to date.

Nearly all media channels pre-prepared their response to Operation London Bridge so moved quickly to action necessary alterations to scheduling. Commercial TV channels, such as ITV and Channel 4, and major radio stations paused all advertising on their primary channels. Out-ofhome operators replaced digital commercials with a commemorative still, whilst newspapers dedicated the majority of their content, if not all, to the Queen in the following days, and halted all scheduled adverts. The same approach was also in place for Her Majesty’s state funeral.

Whilst this response was swift and clear, we also saw brands aim to pay their respects in similar ways. Our research pulse showed that Brits appreciated tributes posted by brands on their websites and social media and, on balance, they welcomed it. Interestingly, however, most individuals felt that brands should freeze their media only for a short period of time with around 90% indicating that they did not expect a continued blackout until after the funeral. Nevertheless, the vast majority honoured the eleven days of mourning.

Whilst a second wave of research showed that consumers thought brands reacted appropriately in general, some did face backlash for the way in which they aimed to post their respects. Brits showed an overwhelming view that brands should not look to profit from it – whether that was a pause on promotional emails, holding back on paid advertising, or not tying their brand name to the Queen. Examples of brands that tried to personalise or ‘over-brand’ their commemorative posts were swiftly confronted with a negative response on social media for insensitivity.

It was perhaps the ultimate case study in recognising that not all cultural events should be treated as branding opportunities for advertisers, intentionally or unintentionally. Whilst certain companies with royal warrants or those who had worked with the Queen before (see Paddington Bear) had license to adopt a delicately more creative approach, typically brands should stick to short, appropriate, unbranded messages in scenarios like this.

We saw, both in research and in practice, how Brits want to see media outlets and brands respond to momentous, solemn occurrences of this nature. Hopefully, we’re a long way from experiencing something similar again, but there are learnings to be taken by brands going forward. The primary lesson is that brands must plan and adopt a toolkit for their responses, with guidelines on how, when and when not to respond, with pre-authorisation from the required powers for those responses. Brits only ask brands to respond in an appropriate manner, so having a plan of action is the best way of ensuring it is done suitably.

Shop ‘Til You Flop: Has Social Commerce Failed Again?

By | Featured, What's Hot

Tech news outlet ‘The Information’ has reported that Instagram is planning to ‘drastically scale back its shopping features,’ with the app’s shopping tab set to disappear. This is hot on the heels of Tik Tok abandoning plans to scale its livestream shopping feature into Europe, which was announced in July. Is this another sign that social commerce is set to nosedive?

Social commerce has been a primary area of development for social media platforms over the last year, with platforms keen to launch new shoppable spaces faster than their rivals, to be first to gain traction. Social commerce in China is huge right now and continues to grow. Douyin (TikTok’s Chinese counterpart) achieved $3.15 billion in gross merchandise volume for H1 2022 and in-stream commerce is the platform’s biggest revenue stream.

However, toes have been dipped in and out of social commerce for more than a decade and there have been false dawns, but the feeling this time was that consumers and brands were ready.

The pandemic was expected to result in long-term shifts in consumer behaviour towards social commerce. One of the benefits of in-app shopping for advertisers is that media optimisation is somewhat improved due to easier conversion tracking. With IOS sales journeys post-ATT, for example, consent needs to be granted to both the social app (i.e., Instagram) and the advertiser for conversion attribution to happen. Selling directly through the social platforms increases this conversion data stream and reduces acquisition costs as a result, through better optimisation.

The massive downside for advertisers is that they lose control of the shopping experience and their data. The changing data landscape has made the acquisition of first-party data more imperative for brands to understand customers and activate across multiple channels. With social commerce, brands surrender everything to the mercy of the platform owners.

Overall, there are several variables at play that have resulted in reprioritisation for Meta and Tik Tok. A slowing economy means consumers have less to spend. Social platforms are bound to prioritise by protecting investment in their more mature advertising products. Consumer behaviours have returned to pre-pandemic levels, not heralding long-term behavioural changes that were predicted in some areas.

Many brands will also be reassessing budgets, and experimentation with nascent spaces is likely to suffer. The scale just isn’t there or worth the investment, yet.

Finally, the features themselves need further development to get better traction. The user experience of the Instagram shopping tab is just not very good, while the lack of traction from advertisers limits the relevance and availability of products.

We can see growth potential in this market already from China and the Instagram announcement certainly doesn’t mean an abandonment of development. Their plans are to streamline the shopping process rather than kill it altogether. For now, how quickly things develop will be down to the economy and, once they do develop, challenger brands will find fruitful spaces to build and grow.