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Lightbox Loves: A Reason to Celebrate

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We have become a nation of celebration. As Hallowe’en related paraphernalia appeared across social feeds, TV ads, supermarket shelves and popular culture as early as August, it would appear that Brits (or at least brands) are looking to elongate the festivities as much as possible.

A phenomenon long attributed to the Christmas period, apparently now no holiday is safe. We asked 500 Brits via our Lightbox Pulse platform their thoughts, and 57% said they felt that holidays start too early, and 27% claiming they last too long. On the whole, this sentiment was strongest amongst 35-64s, which perhaps interplays with the likelihood of having bigger families of children and grandchildren to buy for.

This elongation of celebration is a trend which runs hand in hand with the increasing desire to make a fuss of ever more granular life events. 60% of Brits said that we find more reasons to celebrate these days, with only a miserly 19% disagreeing. Women are the most likely be in touch with this – perhaps because they’re often lumbered with (or secretly revel in) the job of buying the accompanying cards, presents and decorations? This is of course why retailers and brands are happy to encourage us to celebrate more. Everything from alcohol to baked goods gets a boost when we party, and comms are given a renewed focus and some new news to push out.

So, what exactly do Brits feel is worth celebrating? We asked our panel, and whilst the usual offenders (engagement parties, christenings and university graduation) all came out strongly, 1 in 10 said a divorce was worthy of a party, and 8% are on board the Gender Reveal bandwagon.

It doesn’t seem like a high proportion, but if you look at the search trends for Gender Reveal parties over the past 5 years you start to get a glimpse of the momentum behind the movement.

Ultimately, a celebration sits in the Cambridge Dictionary as “a special social event, such as a party, when you celebrate something.” Are we losing the notion of ‘special’ when the parties start to dominate our diaries? There are 14.5m posts on Instagram under #celebrate, and a staggering 160m under #party. It would seem you can have a party without a celebration, but you can’t celebrate these days without a party.

Lightbox Loves: Reuse over Recycle

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Ever since the Blue Planet finale exposed the impact of plastic waste on the oceans, single
plastic has been in the spotlight. In May, the government announced that plastic straws, cotton
buds and stirrers will be banned from next April – a move backed by 82% of Brits (YouGov). Such
support has forced mainstream brands to revaluate what changes they can make.

This week, Unilever announced plans to slash the staggering 700,000 tonnes of new plastic used
across their brands globally. Last month, Burger King vowed to stop giving away promotional
plastic toys. Taking a swipe at their giant rival’s Happy Meals, they also agreed to in store
collections of old plastic tat. They plan to melt this into other useful items, such as trays for their
restaurants. In response, McDonalds announced they will let customers choose between fruit and
books and the original toys.

With so much scrutiny given to the lifespan of disposable items, the next logical step is to remove
single use packaging altogether. In the UK we have seen a huge uptake in reusable on the go
coffee cups and water bottles, and we are now seeing this filter into a reuse first shopping
experience too.

Waitrose, for one, has trialled a refillable store concept –“Unpacked”. There are now four
“Unpacked” stores, all with an area dedicated to food refilling stations. Not only do these remove
the need for packaging, they also help reduce food waste, as shoppers can control portion sizes.
Currently, however, the section includes only one brand – detergent brand Ecover – with the rest of
the zone feeling more like a brand-free greengrocer.

Boots’ new flagship store also hosts a refillable station, this time from socially and environmentally
conscious brand the Beauty Kitchen. Rather than opting for pre packaged shampoo, conditioner
and body wash, shoppers can use Beauty Kitchen’s refillable products.

Whilst mass-market companies are waking up to the importance of recyclable packaging, eco
conscious brands are one step ahead, and on a mission to remove the need to recycle altogether.
Other brands may wish to adopt a similar outlook, or otherwise risk being left behind as consumers
become more knowledgeable about the undesirable environmental effect of unsustainable
production. 49738889 unpacked is packaging free food budget friendly/ kitchen refill station boots covent garden

Lightbox Loves: The rise in diverse and inclusive visual vocabulary

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‘Visual vocabulary’ has been an essential communications device long before the advent of media agencies. Pictorial symbols in the forms of hieroglyphs and cave drawings, documented by archaeologists and enshrined in museums, provide a pointed reminder that images formed the base of human communication.

Fast-forward to 2019 and ‘World Emoji Day’ serves as its own reminder that visual vocabulary has permeated culture in an unprecedented way. Modern humans process visual information 60,000 times faster than text, so it’s no wonder that the emoji has become a go-to communications device in a world where people are constantly bombarded with stimuli.

Alongside fun and exciting additions to popular categories of food, animals, activities and smiley faces, Apple recently announced that designs launching on iPhone this autumn are set to bring even more diversity to the keyboard. A greater number of disability-themed emojis including a new guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid, wheelchairs, a prosthetic arm and a prosthetic leg will be available in the emoji keyboard, and well as more skin tone and gender relationship combinations.

Not only does this move serve to highlight diversity as one of Apple’s key business and brand values, but it echoes initiatives from other brand advertisers to better reflect modern Britain in its B2C communications. Big brands such as Maltesers and Lloyds Banking Group are among a handful of advertisers putting diversity at the heart of their communications strategies, often using visual vocabulary as a creative vehicle.

Visual vocabulary is, and will remain, a conduit between the brand and consumer. Visual communications drive longer-term saliency and impact, so it’s clear that brands need to translate increasingly diverse and inclusive creative platforms into easy to process visuals which can quickly convey information in ways that text simply cannot.


Lightbox Loves: Beyond Proud

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After a month of rainbow coloured logos, it can feel like a different world when high-profile homophobic attacks in London, Southampton and Liverpool make national headlines or a national politician suggests science may ‘produce an answer’ for being gay. What can brands do to address the fear, prejudice and bigotry that provoke these attitudes?

There’s a lot that can be learnt from New Queer Cinema (NQC). Emerging from the American Independent Film scene of the 1990s, it focused on taking back representation from mainstream film that had first been ignored, then limited LGBTQ+ characters to a handful of narratives. While the movement itself was short-lived, some directors found mainstream success with The Kids are Alright and Carol and its influence can still be felt in contemporary films such as Booksmart.

First, NQC insisted on representing LGBTQ+ people. This sounds obvious, but in a world where advertising and marketing communications still has a dearth of LGBTQ+ figures and campaigns, brands can really stand out by acknowledging the community. As well as talking directly to this audience, brands should do the work of representation; 57% agree that brands have a duty to represent modern life and at least 23% of the UK have a sexual identity that is not completely heterosexual. This positive effect extends to allies, with 56% actively supporting brands that are inclusive.

Secondly, NQC avoided the ‘coming out narratives’ that had been the only acceptable stories within which LGBTQ+ characters could be framed. In NQC by contrast, characters have rich lives that are not reducible to their sexuality. Brands can challenge stereotypes in exactly the same fashion; by showing lives beyond sexuality and directly challenging bigotry stemming from lack of understanding and they can do this beyond pride, recognising LGBTQ+ people all year round.

Thirdly, NQC’s complex view of sexuality as a changing, fluid and sometimes counter-intuitive concept is something brands will need to start working with to connect with Gen-Z. 18-24s are far more likely to inhabit less definite sexual identifies; 43% describe their sexuality on the Kinsey scale as something other than either completely heterosexual or completely homosexual (compared to 19% for UK adults). Brands will need to understand this to relate to a group that, as the QT found, are 30% more likely than the UK average to reject brands that do not represent them.

  • The QT. the7stars. (Feb 2019)
  • 1 in 2 young people say they are not 100% heterosexual. YouGov. (Aug 2015)
  • 56% of Britons support brands that take a stand on LGBT+ issues. YouGov (July 2019)

Lightbox Loves: Is streaming about to lose its lustre?

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It has been dubbed the golden age of streaming[1] . For the past few years, the consumer has been winning; with just a couple of cheap streaming subscriptions, you can currently have all your on demand viewing needs covered. From box sets of the classics, to high-quality original content, all your viewing needs can currently be serviced from just Netflix, Amazon Prime or NOW TV.

However, this might be about to change, with Disney launching Disney+ later this year, they will ring-fence a whole load of content. Not just the likes of Frozen or Pocahontas, but ABC shows, Marvel, Pixar films, Lucasfilm, The Simpsons and everything else made by 20th Century Fox. And this looks to be just the start.

In the States, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia are both launching streaming services[2], so their propriety shows such as The Office or Friends will also require separate subscriptions to access. BritBox is launching here soon too. Apple are also joining the streaming market too with the likes of Stephen Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey on board to provide content. Everyone wants a slice of the streaming pie (and revenue).

Streaming services were previously seen as a budget option, with research from The QT[3] showing that consumers were willing to pay around £10 per month for a streaming service without adverts. This was most popular amongst 18-24s, with 90% willing to pay to avoid adverts. However, once they need to subscribe to four, five or six services to access all the content they would like, will this be as appealing?

It is not yet clear where advertisers will sit within this new market place, but there could be an opportunity for cheaper or free models of the services in exchange for adverts. Recently in the US, a partnership between Heineken and Billions meant that viewers on Roku could unlock the earlier seasons in return for interacting with an ad[4].

So with the golden age over and costs looking like they will rise for the consumer, the opportunity for brands could be ripe. They can be the good guys and provide savings, or additional content on the services in exchange for adverts.





[3] The QT Wave 11, May 2019. the7stars proprietary quarterly tracking survey.



Lightbox Loves: “Woke Advertising”

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According to the QT, Brits are losing confidence in traditional institutions [1] and consumers are increasingly looking towards brands to take a stance on the topical issues that rule the day. Advertisers have responded in kind with a slew of socially conscious campaigns, dubbed by some commentators as “woke advertising” [2]. Though brands taking a stance on topical issues is nothing new (e.g. the never-ending stream of sponsored floats in LGBT pride parades), increasingly it seems as though social issues are becoming the focal point of some of the largest brand-building campaigns, rather than the actual products. These campaigns present an opportunity for brands to tap into Generation Z’s social milieu, but if poorly executed, can alienate their customer base regardless of their best intentions.

Perhaps the most striking example of “woke advertising” this year has been Gillette’s “The Best Men Can Be” campaign. Launched in January, the campaign was a short film which replaced Gillette’s famous “The Best A Man Can Get” slogan with “The Best Men Can Be”, weighing in on bullying, sexism and sexual harassment. The campaign proved highly divisive with a like to dislike ratio of 1:2 on YouTube [3], as well as provoking numerous opinion pieces in both the media as well as in Ad-land. Some critics of the campaign suggested that the backlash against the campaign came down to the fact that it tried to hold its primary customer base – men – accountable for negative behaviour that most would say they don’t engage in the first place.

Colin Kaepernick’s Nike campaign in September last year is perhaps a better executed example of so-called “woke advertising”. Imploring individuals to “believe in something”, it implicitly took the side of Kaepernick who was the figurehead for a movement of NFL players kneeling during the US national anthem in protest of police brutality, but didn’t directly call out its customer base as Gillette did. Though the advert provoked a backlash similar to Gillette’s campaign with some consumers promising to boycott the brand, it played well with Nike’s target audience – young Americans who tend to hold complementary views of Nike and/or Kaepernick. From a business perspective the campaign was arguably a rousing success, with stock prices reaching an all-time high following the advert and online sales up 31% during the bank holiday weekend that followed it [4].

So called “woke advertising” is then a high-risk strategy not for the faint-hearted of advertisers. However, when well executed and with a strong appeal to the beliefs of the target audience, brands can generate a significant amount of buzz around them as well as create strong demand for their products.

[1] QT; May 2019