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Lightbox Loves: The New Generation of Influencers

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There is a new generation of cool kids making waves on TikTok and they look nothing like the picture-perfect influencers of yesteryear. The new stars have risen up from the multitude of subcultures that the platform nurtures and with their alternative attitudes, they’re being hailed as a much-needed anti-dote to social media perfectionism.

One example that epitomises this phenomenon is the e-girl/boy (‘e’ being short for electronic). E-girls and boys are the Avril Lavignes of the 2020s.Inspired by the melting-pot of the Internet, their style is a mash-up of emo, anime and grunge and they spend a lot of time doing things once considered ‘anti-social’: using the internet, gaming and, of course, TikTok-ing. In the last six months, the number of Brits talking about e-girls and e-boys has risen 121%, to 14,000. Some well-known brands have even recognised the cultural power of these young TikTokers, with 19-year-old e-boy Noen Eubanks featuring in a recent campaign for fashion brand Celine.

Meanwhile at the opposite end of the spectrum, the adherents of cottagecore are evoking their inner grandma through matronly activities like dressing up in gingham dresses, knitting, reading, tending to their gardens and dreaming of escaping to a secluded cottage. Some credit the origins of this subculture to SoraBlu, who posted a series of shots from her rural home in December 2019 and who now has 170,000 followers.

This only scratches the surface of the multitudes of TikTok subcultures, but it’s enough to suggest that the new ideals of imperfection could change the way that brands collaborate with subculture influencers. Brands will certainly want to get the relationship right; the7stars’ study Life Behind Labels found that half of all people formulate life-long interests in their teenage years, and that 70% of people in a sub-culture group strongly identify with brands. So, don’t write off TikTok as frivolous fun, but consider the serious role it plays in the identity formation of tomorrow’s consumers.

BrandWatch, 1st Dec 2019 – 17th May 2020.

Life Behind Labels, the7stars x the Stylist, 2019

Lightbox Loves: A Dance Challenge

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TikTok, one of the newest kids on the block is already starting to change the social media landscape, with now over 1.5 billion users worldwide, it is one of the fastest-growing social media applications out there (1), currently it’s the third most downloaded app after Strava and Zoom on the App Store. This platform has really come into its own during the lockdown and self-isolation due to the uptake of its increasingly popular dance, fitness and other viral challenges. After remaining stable over the last 12 months according to Google trends, searches since March for the term ‘TikTok Dance’ have significantly spiked in popularity (2). Even if you haven’t downloaded the app itself, many are starting to find these video challenges flooding into their other social media platforms (3) – with many of our family/friends and favourite celebrities sharing videos, even NHS staff are taking part in a bid to boost morale whilst treating patients (4).

An example of a particularly popular dance trend is The Weeknd’s: Blinding Lights challenge. Even though this song was released in late November and charted in the Billboard Top 40, it dropped 41 places in its second week (5). It wasn’t until a dance challenge associated with the intro of the song became popular on TikTok in this last month that it really started to take off – coinciding with the world now being in lockdown. Many who are isolating with their families saw it as the perfect track and dance routine to get everyone involved (6). This in turn has contributed to the rise in popularity of the single and its stellar performance back up the charts worldwide – it currently stands at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (7) and receiving 64 million listeners monthly on Spotify, a first for The Weeknd (8).

In fact, nearly every single in the current top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 has found some traction on TikTok (9) – this includes Dua Lipa, Doha Cat and Bobby Ritch and previously Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’

Music artist Drake has recently taken the TikTok dance challenge concept to a whole new level – by creating a track and dance routine specifically for the platform in order to catapult his new single into the public conscious before it was released (8). Using a popular hip-hop dancer named Toosie and getting him to post a clip of himself and some of his friends doing a choreographed dance, to a snippet of the then unknown and unnamed song. People started to accept the dance challenge tagged #ToosieSlide. In just a few days millions of views were amassed on the video app, all before the track was available on streaming services (10).

It will be interesting to see what the future brings beyond lockdown and whether this cultural trend will continue. It does seem though, that after being viewed as an ‘additional social media channel’ with most popularity amongst Gen Z, TikTok has finally begun to find its place in the cultural mainstream.













Lightbox Loves: The Video Revolution

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HQ Trivia proved themselves to be a game changer in the world of video entertainment. Once hosting over 2 million users per quiz, the much-loved real-time quiz app should be lauded as an example of just what can be achieved in the 21st century video space rather than an example of failure following the announcement of its shutting down.

“With HQ we showed the world the future of TV” (Rus Yusupov, CEO). MTV demonstrably agree, having commissioned the remarkably similar new quiz show “MTV Stax” to run on the Facebook Watch platform 3 times a week. Imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery after all.

Looking ahead, it is imperative that this trend of video innovation is continued. 83% of 12-15 year olds now own a smartphone (41% of whom use it to consume TV). The next generation constantly find new and alternative ways to consume video content.

Enter stage left, QuiBi; the mobile first short-form video streaming service set to launch in the US on April 6th. Built for on the go use this new player will specialize in high production, on the go, bitesize content with the USP of delivering full screen content both horizontally & vertically; offering different shots for whichever orientation the user views the content in.

Innovation isn’t reserved only for the subscription VOD (SVOD) space, however. Far from it.

NBCU’s Peacock has focused on innovation in its advertising VOD (AVOD) proposition. Advertisers can now benefit from such opportunities as shoppable TV (ads that allow viewers to buy products related to the show they are watching at that moment), voice activated ads (to interact vocally with advertiser offers) and solo ads (which give the advertiser the single break within a show); great not only for the SOV of a brand but also for the consumers viewing experience.

While neither of the above-mentioned innovations are currently available in the UK, they are indicative of the direction in which the UK video market is eventually heading.

As the SVOD market swells, an increasing number of services will be forced to turn to providing an AVOD offering to relieve the financial pressures on consumers; creating opportunities for innovation in the advertising space that will allow brands to deliver their message to notoriously hard to reach audiences.




Lightbox Loves: Misinformation in The Name of Entertainment

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The term ‘Based on a true story’ has long been a grey area in the world of cinema with the level of dramatisation broad ranging and often unclear. In a similar vein, the current political climate has seen growing scrutiny of social media posts and news coverage. It seems that the increasingly competitive TV and streaming sphere is also seeing amplified curiosity surrounding the blurring of truth and fiction.

Goop, released on the 24th January, is the latest Netflix series to be accused of deliberately spreading misinformation in the name of entertainment. They’ve been facing fierce criticism from the NHS England chief exec, Simon Stevens, as a result. It’s not the first time Netflix has been accused of this either. Early 2019 saw Root Cause, which suggested that root canal treatment causes cancer despite no empirical evidence, removed from the platform after backlash. Amazon too faced similar criticism for Shoot Em’ Up: The Truth About Vaccines, a topic that’s caused controversy for decades (it was removed from Prime search results last March). Traditional broadcasters have also been unable to steer clear of this conundrum. For example, the BBC was maligned by agricultural groups following the release of Meat: A Threat to Our Planet? which they believed to twist facts to suit their anti-meat cause.

It’s not uncommon for documentaries or dramatisations of real-life events to be released with little or no disclaimer, leading them to be taken as truth and leaving the shows open to reproach. The impact of trust in broadcasters this has is little understood but, with shows such as Game Changers increasingly influencing how people live their lives, it’s something they should contemplate if they want to avoid the increased calls for regulation social media giants are currently embroiled in. That said, some shows are already conscious of their impact. ITV’s White House Farm, for example, features a clear disclaimer at the start of each episode about the background of its dramatisation of the infamous murders.

Whose responsibility is it to inform audiences about the level of truth behind such shows though? Referencing the fallout from Goop, Netflix points out that the show is “designed to entertain, not provide medical advice”, which seems somewhat fair. Perhaps it’s the responsibility of audiences to tread carefully when viewing them? Particularly if they are considering making lifestyle changes as a result. These questions become even harder to answer when the line between truth and fiction is unclear or debated. Whose responsibility it is, we don’t know, and it’ll be interesting to see if and how such cases may be regulated in the future. For now, all we can say is; don’t believe everything you watch folks!


Lightbox Loves: Staying Ahead of the Game

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Most people aspire to be the best and brands are no exception to this. We all know it is a long and arduous climb to the top; if history tells us anything, it is an even greater task to stay there. Whether it be Anthony Joshua’s fall from grace to his merciful redemption, or Thomas Cook’s pioneering heritage to its humbling defeat, it seems the top does not discriminate. Be it a person or a brand, those who fall must (in whichever industry) rejuvenate that zeal that started them off on their journey in order to get back up top. Two great examples from a human and brand perspective are Thomas Cook’s recent demise and AJ regaining his heavyweight champion of the world title.

For AJ, it is not about the belts that he won back. Rather it is about his resurrection from the deathly graves of doubt from the public, and no doubt his own mind. Six months prior to the fight that saw him lose his titles, AJ was sitting pretty at the top with all the confidence of a champ, and a perfect record of 23 fights and 23 wins to back it. Then came Andy Ruiz Jr, who gave him his first loss. An inability to adapt and getting too comfortable at the top arguably blinded Joshua from foreseeing the danger Ruiz posed. When you are at the top, you can only see the challenge that is directly next to you but coming from the bottom – as a competitor – you are forced to watch and keep aware for all those whom stand ahead of the game, giving you a fortuitous edge.

The lesson handed to AJ was a brutal one, that put everything he had built into contempt by some. He was branded a fraud who had been caught. Nonetheless, sometimes you need to fail in order to realise the benefits that come from being on your a-game. After the fight back in June, AJ realised that his team and strategy had always been with allied fighting techniques, which against Ruiz, left him exposed; which none of his coaches had thought to prepare him for. Now come the second fight, under some new tuition, he was taught a completely different technique. This gave him the necessary tools to defeat his foe in Saturday’s Clash on the Dunes – pulling in over an audience over circa million via pay-per-view.

Thomas Cook, on the other hand, did not put into effect a reaction quick enough. An unsuccessful merger with MyTravel (a UK based package holiday company) back in 2007 was detrimental, as MyTravel had only once achieved a profitable year, and that was back in 2001. This, along with a failure to innovate away from their heritage product, left Thomas Cook with a record loss of £1.5billion reported in May 2019. To make their situation worse they were pounded (much like AJ was) by the exponential growth of homestays brands such as Airbnb and online travel agents and aggregators. However, it seems they did not heed the lesson that AJ did; being less reactive, accepting defeat and failing to fashion up a different defence tactic. Ultimately, Thomas Cook had not taken the right risks or innovations to stay ahead of the market.

No matter how long a brand has been at the top, the gravity of success and innovation in the market will constantly seek to pull you down. Therefore, the response is to adapt and not get too complacent. Keep your ears and eyes open, and feet on the ground, and your voice at the top of the hills.

Lightbox Loves: The impact of the influencer

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In an age where social media is the most popular commercial media channel for 16-34s, brands are faced with the question of how best to utilise this virtual shop window. Working with content creators themselves and ‘Insta celebs’ seems the obvious solution; however online influencing takes many shapes and sizes and will become even more difficult to navigate as Instagram introduces hidden likes. With the disappearance of familiar visible metrics, there may be an uncertainty over the tangible reach and engagement that individual influencers can offer.

Lia Haberman, formerly VP Audience Development at Livestrong, predicts “this will likely increase the amount of ads as brands look for more exposure and make it difficult for anyone but established influencers to get a foot-hold.” Brands that have worked with Mrs Hinch, the UK’s biggest ‘cleanfluencer’ with over 2.5 million followers, attribute significant results to this macro influencer; Unilever claims that the sales of Cif Stainless Steel have grown by two thirds following Mrs Hinch’s backing.

Some influencers have such large followings that they don’t need to associate themselves with other brands, but instead can sell their own products to a ready-made audience. As a result of the online following she has built, influencer Grace Beverley, has been able to extend her own personal brand out into not one, but two companies (TALA sustainable activewear and B_ND vegan gym equipment).

From seeing these results, it comes as no surprise that consumers are more open to being sold products by their favourite personalities. Our quarterly proprietary tracker, the QT, revealed that 62% of 18-24s prefer product placement over traditional ads, with 24% even enjoying social influencers’ recommendations. Although it seems there is a mediator: authenticity. The absence of which prevents transfer of trust for influencer to brand. Perhaps this is where the micro influencer (someone with a 10k to 100k following) shines – working on partnerships with brands who can benefit from this intimacy that accompanies a loyal following of friends and family. The likes of Glossier have grown their brands in this way.

For influencers, it is important to pick partners with which they genuinely identify, to keep their relationship with followers authentic. For brands, it is a question of which growth strategy is best for them: mass exposure from association with a big name or loyal customers from an influencer with a smaller, yet potentially more engaged, audience.



(3) The rise of micro-influencers and why they are important, WARC February 2019


Lightbox Loves: Black History Month. Silently celebrated?

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In the UK, October marks Black History Month, where we remember and champion Black British excellence and the trials and tribulations that were overcome across the years. Brands and media channels celebrated Black Brits’ contributions through a variety of different initiatives, but are you able to name any of these?

This year we have seen brands go above and beyond when celebrating diversity. From Pride to International Women’s Day, an array of brands not only push out empowering campaigns, but the likes of YouTube and Pret will also go as far as to change the colours of their logo. However, for Black History Month, these types of statements are few and far between and this begs the question of whether this is an untapped space for brands to own.

I am sure we can all think of examples of when brands who have tried to support diversity were met with an uproar across social media channels. Despite this, there are numerous brands whose authenticity has avoided question when making impactful campaigns. Nike are well known for championing equality and this year for Black History Month they did not disappoint. They released a jersey for England’s senior men’s football team which was sported by the likes of Raheem Starling. The jersey was then released for members of the public to purchase online and in stores, alongside a photo exhibition, in Nike Town.

Apple Music and Spotify have also tapped into Black History Month, as both streaming platforms created playlists dedicated to Black musicians. Apple created “superroom” which was dedicated to black British artists across all music genres. Spotify’s ‘Black History is now’, celebrated black kings and queens of the past and those making new waves within the music industry, through a series of playlists. The streaming platform has also created a list of black-owned podcasts with the tagline, “black voices you must hear”.

At a time where consumers are supporting brands who vocalise and celebrate diversity and equality, Black History Month is another great opportunity for brands to show they too champion a diverse workforce and consumer base and celebrate their contributions. With few brands really dominating this space, is there an opportunity to authentically champion black British excellence? We believe so.

Lightbox Loves: The Power Of The Pod

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Everyone is listening to podcasts. Well, not quite everyone, but the latest RAJAR data revealed that 12% of UK adults listen to a podcast weekly. While this figure may not initially appear particularly high, when contextualised it reveals there has been a dramatic growth in podcast popularity. This 12% represents approximately 6.5 million adults, a twofold increase on the 3.2 million who were listening back in 2013.

This boom has been recognised by the podcast producers, too, with Spotify recently announcing that it would be investing up to $500m in the production of their top podcasts. These figures suggest that the upwards trend in podcast popularity is set to continue, therefore opening up an exciting new avenue for advertisers to reach their audiences.

One of the most important reasons as to why podcasts can become a vital media for advertisers is the age demographic most connected with podcasts. The growth of podcasts appears to have been driven by young listeners, with 16% of 15-24 year-olds and 21% of 25-34 year-olds saying they are weekly podcast listeners. Considering how challenging it can be to engage with a younger audience, this represents one medium through which 16-34 year-olds can be consistently reached.

Further, the nature of podcast listening means the listener is fully immersed in the content they are listening to. Whether it’s when travelling, relaxing or exercising, 90% of listeners said they listen to podcasts on their own, with two-thirds of respondents saying they always listen to the entirety of the episode. This sense of immersion in the podcast experience can be seen as similar to being in a cinema, and again allows advertisers to reach an audience in an environment where they are unlikely to skip forward through the podcast.

So, as Monday 30th September is International Podcast Day, it’s time to find a good podcast and start thinking about how their inclusion in media plans can really help advertisers engage their target audiences through an increasingly popular media.


RAJAR MIDAS Audio Survey (Winter 2018)

OFCOM: Podcast Listening Boom in the UK (2018)

The Guardian: “Podcasting’s Netflix moment: the global battle for domination”

Lightbox Loves: How Fitness Apps Hooked Us

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Many of us will be familiar with the satisfaction of watching the daily step count rack up on our smartphones and smart devices. Our obsession with tracking fitness data has grown in the past few years, with over a third of British adults now interested in using fitness tracking apps (and two thirds of Millennials).1 What’s with the sudden surge in interest?

Several factors are driving the popularity of fitness tracking apps – they are cheaper than a gym, they help hold us accountable to goals we’ve set and quantify our progress. However the key appears to lie in the social aspect of these apps. A 2017 study found that receiving social feedback encourages users to increase their interaction on a platform.2 Strava is a prime example of how this is driving people to fitness apps; people are eight times more likely to receive feedback (in the form of ‘kudos’) on their Strava activities than they are on Twitter, keeping them coming back for more.

Strava’s CEO, James Quarles, (a former employee of Instagram and Facebook) has recognised the importance of social interactions in driving new users to the app and has been harnessing this since he joined in 2017. He re-oriented the app around its social feed with a new feature called ‘Athletes Posts’, allowing people to share photos, stories, race reports or questions. This encourages people to check their feed for friends’ updates multiple times a day, similar to how they would with Instagram. The strategy appears to be working for Strava, now with 46 million global users and another million joining every month.3

It’s not just runners and cyclists who are migrating their hobbies from real-world to digital communities. Enter Wattpad, dubbed the ‘Instagram for writers’. The social writing platform allows amateur authors to create, share and like original stories, reading lists and personal profiles with other writers.

Will the growth of these and other niche social networks ever be enough to rival the likes of Facebook or Instagram? Perhaps not, but brands should take note of the changing way that consumers are engaging with their passion points; getting involved in an interest group is not just about joining a few others in a closed-doors discussion, but about partaking in performative and competitive global networks.

1 ‘Prediction: who will use gamified exercise apps by 2025?’, Foresight Factory, July 2019 [Available at]

2 Lindsey, Joe, ‘Why Strava Is Getting More Social Than Ever’, Outside Online, June 2019 [Available at].

3 ‘The Why Factor’, BBC, January 2019 [Available at]



Lightbox Loves: Is originality dead?

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A trip to the cinema can feel like Groundhog Day; The Lion King, The Lego Movie 2, John Wick 3, Dumbo. And, the list of remakes or sequels hitting the big screen this year is set to continue with Frozen 2 and Charlie’s Angels among those in the making. Matrix 4 was even announced recently. This has led to the accusation that originality is dead, but is it really?

The first thing to note is that this is nothing new. The first Hollywood sequel, The Fall of a Nation, was released in 1916. The first movie remake was even earlier. Originally released in 1903, The Great Train Robbery was such a success a near identical version was shot and released the following year. Although, much like modern remakes, the violence and production were pumped up the second time round to help overcome audience’s familiarity (1).

However, whilst nothing new, the proportion of movie releases that are remakes or sequels is on the rise. One Reddit user created a chart that splits the top grossing Hollywood films for each year from 1980 to now into three categories; original work, existing fictional work, and films based on non-fictional characters or events. It comprehensively shows a general decline in original movies (2). In 1984, original movies made up 75% of the top 25 films that year. In 2018 it was less than 5%. The decrease in original movies is reinforced in the fact that originals have struggled to account for anymore than 25% since 2010. Pretty resounding then.

So, who’s driving this; movie-makers or movie-goers? The answer is somewhere in the middle. For makers, it appears money truly rules over creativity with sequels offering much needed security. As production budgets have increased, they’ve looked to minimise the risk of a flop and what better way than to utilise existing fandom of a particular franchise or movie (3). And, with huge fanbases baying for more, film-goers are actively encouraging filmmakers to make the most of it.

Nostalgia furthers viewer demand for unoriginal content on the big screen too. Watching a new version of a classic is good for the soul (probably) and audiences can’t get enough. Recent CGI remakes of a number of Disney classics have simultaneously satisfied those of us that grew up watching them and brought the storylines to a whole new generation. Win – win for all involved. Further to this, changing attitudes toward equality among film fans has made modernising old favourites a real opportunity for film-makers. Even, behemoth TV series Friends has come under fire (4) despite still being one of the most streamed series on Netflix this year (5).

Whether the decline in originality matters or not is up for debate, but it does appear that not only is originality struggling to cut through in today’s cinema, it’s also not going to change anytime soon. Fast and Furious 28 anyone?