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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?




Lightbox Loves: Are Your Stars Aligned?

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From using healing crystals for wellness, practicing yoga with sound baths, to using one of over 10,000 astrology apps that deliver on-demand forecasts; ancient practices have seen a rise in usage among modern consumers looking for a way to manage their body/minds and also navigate the world around them.

In particular, the rise again (and probably not the last) of astrology, horoscopes and zodiac signs is seeing consumers, particularly younger people, find comfort in these mystical practices despite not necessarily believing in it. These techniques help assist them in decision making and finding a life path, against a backdrop of a chaotic modern life and an uncertain political and economic future.

As one JWT trend report states, “We are increasingly turning to unreality as a form of escape and a way to search for other kinds of freedom, truth and meaning…. What emerges is an appreciation for magic and spirituality”. This has given rise to apps such as Sanctuary – which offers users on-demand help by providing them with live personalised readings from professional astrologists.

There has also been an increase in brands currently tapping into this space. Some key examples include Amazon’s own zodiac led shopping recommendations; Spotify’s star sign curated playlists and astrological readings, as well as Bumble, which now allows users to filter potential matches based on their star sign.

Whether you’re a believer or a sceptic, we are yet to see if this is a fleeting trend or here to stay. However, during these unpredictable times, this alternative belief system seems to be offering consumers some clarity; by giving them an individual interpretation of their life and guide of how to go about living it.



Lightbox Loves: Coaching Crazy

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‘Life Coaching’, a phrase typically used to describe a professional paid to help others achieve their #lifegoals. Traditionally common in the corporate world, recent studies have shown that Gen Z are now fuelling an increase in both supply and demand for this vocation, both professionally and personally.

Bidvine, an online directory to find local professionals, has recently seen a 280% surge in searches for ‘life coaches,’ of which over half have been made by 18-22 year olds (1). Further, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) found that a third of Gen Z-ers across the globe already have a life coach (2).

This cohort are almost twice as trusting of others than Millennials, so it is of little surprise that they are turning to others for assistance to achieve their personal and professional objectives (3). For some, it’s about regaining confidence, whereas for others, life coaching helps build relationships, whilst also experiencing ‘real human’ interaction. Further, Gen Z are not just enlisting life coaches, but are also increasingly keen on being one themselves, with the CEO of the International Coaching Federation believing that “they are the future of the profession.” (4)

With this trend only set to grow further, and with Gen Z notorious for their fickleness towards brands, it is certainly timely that companies are moving away from being a one-dimensional product or service provider. Instead, brands are beginning to demonstrate that they care about us as people, through ‘coaching-style’ services outside of traditional realms.

For example, last year, Lidl opened up a pop-up café in Ireland to inspire young people to open up about their mental health, whilst also encouraging customers to take part in yoga, meditation and other mindful activities.

With many companies fighting for Gen Z’s attention, is life coaching an authentic means to entice our newest generation of spenders, and will this influence our #lifegoals?


1. The Guardian, 2019

2. ICF Consumer Awareness Study, 2107

3. IPSOS, 2018

4. The Guardian, 2019

Lightbox Loves: Stranger Things

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Coca-Cola, Burger King, adidas, Pentax, Cadillac and Casio are just a few of the 75 brands reported to appear in the record-breaking third season of Stranger Things (1). Nostalgia is an important theme in the show and brands have intertwined themselves with the series since the beginning. Benefitting both the brand and show alike, it offers mass exposure for the products as well as supporting the Duffer brother’s storytelling. However, has this season taken it too far for consumers?

A study found that, based on viewing figures and screen time, the value of the brand placements amounted to $15m over the first 3 days of the show launching (2). This is a sizable figure considering Netflix have stated none of the product placements were paid for. When the placements were culturally relevant, the products featured benefited from a rise in interest. For example, Coca-Cola saw searches for their 80s product “New Coke” rise by 250% on the release day of the new series (3).

However, consumers took to social media to condemn the makers for allowing their show to be flooded with product placement, particularly when this included forced dialogue and lingering logo shots (4). These negative brand experiences may have taken some of the shine off of the pure media value received by brands.

The show itself has been met with great reviews and, despite some viewers being surprised and annoyed by the product placements, the show is now synonymous with nostalgic 80s brands. However, if there is a season 4, brands should think more about the consumer’s experience and whether the co-promotion fits naturally with the plot, or otherwise risk an inauthentic diversion from the show itself.


  3. Google Trends UK
  4. Twitter

Lightbox Loves: Meme This

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In 1989, the World Wide Web was conceived and some 30 years later (after a few life changing revelations), the storm settled. Waiting for us, all giddy at the altar, was the untapped world of memes.

Netflix’s Birdbox, watched by a staggering 45 million accounts globally in its first week of release, is a great example of a film that harnessed the power of memes. The interesting story here is that the marketing for the movie wasn’t at its most powerful pre-release date, but rather post it. This was down, in part, to a little creativity and to the plot of the movie, where characters blindfold themselves.

Many of the meme wizards hiding amongst us right now are probably feeling their neurons firing in the brain; scheming and plotting funny pictures, clips (from the movie) to coincide with even funnier captions. This was the gold mine which Netflix tapped into. Aaron M. White, a civil litigation attorney in Chicago, said it was when his inbox became flooded with memes from Twitter and Instagram that he considered watching Birdbox. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a glimpse at the power of memes and their ability to spread like wildfire.

Another example of this weapon of mass interaction (see what we did there) is British music artist Jay1, who boldly and un-boldly used a situation that had appeared in Love Island to promote his new single ‘Your Mrs’. The results are telling: a 27% increase in followers, along with a notable +3k increase in Spotify listeners. This was all achieved through 4 posts across 2 influencer pages.

Memes work because their primary intention isn’t to promote a brand or movie, that’s just a side effect; rather they aim to give something else to the consumer – laughter and a dash of happiness.

  • Jay 1 – Your Mrs X Love Island Reactions EOC Report – the7stars

Lightbox Loves: One Year On

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Everyone’s favourite piece of legislation, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), turned one at the weekend. With it brought the promise of tough new data laws in the EU to give people more control over the data being collected on them. To mark the occasion, we’ve run a LightBox Pulse in partnership with OnePulse, to see whether Brits actually think this is now the case.

It’s rare in an industry such as ours that most people haven’t been impacted by GDPR, or at least have a vague comprehension of what it stands for. However, 3 in 10 Brits claim that they still don’t really understand what GDPR is, despite many companies having to ask consumers last year to review their updated privacy policies.

A further half of adults think that GDPR has made no real difference to them personally. That’s not surprising, given that 1 in 3 still feel that online ads are intrusive, despite GDPR, with a similar number believing that GDPR has made no difference to how Facebook behaves.

It may be for this reason that 1 in 5 Brits have found GDPR to be an anti-climax. The information commissioner’s office (ICO) has logged 14,000 data breaches since these new data laws were put in place. However, in the UK, no fine has yet been issued under GDPR (Google was fined in France). According to Richard Breavington, partner at law firm RPC, the ICO has “… barely scratched the surface of it’s powers” – and Brits seem to be more than aware of this.

However, the younger generation (18-24s) is the most optimistic about the impact GDPR has had, with 2 in 5 believing that positive changes have occurred as a result of the regulation laws (+4pts on all adults). A further 2 in 5 also believe that companies are now asking for their consent before storing their data (+5pts on all adults).

A year in and brands are also identifying positive changes that have come about as a result of GDPR, when previously there was seemingly only frustration and confusion, plus a big hit on many of their CRM resources. Brands are now being more targeted, sending fewer but more relevant emails, and seeing better open rates as a result.

Whilst GDPR hasn’t been as impactful as expected in many consumers’ eyes, brands are reaping the rewards that come from better quality data and (hopefully) more respectful ways of using it



Lightbox Pulse in partnership with OnePulse, May 2019