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Michael.Kiggundu

So long Universal Google Analytics, There’s a New Face in Town! ​

By | Featured, What's Hot

Google is sunsetting Universal Google Analytics (UA) on 1st July next year, pushing companies to speed up their migration to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). If businesses don’t have GA4 set up yet, now is the time.

Google Analytics 4 is a next-generation measurement solution that comes with a revamped interface, lots of new exciting features and a unified web and app measurement capability. GA4 represents a fundamental shift from the Universal Analytics we are familiar with data collection, setup and configuration, alongside the interface and reporting, are all very different. Due to these crucial differences, companies cannot start tracking everything in GA4 and compare like for like.   

Whilst there’s a lot that has been simplified in GA4 (such as the interface, base setup, and data model), the fact that it’s so different means that companies should spend more time on planning their migration and learning the platform. It might take a year to collect enough meaningful data before being able to switch over, so there’s not a lot of time left. It’s highly recommended that companies have a complete and accurate GA4 set up by 30th June this year. This gives a year of historical data by the time UA stops processing reporting data.   

On 1st July 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new data into the reports – though existing 360 license customers will get an additional three months before their reports stop showing new data on 1st October 2023.  

Thereafter, companies will have access to UA report data for at least 6 months before those properties are fully removed. If companies need to store any historical data, this will be the time to export any required historical reports.   

With such a major shift oncoming, the earlier companies start using GA4, the sooner they will be able to benefit from the latest enhancements and boost audience and marketing insights with machine learning, predictive reports and privacy-first features that are crucial today.  

For businesses anxious about making the switch, the7stars’ Google Analytics champion Violetta Konar has created a handy checklist to guide you through the migration process.

Channel 4 Privatisation: What we Know, and What Questions Remain​

By | Featured, What's Hot

For 40 years, Channel 4 has been at the forefront of British culture and media, and – due to its unique model of being commercially funded, but publicly owned – its remit from content delivery to financial responsibilities is unlike any other broadcaster. With the recent announcement that the Government plans to privatise Channel 4, the next 40 years have the potential to be extremely different.  

The Government’s rationale for the move has been to allow Channel 4 to ‘remove its straitjacket’ and allow it to ‘thrive in the face of a rapidly-changing media landscape’; though Channel 4 itself dismayed the announcement as ‘extremely disappointing’, coming just days after the broadcaster was nominated for 44 BAFTA awards.  

Much of this award-winning content is produced through independent British production companies, many of whom are concerned as the majority of their funding comes via Channel 4. Under a private owner, we could see this funding cut, moved or stopped entirely – though potentially maintained or even increased depending on the clauses of the sale. Regardless, it is almost certain that there will be a shift away from delivering programmes to under-served audiences, although it has been confirmed that the broadcaster will need to retain a commitment to primetime news programming.   

Privatisation tends to be a lengthy process; notably, it took 5 years for Royal Mail to complete its privatisation following the initial announcement. That said, the government has announced (rather ambitiously) that they want the acquisition to be completed before the next general election – just two years away. As a result, it may not be too long before we start to see movements from the parties involved, and advertisers should prepare for a variety of outcomes. 

The implications for advertisers will depend largely on which party completes the acquisition – and, to date, no such frontrunner has emerged. Two companies which immediately spring to mind are ITV and Sky which, if successful, could essentially create a duopoly within the UK advertising industry. If this were to happen, either party could leverage their majority share of the UK TV market to demand more from agencies and individuals. However, there’s a stumbling block to such a move: strict UK competition regulations would make any such acquisition difficult. 

If an overseas company was to purchase Channel 4 – and names such as the recently-merged Warner Bros. Discovery have already been floated – then we could see a shift in the network’s programming towards more US-centric content. This could cause a significant shift in Channel 4’s audiences and, thus, have profound implications for media plans. Also, we cannot yet rule out the possibility that a major streaming service such as Netflix, having recently lost an estimated $50 billion from its market value after a disappointing Q1 report, may opt to reconsider its strategy by purchasing a mainstream network such as Channel 4. If this were to occur, a wealth of campaigns centred around Channel 4’s linear programming and All 4 streaming platform would be disrupted instantly.

While the amount that Channel 4 sells for is yet to be determined, as it will depend on how much freedom the new owner would obtain over the current business model, it is likely to be in the region of £1 billion. With so many questions yet to be answered, the proposed privatisation is certain to prove to be one of the biggest shake-ups to the UK broadcasting industry in decades.

Could Elon Musk Authenticate the Twittersphere?​

By | Featured, What's Hot

Elon Musk has succeeded with an offer to buy Twitter at a valuation of around $43 billion. The left-wing Twitterati reacted in horror, while those on the right rejoiced. Musk views Twitter as the “de facto town square” and is buying the company to protect free speech, describing himself as a “free speech absolutist.” 

What’s interesting about Elon’s vision and Twitter’s origins is that Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams didn’t know what the platform was going to be. “There was this path of discovery with something like that, where over time you figure out what it is.” Said Williams in a 2018 interview. 

This path to discovery saw Twitter turn into one of the world’s most influential media platforms, but its ad-funded model has come with negative consequences. An algorithm designed to hold attention and engagement for profit has resulted in the amplification of content likely to have divisive reactions (not just a Twitter problem).  

There has been plenty of evidence of the platform being weaponized to take advantage of this. In 2018, Twitter released more than 10 million tweets that had been circulated by propaganda farms and associated fake accounts from Russia and Iran, with the sole intention of disrupting Western democracies by increasing division in society. 

No one can argue that these tactics worked and likely continue to do so. Western democracies are more politically divided than ever. Suspicion of mainstream media is high, trust in experts is at an all-time low and conspiracy theories spread like wildfire. The politics of fear finds fertile ground in such conditions. 

The result was consistent calls for greater regulation and the censorship of extreme opinions. The removal of former U.S. President Donald Trump from the platform was a high-profile reaction to such calls. Musk has floated the idea of reinstating Trump and others who have been banned from the platform. There are concerns such action could lead Twitter to descend into greater toxicity. For advertisers, the fear expressed by industry leaders is that Twitter would become a much more high-risk environment to be seen in, as a result. 

Yet, that could be short-sighted. One of the ways Musk has posited to improve the platform is to authenticate all humans. The exposure of industrial-scale propaganda demonstrates how misinformation and negativity are amplified and given legitimacy through fake social proof (likes and approving comments from bots). 

If Musk is successful at removing such inauthentic activity, one would hope this would improve matters considerably. Particularly if this involved identity confirmation. Counterarguments to misinformation would suddenly become weightier and more effective by sheer proportion alone; misinformation would become a less valuable currency as a result. Fringe opinions would be more likely to remain fringe, without false social validation. Toxicity, bullying and harassment would be reduced without the mask of anonymity to hide behind. The platform could essentially regulate itself into greater harmony. 

Monthly Active Users could drop dramatically in the wake of such a concerted non-human purge, but this would expose the real scale of opportunity for advertisers. We would know exactly how many real people there are to reach and would be able to revalue this accordingly with more reliable business results. All enabled by plans to overhaul the business model, fewer ads and possibly a subscription.  There would be no need to protect overinflated user numbers to appease shareholders. Perhaps we should reserve judgement on the takeover being all bad. The scale of the opportunity will undoubtedly change, but, as long an advertising opportunity remains, the result could be a more authentic one.

Sustainability and Web Design

By | Featured, What's Hot

When it comes to Web Design, sustainability isn’t a factor many consider but the truth is, the way your website looks and functions impacts our environment. Whether its hi-res images slowing load speeds, fancy fonts people struggle to read or an overload of unnecessary content, all it takes is some TLC to make your website eco & user friendly. 

Data centres consume the same amount of global energy (1.4%) as countries like Spain and Australia. Global computing is responsible for 3.9% of annual global emissions. In comparison, aviation contributes 2.1% and the UK 1%. 

As well as these figures sounding alarming for our environment, they can also affect your user’s experience when browsing your website. Sites that use a lot of data can be slow and inefficient. Optimising your website can improve performance, UX and accessibility, in addition to reducing carbon emissions, hosting costs and site maintenance. 

Removing unnecessary images from your website can shorten load times for your users and reduce how much data your website uses. With any images you’d like to keep, you can compress these to reduce their file size without affecting their quality. Even blurring the sides of the images or making them black and white can significantly reduce memory usage. 

Replacing images with icons is also beneficial to the environment and user, as they use much less data than images. Removing unnecessary layers on icons can reduce their memory usage even more. You can also easily edit icons into your brand colours, so they look just at home on your website. System fonts like Times New Roman, Arial and Tahoma are also zero waste. 

As well as annoying your users, autoplay videos are terrible for the environment. Videos use a lot more data than images and, as you can’t stop them from playing, every time a user visits the webpage, more unnecessary data is consumed. 

You can also help your users and the environment by getting rid of any tracking you aren’t using. Not only does this use less data, but it also improves privacy for your users. 

Carrying out a content audit for your website can give you an understanding of what blogs your website already has. So rather than creating new content, you can reuse and recycle existing pieces. You can also combine blog posts that are too similar. Fewer web pages = less data and quicker loading speeds. A streamlined content structure for your website can also improve traffic, as it helps search engines and new users to find your website. 

With the world becoming more digitised and data-driven day by day, it’s important we all do our bit for the environment and our users.

The Best (and worst) of April Fool’s Day​

By | Featured, What's Hot

Once a day for practical jokes (salt in the sugar jar), we’ve come to expect pranks from our favourite brands on April Fool’s Day. This year was no different, seeing everything from new ‘product’ launches to Black-Mirror technology, to unlikely brand collaborations. 

Several of our own clients participated this year. MADE.com launched their first-ever ‘Grow Your Own Sofa’, Iceland hilariously added CBD to their hash browns to have consumers starting the day stress-free, and Papa Johns partnered with Pot Noodle to launch Pot Pizza – every snack-lovers dream meal.  

But not every brand got it right. UK beer subscription site Bier Company tricked customers into signing up for a monthly subscription with a message stating they had won “free beer for life”. The ASA received over 40 complaints once the prank was revealed, with some angrily calling the stunt a “scam” on Twitter. 

McDonald’s also disappointed their audience by refusing to participate at all, tweeting “Okay we’ve got to tell you. We had an April Fools ready – a hybrid Big Mac Breakfast McMuffin but it looked too good, and our boss was worried you’d all try and order it.” 

The most successful pranks are those which poke fun at the brand themselves (we’re thinking of Subway’s bread-scented room diffuser, “Eau de Dough”), particularly as the now-expectant masses are less easy to fool. 

At best, a well-calculated April Fool’s prank can be a great short-term boost for brands, with the potential to spark earned media opportunities. However, poorly placed jokes can be costly, so it is important for brands to think hard before they jump on the bandwagon next year.

Jenny Biggam, Phoebe Lynch and Liam Mullins smiling and holding the Campaign Best Places to Work (Large Companies) award.

the7stars wins Campaign’s Best Place to Work (Large Companies) 2022!

By | Featured, News

We are so excited to win the award for Campaign’s Best Place to Work (Large Companies) 2022! It is no secret that amazing agencies do not exist without amazing people, so we would like to thank everyone working at the7stars to create forward-thinking work for our clients. We truly value the welcoming and vibrant culture that exists here, and we are committed to growing every day to become an even better place to work.

Have a look at the full list of winners here.

Jenny Biggam, Phoebe Lynch and Liam Mullins smiling and holding the Campaign Best Places to Work (Large Companies) award.

Jenny Biggam, Phoebe Lynch and Liam Mullins smiling and holding the Campaign Best Places to Work (Large Companies) award.

 

If you would like to be a part of our team, head over to Workable today and find your dream role!

Did Coinbase Really Win the Super Bowl?

By | Featured, What's Hot

QR Codes Hit the Big Time

It doesn’t happen during every Super Bowl, but once in a while a commercial airs that will be remembered long after the game. Crypto exchange platform Coinbase made the biggest impact among Adland commentators with an audacious 60” ad featuring a floating QR code in the style of the DVD meme. No branding or call-to-action, it simply held attention by enticing viewers towards a satisfying corner bounce. According to Coinbase, 20 million people were intrigued enough to get out their phones and activate the code which sent them to a promotion on the Coinbase site. That’s quite a conversion rate out of the 150 million viewers for the Super Bowl.

Difference Generates Mass Appeal

This isn’t the first time QR codes have made it onto TV, but it probably is the first time they have appeared solo in a $14m dollar media buy. Some have been quick to herald this as the dawn of a new era of addressable TV, but this wouldn’t necessarily be a sound conclusion. Above all, this was about standout; generating buzz and conversation. It grabbed attention because it was different, so it’s unlikely to have the same effect a second time.

The ad itself was polarising in the extreme. Adweek named the spot the best of this year’s Super Bowl ads, though the mainstream viewers who determine the USA Today Ad Meter rankings placed it dead last among the 2022 line-up out of 66 commercials.

This raises the question of who this ad was actually for. As the biggest crypto exchange brand, awareness is unlikely to have been the aim. This was more of an acquisition play. Coinbase used a quintessential top of funnel spot to pull off a lower-funnel stunt. Their primary audience is millennials; old enough to have disposable income and open to crypto. The visual cue of that QR code bouncing and changing colour like a ’00s DVD player is subtly but precisely targeted.

The ad can also be deemed a success if we consider earned amplification – we’re all talking about it. Coinbase probably doesn’t care whether the overall sentiment is positive or negative. It was far more important to be noticed by its core audience than to be liked by everyone.

A Touchdown for Attention

You may think it’s the death of creative storytelling, but if you’re judging whether it was effective and a creative way to address their business challenges through marketing then it does seem to have delivered. It doesn’t really provide a playbook for meeting a brand’s marketing challenges, beyond underlining the importance of getting noticed in the first place.

Using the most iconic ‘traditional media’ ad spot to create a ‘digital activation’ also demonstrates that there’s no real division between digital and traditional anymore, just integration – which is a perfect fit for a marketplace of digital currency.

The Right to Misinformation

By | Featured, What's Hot

Since the birth of the Covid-19 pandemic in late 2019, there has been a significant rise in misinformed content circulating on social media platforms daily. From false remedies to questionable theories, the internet has given people the space to share their thoughts on current events (regardless of whether they are factual or not), and those behind the platforms have had to adapt. Most recently, YouTube published an overview of how it plans to combat the spread of misinformation through YouTube videos, which prompts the question: how much control do social media platforms have in the policing of content and free speech?

Preventing the circulation of misinformation became a prominent talking point back in December 2019, when Instagram announced the rollout of their ‘false information warning’ feature, using third-party fact-checkers to reduce the spread. Whilst this came with good intentions, it started to receive backlash from creators on the platform who found that some digitally manipulated art was being labelled with this warning, with the work of some digital artists and photographers being hidden from the Explore and hashtag pages, limiting their reach and exposure in the process.

The problem remains a talking point amongst creators today, as they attempt to avoid algorithmic hinderance in their efforts to drive exposure of their work whilst maintaining artistic authenticity.

This issue eventually found its way into Parliament when campaigners proposed an ‘Online Safety Bill’ in May 2021, giving Ofcom the power to punish social media platforms that failed to remove ‘lawful but harmful’ content. While praised by many children’s safety organisations, as this bill would assert pressure on social media platforms to combat hateful content under penalty of large fines, it was also opposed by civil liberty organisations for representing a clear breach of people’s right to free speech. Furthermore, as the harmful nature of an item of content is sometimes determined by the individual consumer, the bill ran the risk of discriminating against particular groups (especially political groups) who may hold niche views that others may oppose.

Reflecting on the debate for free speech and YouTube’s attempts to cap the spread of misinformation, we are also faced with another challenge: misinformation is both authored and manipulated daily. The first step in YouTube’s overview suggested that the platform would begin ‘catching new misinformation before it goes viral.’ This would be done through an automated detection algorithm which would be built on past examples, which could work well for older conspiracy theories, but not for misinformation and conspiracies in their infancy, as these algorithms require a significant number of content/examples to train their systems. This means that the algorithm will always remain a step behind in a world where new theories and concepts are birthed and uploaded continuously onto the platform from around the world.

In summary, there is a clear desire from social media platforms across the board to tackle the spread of false information and harmful content in order to create a safer and more enjoyable experience for users. However, we are yet to discover a method of doing so that is just as fast as the speed at which content is created.

What the Narrowing Digital Gap Means for Media

By | Featured, What's Hot

Earlier this month, the IPA released the 4th edition of its IPA TouchPoints report, Making Sense – The Commercial Media Landscape. Findings uphold the trend towards digital channels, which collectively now occupy a greater proportion of the nation’s time than non-digital media.

While that is unlikely to cause a major surprise to marketers, evidence below the surface reveals a more complex picture – and with considerable nuances which planners must consider.

Firstly, the digital age gap is shrinking. While much of digital’s growth in recent years has been driven by the 18-34 market, there are signs that usage of digital channels among younger age groups may have peaked. Compared to data from the 2021 lockdown, weekly reach among this demographic for social media, online video, and radio on-demand/podcasts remained flat or decreased slightly; the latter two of which had previously grown at a rapid rate since 2015.

While conventional wisdom might attribute this merely to people having less time on their hands post-lockdown, this is not uniformly observed. Among 35-54s, the weekly reach of each of those channels increased by 6-8%, indicating that such growth shows no sign of slowing.

All of which indicates that our relationship with media is becoming more homogeneous. In 2015, the correlation in time spent with commercial media between 16-34s and 35-54s was 58%; by the 2021 lockdown, this had fallen to just 8%. Yet, as over-35s continue to adopt non-traditional channels into their routines, this correlation has grown to 18%. In terms of weekly reach, the increase is even more stark: from 23% correlation during the 2021 lockdown to 52% correlation today.

This dramatic reversal is further highlighted by the fact that, at the very broadest level, patterns of media consumption across audio, video, text and OOH have returned to pre-lockdown form. The lockdowns of 2020-21 were the biggest shake-up to media patterns in decades, thanks largely to our greater time spent at home, minimising OOH viewing potential. Yet, far from a permanent ‘new normal’, many of those habits acquired in lockdown have already diminished.

Still, the fragmentation of digital channels over the last five years should discourage any planner from thinking that younger and older age groups will soon behave the same way when interacting with media. For most campaigns, multi-channel is still crucial. While 16-34s spent a whopping 78% of their commercial media time with digital channels last year, linear TV still commands a weekly reach of almost 70% among this age group. Despite the proliferation of digital media, there still remains no channel (except OOH) that commands a weekly reach of 9 in 10 adults of any age group.

If there’s one thing to take away from this report, it’s that stereotypes of target audiences are meaningless in the digital age. No, TV isn’t dying, and yes, over-55s do consume AV. But under the surface, vital differences remain. While media reach is converging, time spent per channel still makes us vastly different. A successful campaign will be one that recognises such nuances.