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Lightbox Loves: Can ad bans make the nation healthier?

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This weekend saw the UK PM announce further measures to tackle UK obesity. These measures include a pre-watershed TV and digital advertising ban, with further measures- a permanent digital ban and limits on promotions for unhealthy foods- still being reviewed.

Following the 1962 Molony report findings that problematic advertising should be “tackled by effectively applied voluntary controls”, the government have allowed the ASA, Ofcom, et al, to be responsible for ensuring standards are upheld. However, public health concerns have necessitated some government imposed regulations across categories seen to present potential issues. A blanket ban on cigarette advertising, and prescriptive ABV ranges for ‘low alcohol’ drinks are two such measures. Now, with 64% of the population overweight, advertising restrictions on HFSS products- introduced in 2010 and extended in 2017- have sought to combat this trend.

The new measures have actually been kicking around for some time in one form or another. David Cameron was set to introduce them in 2016, before Brexit stopped him in his tracks. Theresa May then abandoned the plans before a change of heart two years later when health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, started consultation on the measures. This too ceased when Theresa May’s time in No.10 came to an end. With the current PM previously declaring his views of tackling obesity to be “libertarian” many felt these measures would flounder once more. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has again thrown the nation’s health into the spotlight; evidence that being overweight is one of the biggest “co-morbidity factors” meant that Boris Johnson’s hands were somewhat tied.

Caroline Bovey, Chair of the British Dietetic Association, describes obesity as “a complex disease with many contributing factors” and adds that “any policy approach must take account of all of them”. If the challenge is so broad, how much impact can the advertising ban have itself? Not very much, is the answer offered by the Advertising Association who cited the Government’s own research that identified that the 9pm ban will only reduce children’s intake by 1.7 calories per day and have warned against the measure. Dame Carolyn McCall, chief exec at ITV, added that there is evidence that a wider ban on all ads between 5.30am and 9pm would have next to no impact on childhood obesity.

However, Sir John Hegarty, disagrees with the anti-regulatory call from the AA and others, stating advertising has “responsibilities beyond just selling us things” and that we “must be seen [as] a valuable partner in an evolving society”. He suggests that whilst the ban itself may not have a huge impact; the pressure it puts on manufacturers to produce healthier alternatives they can advertise makes the ban a worthwhile endeavour. The issue will continue to be debated publicly as we see the impact these measures have on the nation’s health in both the short and longer term.

Lightbox Loves: 2020, The Future’s Past

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It is safe to say that 2020 has presented itself in a way no one expected it to. We have witnessed what seems all but certain to be a historical and paradigm shifting moment in an already illustrious history of mankind.

Lockdown has helped change our viewpoints on how our fates are linked but also how we tackle our work life and the role technology plays within it. For instance pre-COVID, the use of virtual meetings such as Google hangouts were seen as instruments for remote working during special circumstances. A lot of businesses viewed remote working as inaccessible for their line of work. In 2019, only 30% of UK employees worked from home. However since lockdown took place, it was reported that 49% of the UK workforce were working from home (in April) – almost 20% more than the whole of 2019 – bringing in a new era of working. Despite this massive change, productivity of work output has not lapsed as some thought. The success of this has been led by the use of collaborative, shared based working solutions such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft Office 365 to allow people to work and chat on the same documents, spreadsheets and projects all at once.

Ironically, the social distancing measures have called for less individualism and greater stress of community. An article written by Eric Klinenberg outlines that the pandemic would call for us to “reconsider who we are and what we value…”. This should also resonate with brands. As society begins to rebuild and build new structures (as seen with the working from home example), brands have the opportunity to cement their names within these times; much like Disney during the Great Depression by bringing smiles at a time of economical turmoil. The trick was to not neglect the things that were happening, but to rather show how their brand could see a way out of it, by either revolutionising their industry or depicting some sort of escapism. In Disney’s case, it was both. Some event firms have already begun doing this, with the likes of Notting Hill Carnival announcing online performances for people to enjoy whilst obeying social distancing measures from their homes.

This change in environment and success of remote working also means saved time on stretched out commuting (the7stars QT showed that 19% of people are going to miss the time saved not commuting during lockdown) and has enabled workers to be simultaneously ‘at their desk’ or ‘in a meeting’ at the single press of the button. This shift opens the door to more people being able to do jobs they wouldn’t have previously been able to (i.e. new parents and those who are caretakers), which in turn increases diversity along with helping the battle with Carbon Dioxide emissions.

Without a doubt society has been called to rethink its many structures as a result of COVID. However, there is a sense of opportunity and optimism here, as with any fallen building lies the opportunity for another building or something completely different to rise.


Lightbox Loves: Acts Of Kindness

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On the 6th July, nine advertisers took part in turning their OOH ads in Piccadilly Circus upside down for the day. In collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), all ads on the big screen were flipped to raise awareness for the difficulty that blind people have faced as a result of COVID-19 measures. RNIB in collaboration with The & Partnership aimed to encourage kindness and empathy towards blind or partially sighted people who rely heavily on touch and human contact, and so have been heavily affected by social distancing.

COVID-19 has made more people than ever go the extra mile to care for others, with over a million people having volunteered to help the NHS and charity groups since the start of lockdown. Our QT data shows that 3 in 4 have confidence in the NHS, compared to many other institutions (e.g. the UK political institution) which have negative confidence. Mass recruitment of volunteers has not been seen at this level since World War II, and has brought people closer together, both in their families and communities. However despite the surge in altruism,  charities across the country are struggling; 9 out of 10 will struggle to meet their fundraising objectives this year. This collaboration with RNIB demonstrates that brands have the opportunity to take control of their own social responsibility and power to help, at a time when it has never been more relevant.

In spite of Covid-19, social responsibility is still high on the agenda for multiple brands. Papa John’s partnered with the Trussell Trust to donate money from meal deal pizza orders to food banks around the country to feed families affected by the pandemic. In addition, Iceland proved how important wildlife causes are to the business and its customers, through adopting the penguins at the UK’s largest charity zoo, Chester Zoo. Last but not least, The Body Shop has partnered up with NO MORE – a charity fighting against domestic violence – to create their ‘Isolated Not Alone’ campaign to highlight and combat the rise of domestic violence cases during lockdown.

Amidst the uncertainty, anxiety and dread of COVID-19, the shining hope is that our continuous support as a nation for the NHS and for members of the community who need it most has created a greater atmosphere for kindness and support of one another. The more brands engage with this and demonstrate their own social responsibility authentically and effectively, the stronger resonance and connection they will create with consumers when they look back on the turbulent year that was 2020.


Lightbox Loves: All Down The Pub

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“Super Saturday” saw the eagerly anticipated reopening of hairdressers, bars, restaurants and the holiest of British establishments – the pub. With audiences slowly and tentatively returning to some aspects of “normality”, we’re now in the midst of mass habit forming moments. This can be a great opportunity for brands looking to gain customers via changed behaviour.

This weekend’s allowed openings were caveated with government advice on how to make an inherently social space as socially distant as possible. The new rules created uncertainty of what to expect from the experience.  This combined with existing caution created over the past 100 days led to a modest turnout. Records show a c.35% increase in footfall week-on-week though this is still around 50% less than usual Saturday footfall.

With Super Saturday out the way, Brits who have been waiting and watching will gradually head back to the boozer . 1 in 3 Brits have been looking forward to things getting back to normal, and these are the ones likely to be making the most of restrictions being lifted. Others will be influenced by the behaviour of others, mimicking what they think is the social norm. By reflecting this herd mentality, brands can align with the national mood.

Tapping into collective consciousness is always a powerful way to build brands; during the “Christmas ad” moment advertisers have learnt, successfully, to mirror the nation’s emotional mindset. The return of the pub is a similar opportunity for brands. It provides a sense of connection with others, a moment of time and occasion.  IPA research Lemon demonstrates that appealing to these more holistic right-brained attributes makes advertising more effective.

This week, our client South Western Railway launched a partnership with Global Radio which encourages Brits to celebrate the local businesses they missed during lockdown. Providing a platform for the re-opening of establishments on their network gives SWR a reason to speak to audiences about their destinations in a relevant way as audiences reconsider their leisure habits.

By staggering the relaxation of lockdown, the government has inadvertently created a shared calendar for the country. Brands that can tap into this evolving emotional progression will prove they are in touch with their current consumers, whilst providing a reassuring presence for future consumers once they’re ready.

Lightbox Pulse, May 2020

Lightbox Loves: The Return of Premier League and Live Sport

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After a 100-day absence due to the Coronavirus pandemic, England’s top flight football league returned to action last Wednesday. Football fans across the country were delighted to see their top tier teams back in action, however the scene was not quite as we left it back in March. Tens of thousands of encouraging supporters were replaced by artificial crowd noises to create the roaring atmosphere that is impossible to achieve in an empty stadium. The devoted home and away supporters are now “arm-chair fans” and watch their pride and joy from the comfort of their own home.

With the return of football now fully underway, there was a debate on whether it was too soon for the game to be back in play. 48% of Brits thought it still was not the right time for the players to get back on the pitch, in spite of the precautions put in place to protect both the players and fans. However, with 2 in 5 believing that live sport is good for the nations spirts, it seems like the return was welcomed by many; 2.7 million fans tuned into the returning game which saw a controversial 0-0 draw for Aston Villa and Sheffield United, a 43% increase on the season average. This jumped to a 94% increase when Manchester City’s victory over Arsenal peaked at 3.4 million viewers.

Covid-19 has also had a high impact on sponsorship and advertising partnerships in the sports industry. In what was once an advertiser’s playground, clubs are no longer allowed to display as many ads with advertising capped at 25% of branding at each ground.  Forecasts have revealed that global sports sponsorship revenue fell by £14.1 billion this year due to the pandemic.   While these restrictions are in place we can expect to see greater innovation and creativity in sport branding partnerships as they look to evolve what a traditional sponsorship deal can provide – and that can only be a good thing.

Therefore it’s certainly fair to say that from both a consumer engagement and brand opportunity point of view, sport is very much back in the game!


Lightbox Loves: The Show Must Go On(line)

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Last year an unprecedented number of people took to the streets to celebrate London Pride. 2019 marked 50 years since the revolutionary Stonewall uprising took place in New York and the event was attended by an estimated 1.5 million people. In 2020, these celebrations are set to look very different. According to the European Pride Organizers Association, nearly 500 LGBTQ+ events scheduled to celebrate Pride Month have had to be postponed or cancelled due to the current pandemic and associated restrictions. Despite this, Pride bodies and media brands are forging ahead with the occasion, like all other live events, online, optimistic that Lockdown could provide a unique opportunity to amplify LGBTQ+ rights.

Virtual events include: Pride Inside, a calendar of digital celebrations produced by Amnesty International partnering with UK Black Pride, Stonewall and ParaPride, and Pride in London’s Staying In events for the queer community. It may be a far cry from last year’s Pride, but pivoting the events online could have its own advantages. For starters, online spaces are not restricted by the same accessibility issues for those with disabilities and anxiety or limited by location. Likewise, it facilitates the creation of a global community and enables people from all over the world to interact with each – including a host of International talent that would otherwise be unavailable.

There are growing concerns however that advertisers who have previously spent on Pride campaigns may put their spending on hold this month and potentially indefinitely, particularly due to reduced visibility online. In May, 89% of large multinational companies deferred marketing campaigns. For brands, product placement on Zoom-events might not have the same tangible impact as a physical presence at the parade.

Brands who choose to spend behind Pride must focus, now more than ever, on making a long-term commitment to the cause. In the wake of protests following George Floyd’s death, consumers are hyper-conscious of tokenism. A post in support of the LGBTQ+ movement is no longer enough. Consumers will identify with companies that put their money where their mouth is such as jeans company Levi’s, a long-standing supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, who is producing its annual Pride collection, with 100% of net proceeds going to OutRight Action International, or UGG who have created Pride-themed flurry slippers and will be donating $125,000 to non-profit organisation GLAAD. Brands must also go a step further and acknowledge the shared histories of Pride and Black Lives Matter movements, both founded by people of colour to fight systematic discrimination and intolerance, and focus on intersectionality and inclusivity.

Although Pride is expected to resume in all its colourful glory in 2021, it appears that there could still be a place for digital events moving forward. Moreover, the protests of 2020 will have long-lasting effects on how brands interact with the LGBTQ+ community and other minority groups.

Lightbox Loves: Questions Over Answers

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The UK has been living with lockdown for nearly three months, which has meant that consumers’ lives from all aspects has drastically changed. However, we are fundamentally creatures of habit and tend to steer clear of change. Having consistency allows us to make shortcuts in our everyday lives, saving us time, energy and providing us with feelings of comfort. So when our world is sent into chaos it causes us stress and feelings of negativity. It is therefore no surprise that currently 50% of Brits state that they are experiencing feelings of apprehension and 43% feelings of worry1. Demonstrating that having so many unknowns in this ‘new’ world drives feelings of negativity.

As we try to make sense of this unknown, we find ourselves asking questions and lots of them, to help provide ourselves with a degree of clarity. Google trends shows us that the majority of the searches are centred around questions. Interestingly, the question topics have moved to being focussed on far broader societal and economic questions, such as ‘what does a shrinking economy mean’ is up 5000%2. But also, the format of the questions have shifted to ‘when,’ ‘where’ and ‘why,’ with questions like: ‘when do you have to wear a mask,’ ‘what are the quarantine rules in the UK’ and ‘when will lockdown end.’ This highlights consumer need to try and make sense of everything going on around them.

As we try to make sense of what is going on, we are also adapting. Questions related to ‘how’ are currently less related to brands but broader behaviours. Consumers are adapting by either wanting to upskill themselves or being forced to rely more on their skillset because products aren’t available. Examples include ‘how to make coconut macaroons’, which has increased 170%3 in the last week and ‘how to use Microsoft teams’ has increased 150%4 in the last week.

During this period brands need to be providing consumers with reassurance to help alleviate their apprehension and worry. Providing answers to their questions is an easy win, potentially framed in the wider societal and economic climate to help add context. As an example, TSB recently launched a TV campaign featuring staff members – to provide a “message that we’re here to help and to give customers a sense of calm and reassurance.” Alongside this their website has a section specifically for Covid19, pre-empting questions consumers may have. This provides solutions to empower consumers to tackle their question themselves, which will help provide them with a greater feeling of control over their lives.

  1. Lightbox Pulse 2,3&4.Google Trends June 2020

The Seven Trends in 2020

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The Seven Trends in 2020


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Lightbox Loves: Lockdown Lifestyle Changes

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On average it takes 66 days to form a new habit (Lally et al., 2009). So, as we fly past the 2-month mark of life in lockdown, how have public habits changed? The latest mobile data network report from EE (covering February to May 2020) helps shed some light into this and highlights 2 key areas of new habits/trends; communication and fitness.

With restrictions on visiting family and friends in person and the wide enforcement of working from home, our modes of communication have had to adapt. EE have seen a fivefold increase in Zoom usage during lockdown with commuter towns such as Stevenage & Hereford experiencing as much as a 120% increase in communications app data usage as a result of working from home measures.

Overall traffic to communication apps has seen a 45% increase across lockdown with voice calls up the same percentage, while globally WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage since the start of the outbreak according to Business Insider. Interestingly, contrary to recent trends of shorter calls, lockdown has seen the number of calls lasting longer than 5 minutes double as the public seek to bridge the social gap created by lockdown measures.

In the realms of fitness, both Strava & MapMyRun have seen huge jumps in data usage compared to pre-lockdown (triple for Strava & double for MapMyRun respectively) as the public seek to both get outdoors and stay fit and healthy. Comparatively FitBit has seen data usage decline as the daily movement around the UK has fallen, particularly driven by fewer commuters.

Research by Nuffield Health has shown that 76% of Brits have taken up a new form of exercise since lockdown began with 4 in 5 agreeing that they will keep up with their new routines once normality resumes. However, physical activity differs by age, with half of 18-24s getting less than 2 hours exercise a week compared to the evergreen over 65s; nearly half (47%) of whom reach 3 hours worth of exercise a week.

It is undeniable that social distancing and lockdown measures have had a significant effect on the structure of people’s lives and the habits that fall within them; whether these will last out in the long-term however is unclear. What we do know is that it is more important than ever in these uncertain times for brands to keep up to speed with developments within societal habits and norms. TSB are a great example of this, with their recent TV campaign focusing on the nation’s gratitude towards keyworkers for their amazing contributions during this global crisis.

Phillippa Lally, Cornelia H. M. van Jaarsveld, Henry W. W. Potts & Jane Wardle. (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of social Psychology.