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Lightbox Loves: RuPaul: Rewriting Herstory

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The original supermodel of the world, RuPaul recently wrapped the eleventh season of the self-titled runaway success, RuPaul’s Drag Race, with a speech about how “a TV show made by queer people, for queer people” has taken over the mainstream. Whilst these comments may have attracted some criticism around inclusivity, the sentiment rings true.

With June being LGBTQ+ Pride month, and the UK’s first spin-off series purported to launch on the BBC in late 2019, the time felt right to cast some light (no shade) on the opportunities for brands in partnering and supporting something which everyone from Christina Aguilera to Cara Delevingne has expressed sheer joy at being part of. Viewing figures are hush hush, although an article post season 10 indicated it had broken ratings records for one broadcaster*. RuPaul has an Instagram following of 3.1m, and the show almost 1m on Twitter.

In the recent, glitzy, celebrity sprinkled season 11 finale, which saw Yvie Oddly snatch the crown, we also saw the queens, judges and guests all posing in front of a giant Levi’s rainbow logo. The brand is no stranger to the queer community, being a consistent and vocal campaigner since the 1950s where they removed segregation of workers before the laws changed, but it’s the first time they’ve played such a visible role on RPDR.

Brand support is at the very heart of Drag Race, with Mama Ru number one at promoting and cross-selling her own brand – from autobiographies to music, dolls and perfume. Whilst the majority of the sponsorships and ad-funded challenges in past series have been for US based brands, they are benefitting from a global audience through the show’s presence on VH1, Comedy Central and, of course, Netflix. The category is…everything from travel and holiday companies, to alcohol, jewellery, underwear and fashion brands.

How can British brands show their support, love and fandom for all things drag? Genuine interest starts at the grassroots level. One of the most resounding criticisms levelled at brands in their quest to show support for their LGBTQ+ consumers is that they ignore the opportunity to support at regional and foundational communities; instead pumping their money into the highest reach and profile events.

Engaging the drag community in the UK, whether it involves supporting drag events and expos financially, or enabling tours to spread the drag message far and wide;  visibility and understanding of this increasingly popular artform could provide a rich area of opportunity for the right company.

To do so with honesty and integrity, as with any plan to immerse your brand in a subculture, requires an internal review and alignment first, because in the words of Ru: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?”


Lightbox Loves: Lionesses in the Limelight

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Twelve months ago, the country was infected with World Cup fever; alarms were set to the tune of Three Lions, red & white face paint was an office obligation and waistcoat sales flew through the roof. Now, in 2019, the nation is rising to its feet once more as England’s Lionesses start their campaign in the 8th edition of the Women’s World Cup in France.

Winning all their group games saw the Lionesses storm through to the round of 16 as group winners, smashing TV viewing records in the process; a whopping 6.1 million viewers tuned in to see England take on Scotland on June 9th . Impressively, this record was smashed once more just a week later with 6.87m individuals tuning in to the Lioness’ quarter-final fixture vs Cameroon; making this the most viewed women’s football game in the UK to date, and greater even than their semi-final vs Japan in the World Cup in 2015 with 2.43m viewers.

Of course, this figure is dwarfed by the gargantuan 26.5m individuals that tuned in to see England take on Croatia in last year’s Men’s World Cup semi-final. Compare the Lionesses viewership though to that of the Nations League Semi Final vs Netherlands (2.54m individuals), or England’s men’s latest Euro Qualifier (7.26m individuals) and it’s evident that there is a growing Lioness fanbase out there.

Until now, women’s football has received a lack of attention and funding in comparison to the men’s game. Whilst closing this gap in the near future represents a great challenge, the efforts being made by brands to facilitate this, along with free-to-air broadcasting from the BBC and the general success of the Lionesses, demonstrates that real steps are being taken to achieve equality.

Lioness sponsors Budweiser, Boots, Lucozade, Continental Tires, and Head & Shoulders, have all made significant marketing contributions to the cause, while World Cup partners Visa have committed to spending an equal amount on marketing for both the men’s and women’s tournaments. Coca-Cola, who are also World Cup partners, have further aided the cause by commissioning a weekly women’s football show on Channel 4.

Brands showing a progressive attitude and associating themselves with the Women’s World Cup appropriately stand to benefit from increased brand equity. However, although brand equity is a positive outcome, the real driving force should be a genuine desire from brands and stakeholders to drive tangible societal change for the better.



Den: Viewers of Eng v Japan 1 July 2015

Lightbox Loves: Love Island 2019

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Love Island returned to our screens last week, sweeping the nation with 3.7 million people tuning in for the first episode – viewed to be a resounding success. Brands in their swathes have been eager to align with the show, including Uber Eats sponsoring the show for £5m, and Superdrug, Ministry of Sound, Jet2Holidays and Samsung all partnering with the ITV2 hit. Clearly the show has tremendous reach, and a cult-like following, but could there be a risk for brands aligning with the show?

Love Island has faced recent criticism around the amount of mental health support available for contestants upon leaving the show. Two former contestants, Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon, both took their own lives. For some, this has raised debates around ITV’s support for contestants after filming ends, and has served to shift public opinion of the show. This debate is concurrent with the halt of long-running ITV show Jeremy Kyle due to an incident on May 9th, which was said to have some parallels with the Love Island debate. The show was immediately cancelled, unfortunately leaving Love Island open to criticism from some quarters for not suffering the same fate. Others have argued that there are many external factors that could be to blame for these tragic events and it is unfair to place all blame on the men and women working on the show. Furthermore, ITV have recently announced that contestants will receive at least eight therapy sessions after leaving the show, so have actively responded to the call to increase aftercare.

The feel-good reality show has also faced scrutiny stemming from the issue of representation on the show. This surrounds the absence of body diversity within the show and the perpetuation of heteronormative ideals. Despite the creative director’s claim that he just “wants them to be attracted to one another” and that including same-sex couples would “take something away from the format” according to ITV boss Paul Mortimer; perceived lack of representation on such a wide scale with the attention of 57% of 16-34s around the UK has been deemed by some as irresponsible and non-inclusive.

A recent study by Sprout found that 65% of consumers thought it was important for brands to take a stand on social or political issues. Given this, could brands be opening themselves up to the same criticism as Love Island and ITV by association? Unilever has run extensive campaigns for their Dove brand to hero body positivity and inclusivity, yet another in their stable, VO5, is the official hair partner of the show. Is it disingenuous for them to wax lyrical about diversity while supporting Love Island? Or is it less important for a house of brands to keep a red thread throughout their comms, as their portfolio have different priorities?
When all is said and done, 80,000 people were reported to have signed up for the fifth season of the show, and brands have found themselves a rare opportunity for mass awareness amongst this hard-to-reach audience. And so at this time they have more to gain from aligning with the show than they have to lose by opening themselves up to criticism. The scales are tipped in their favour, but it’s a delicate balancing act.

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The Seven Trends 2019: #5 The Future is Gaming

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The Future is Gaming.


It feels like we say the same thing every year, but 2018 really was the year that gaming blew into the mainstream.


Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V became the most financially successful media title of all time with an estimated $6 billion in revenue, far surpassing bestselling films such as Star Wars or The Avengers. The release of Red Dead Redemption 2 sold 15 million copies in its first eight days since release.


Gaming also entered Hollywood with Ready Player One, the cult gaming novel, released on the big screen courtesy of Spielberg.

And Fortnite happened. The cultural phenomenon is over 125 million players strong. When pro-gamer Ninja was joined by Drake to live stream the game, it became the most watched Twitch stream in history with 628,000 viewers.

So, people are playing games, but they’re also watching. Twitch has a 2.7m UK reach with a 25 minute average dwell time and five out of the Top 10 earning YouTubers post content centred around gaming. These have naturally opened up opportunities which brands are making use of, but does bring us to question of where 2019 is heading.

Ready Player One, a film by Steven Spielberg earned $560m globally.


2019 will see brands play catch up to the mainstream adoption of games. This will be in part be across ad placements within games and video content on the likes of Twitch and YouTube. But the more exciting opportunities to access that younger, hard to reach audience are through partnerships.

eSports is forecast to double its audience to 600 million people in 2020, and generate revenues of more than £1bn globally. Some brands, like Coca-Cola and Snickers, are already capitalising on these audiences. Xbox and Sony are head sponsors of tournaments across the globe. As eSports’ popularity rises, and avenues to watch grow, we will see more marketing opportunities here too.

Five out of the Top 10 earning YouTubers are streaming live gaming.


But the impact isn’t limited to brands with a gaming angle. The technology honed will seep into mainstream marketing. AR and VR have both been most popularly adopted within the gaming industry, making gamers comfortable to consume content in that way. This paves the way for marketers in other sectors to use the same tech. Currently these have been more PR-led experiences rather than wider marketing campaigns: 2019 could be the year where gaming ‘normalises’ other realities.

The Seven Trends 2019: #4 Media Mergers

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Media Mergers.


Big players may move slowly, but these slow moves and mergers will create big waves.


2018 was a year of media consolidation. In broadcast it could be argued that this was in part a response to the rising growth of the over the top (OTT) new kids on the block. If it’s true that size matters, then the existing players look to be making strategic alliances in readiness for the fight.

Netflix has already muscled in and established itself as the entertainment TV portal in the UK OTT marketplace. If DAZN realise their ambitions to be the similar destination for sports, the likes of Sky, Disney and Turner may have to innovate to stay ahead.

Comcast, the largest cable TV provider in the States, acquired Sky for $39 billion. This gives them a significant European footprint and made them the biggest private sector provider of pay TV, with 52 million customers (Knowledge Wharton). Content, data, subscriptions and global expansion are reasons behind the acquisition. Content between these two will be leveraged globally, and it will be interesting to see what happens between Comcast’s 30% stake in Hulu and Sky’s NowTV – or will they develop a global online video service to combat Netflix?

Comcast, the largest cable TV provider in the U.S. acquired Sky for $39 billion.

Disney, for one, will be launching a competing online streaming platform, Disney+, later in 2019. Following its previous purchase of 21st Century Fox, Disney removed all content from Netflix in preparation for launch. TV’s new global giants will compete in content to retain customers.
Ad-free subscriptions are a popular business model for entertainment, offering a wide variety of quality content, readily available on smart platforms.

U.S. broadcaster DAZN put the UK sports broadcast market on notice with their commercial tie up with Matchroom Boxing.

However, ad-funded business models must focus on scale to attract more advertising spend when competing against Facebook and Google. It does seem that size and scale matters, so we are seeing non-TV media owners consolidate too.

Trinity Mirror merged with Northern Shell to form Reach. Now the third largest newspaper group with 21.1% share of print circulations (, Reach is a more effective challenger to NewsUK and DMG Media. As the name suggests, the merger offers greater scale to advertisers, but also a greater robust revenue mix across print and digital on top of the efficiencies from reducing duplication within the business.

Global (owners of national radio brands such as Capital, Heart and LBC) made a surprise move by acquiring not one, not two, but three outdoor media companies. In 2019 they will become the 2nd largest outdoor sales house in the UK – just behind JCDecaux. This creates a huge cross-media selling opportunity for Global, agencies and advertisers alike.
Both these give the opportunity to be more effectively ‘local’ at scale in two key broadcast channels. If coordinated through one sales point then the interplay between out of home and radio can be managed far more effectively. Or at least that is the theory.

Doubtless we’ll find out as the mergers reach maturity in 2019.

Programmatic is Dead

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Programmatic is Dead. Long live Programmatic.

Or whatever we’re gonna call it this year. Real-time data-led decisioning is obviously now behind pretty much every ad that get’s booked, as are the technology solutions to connect to addressable media – 90% of 2020 display spend (£6.8B) is expected to be programmatic*, and ever more so in the evolving OOH and TV broadcasting landscape.

*eMarketer UK ad spending report 2019

As such, we thought we’d put together 7 quick viewpoints that (continue to be) high areas of interest;


  • Trust

Buying through a programmatic specialist team, or through technology, shouldn’t reward with bonuses, increased margin, or anything else – it should be the soley based on the best solution for the campaign activation and optimisation.


  • Agnostic

Campaign deliverly should not be swayed by anything other than a campaign goal – client’s are investing more and more now, and shouldn’t have to question whether any other KPI is at play.


  • Humanist

Client’s should have an honest and open opinion, and agencies shouldn’t take budget or campaigns just for the sake of it. Can this budget go direct to a publisher? Is there a way programmatic can work alongside a tradional buy? Is there a justifiable attribution towards channels? Will the creative just not work and need push back?


  • Fully integrated and holistic planning and buying

Data and technology is a tool, not a line on a plan – programmatic needs to stop being considered a budget.


  • Creative at the heart

Internet users should never see a bad ad! The behavioural impact of CTA, colour, branding, audio, emotions, etc, is undeniably highly important in a campaigns performance. Digital creative strategy, consultancy and solutions should sit on the same table as everything else to ensure that every ad is optimal for every user.


  • Data informed, not data led

Data is great, and with the right tools traders have more than enough to make every penny count. But there are other elements at play during a campaign that should always be considered, and used – trending news, weather, competitor offers, and obviously hundreds more. Sometimes the DSP goggles need to come off!


  • Transparency

At the7stars, we provide 100% transparency across our programmatic campaign buys, running only on Ads.txt inventry, and recently IAB Gold Standard, and DSTG certified.


It’s an obvious one this….but if a business can’t offer transparency and agnosticism along the programmatic supply chain, to the best of their ability, then clients should always be asking questions.


WARC Media Awards win for Suzuki and the7stars

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Having won Gold at the WARC awards in 2018, Suzuki and the7stars stepped it up a gear to take out the Grand Prix for Partnerships in 2019. With a new model to launch and an entirely new audience to reach, the7stars demonstrated what to do when content is king, but not fit for a queen…

Sadly, when it comes to marketing cars to women the automotive market will often turn to a collection of patronising stereotypes.

Our research found that much like men of their age, 20-something women are looking for adventure, independence and achievement. Initially we sought to put the Ignis at the heart of content which celebrates adventure, independence and achievement among young women, but to our surprise there was nothing which fitted the bill. So we created our own.

We set out to create content which better reflected the audience’s life stage, and place Suzuki at its heart.  Working with the E4 Commissioning team, we collaborated to create a brand-new TV format – All Star Driving School.  A peak-time TV show that serialised the trials of learning to drive, but ultimately showing the adventure and independence a first-time car can grants its owner.

By completely integrating the Suzuki Ignis into a TV series which promoted these values, and then amplifying the spirt of our partnership to 86% of young women in the UK, we showed the industry how it should be done. And sold a load of cars in the process.

All this was achieved without a pink car in the range.  Fancy that.

Lightbox Loves: Franchise Fever: How Long Can it Last?

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Franchise Fever: How Long Can it Last?


With Avengers, Star Wars and Game of Thrones culminating in grand finales this year, entertainment franchises are reaching peak popularity. Years in the making, how have people remained so excited about watching what is essentially the same old thing?

The proportion of franchise films making the top 10 UK box office films each year has been increasing steadily since 2002 (chart below).1 With Game of Thrones spinoffs and a new phase of Avengers films in the works, it looks like people will remain glued to these franchises for years to come.

Without a doubt, the social viewing experience continually draws people in. Social media has exploded over Avengers Endgame, with nearly a million and a half posts relating to the topic this year.3 For its part, Game of Thrones generated half of a million public conversations this year.4

It’s not just other fans who form the viewers’ community, but franchise characters too. Relatable characters become extensions of real-life groups. For example, Game of Thrones’ King of the North, Jon Snow, is more popular amongst those from Northern UK than the South: over a third of Northerners (35%) want to see Jon Snow win the throne at the end of the series, compared to just a quarter of Londoners (26%).5

Looking more closely at the social media conversation further reveals that nostalgia keeps fans interested. The Avengers series is particularly good at this, using ‘80s and ‘90s references to remind viewers of the enduring relationship they’ve had with the franchise over time. One Avengers fan tweeted:

 ‘Went and watched Captain Marvel earlier today. Absolutely great film, and the soundtrack was definitely one of nostalgia for me. Can’t wait for Endgame and to see the finale of a story that’s been building up since I was in high school!’6

These kinds of relationships take time to build, but nowadays new TV programmes and films crop up weekly. How long will interest hold up in a viewing market where programmes and viewing platforms are proliferating? As audiences increasingly watch TV on the go, will the social experience be ruined? People want more and more control over what they watch, and in the cases of these franchises, fans are helpless at the whim of writers and producers.

Perhaps with the acceleration of change in viewing habits, it will be nostalgia for the traditional franchise experience itself that keeps them around.



1.Box Office Mojo

2.YouGov ‘9.5 Million Brits to See Avengers Endgame at Cinema’ and YouGov ‘Jon Snow is Fan Favourite to Win Game of Thrones

3.Crimson Hexagon 1st Jan 2019 – 6th May 2019 ‘Avengers’, ‘Endgame’, ‘Marvel’

4.Crimson Hexagon 1st Jan 2019 – 6th May 2019 ‘Game of Thrones’

5.YouGov ‘Jon Snow is Fan Favourite to Win Game of Thrones

6.Crimson Hexagon 1st Jan 2019 – 6th May 2019 ‘Avengers’, ‘Endgame’, ‘Marvel