Lightbox Loves

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: Should brands still care about mascots?

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Some brand mascots have been around for well over 100 years, although a few may have had a facelift. They’re a great way of bringing brands to life and making advertising more memorable. With that being said, there has been a steady decrease in brands using mascots – are brands missing a trick here?

Mascots are generally used as a way for people to differentiate and recognise not only brands, but also groups or organisations. It is also a great way to humanise a brand and allow big corporate brands to drive awareness. Studies have shown that having a brand mascot doesn’t just boost recognition, but also boosts market share by 37%.

Brand mascots that are most distinctive are proven to be most effective. Gio Compario, the Go Compare opera singer, has been encouraging us to compare insurance deals to save our money for a staggering 10 years now. However, a mascot this prominent doesn’t come without its critics, and Go Compare’s Gio was labelled the most annoying man on British TV, as well as being the most complained about ad in 2012. In spite of this, Gio creates cut through in a crowded market; Go Compare has been crowned most recognised insurance brand, proving even more effective than the 2 furry little mascots for Compare the Market.

Newer brands are also adopting mascots as a way to break into the market. One brand who has taken theirs to the next level is Hinge. They’ve used a mascot to not only increase brand recognition, but also to drive their message forward in a unique and unexpected way. Their cuddly character, Hingie, who usually acts as a fly on the wall during dates, eventually gets killed off in their ad campaigns once the couple have deleted the app. This drives a powerful message that Hinge isn’t meant to stay with you forever if you’ve successfully found love, which is what their app is set out to do.

In a world where it is becoming even harder for brands to connect with their audience, creating a brand mascot is a great way for consumers to remember and relate to brands. In addition, brands should not fear the unknown when making a brand mascot; if Gio Compario still sings on, then there is hope for all.



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: The rise in diverse and inclusive visual vocabulary

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‘Visual vocabulary’ has been an essential communications device long before the advent of media agencies. Pictorial symbols in the forms of hieroglyphs and cave drawings, documented by archaeologists and enshrined in museums, provide a pointed reminder that images formed the base of human communication.

Fast-forward to 2019 and ‘World Emoji Day’ serves as its own reminder that visual vocabulary has permeated culture in an unprecedented way. Modern humans process visual information 60,000 times faster than text, so it’s no wonder that the emoji has become a go-to communications device in a world where people are constantly bombarded with stimuli.

Alongside fun and exciting additions to popular categories of food, animals, activities and smiley faces, Apple recently announced that designs launching on iPhone this autumn are set to bring even more diversity to the keyboard. A greater number of disability-themed emojis including a new guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid, wheelchairs, a prosthetic arm and a prosthetic leg will be available in the emoji keyboard, and well as more skin tone and gender relationship combinations.

Not only does this move serve to highlight diversity as one of Apple’s key business and brand values, but it echoes initiatives from other brand advertisers to better reflect modern Britain in its B2C communications. Big brands such as Maltesers and Lloyds Banking Group are among a handful of advertisers putting diversity at the heart of their communications strategies, often using visual vocabulary as a creative vehicle.

Visual vocabulary is, and will remain, a conduit between the brand and consumer. Visual communications drive longer-term saliency and impact, so it’s clear that brands need to translate increasingly diverse and inclusive creative platforms into easy to process visuals which can quickly convey information in ways that text simply cannot.


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: A Step Forwards for Sustainable Fashion?

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At their 2019 annual shareholders conference fashion giant Inditex (the holding group behind high street favourite Zara and other brands including Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear and Bershka) announced their plans to transform the business into something more sustainable.

Inditex pledged that by 2025, all of its eight brands will “…only use cotton, linen and polyester that’s organic, sustainable or recycled,” which make up 90% of the raw materials they use. They also detailed plans to transition to zero landfill waste and renewable power sources, aiming for them to make up 80% of the energy consumed at their offices, distribution centres and stores. They now join other brands, such as H&M group and Marks & Spencer, in having information about their sustainability targets publicly available.

While premium brands like Stella McCartney have been flying the flag for more ethical practices for the best part of a decade, the transition of these attitudes onto the high street has been much slower. The industry accounts for a staggering 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil. So why the rush for fashion brands to join the conversation around sustainability?

The answer can be found in the next generation of shoppers. Gen Z’s passion for the environment is well documented, and it appears be influencing their approach to fashion. “A 2017 study from NDP Group found that Gen Z is willing to spend as much as 10 to 15 percent more on sustainably produced clothing. Meanwhile, a Nielsen study from 2015 found nearly three-quarters of 15- to 20-year-olds would pay more for a sustainable product, compared to just 51 percent of Baby Boomers.”

There has been speculation recently about whether this claimed behaviour translates to where they’re actually spending their cash, neatly summed up by Missguided’s now infamous £1 bikini. Despite there being an almost immediate backlash on social media questioning the ethical and environmental implications of creating such a low-cost item, the Guardian reports that Missguided’s biggest concern was actually that “…the bikini was selling out in every size – from 4 to 24 – within 45 minutes after each restock.” This begs the question, is Gen Z’s approach to fast fashion all talk?

Brands would do well to remember that the spending power of Gen Z is just in its infancy, and to build for long-term success, they shouldn’t ignore the increased noise around the topic of fast fashion and its environmental consequence. Whilst it may not be an obligatory requirement for the industry currently, it will undoubtedly become the norm as more brands establish greater sustainability agendas.

Facebook Audience Insights: Interests > Additional Interests: Missguided

Take a Spring Break: The latest findings from The QT

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Take a Spring Break: The latest findings from The QT

May 2019 is the eleventh wave of our quarterly consumer confidence and state of the nation tracking study: The QT. This time around, we’ve asked Brits’ their attitudes to gardening, healthy eating & fitness, modern advertising, and most crucially; which of their household and daily routines are *really* a chore, and which they secretly enjoy rather than endure. Read on for more…

The Bank Holiday bonanza has done nothing to make us happier.

Compared to February 2019, there has been no real change in the nation’s happiness. One in three Brits feel more positive than they did last year, and just under half feel no different. The happiest cohort are those in Yorkshire & the Humber with four in five (79%) saying they’re as happy or happier than they were at this time last year. Maybe the recent success of the Tour de Yorkshire did something to brighten the mood.

Political positivity in a downward spiral… again.

Following the recent local elections, confidence in the political system is at an all time low. In February, the score was -66%, and May scores have plummeted to -73% net confidence. Parties themselves are at a staggering -77%, with negative sentiment more than doubling since this time in 2017.

If we look to talk about the elephant in the political room, the overriding emotions towards Brexit continue to evolve. 27% of Brits now say they are bored of Brexit, a staggering growth from 18% in February 2019, and 8% in May 2017. Only 1 in 20 (5%) of Brits are happy about the current state of affairs, which is a marked reduction from the 12% who felt this way in May 2017.

Pleasure or pain? The nation has spoken.

In light of the rise of cleaning and folding influencers (Mrs Hinch and Marie Kondo, anyone?), we decided to put it to Brits which of their daily habits or routines they had a secret satisfaction in doing.

Top of the pile? Walking the dog and booking holidays. 4 in 5 Brits who do these activities find them a pleasure, rather than a chore. Clothes shopping and exercising were hot on their heels, with around 3 in 5 Brits who do these activities finding them a pleasure.

The generational splits were the most interesting here. Cooking and Ironing were the mainstays of the older audiences, but cleaning brought great joy to around a third of 18-34s, versus 1 in 5 over 55s. Tidying personal possessions was also a surprise hit amongst the younger group.

Representation is key.

Back in 2018 we launched our whitepaper into Diversity and Inclusion in advertising, ‘Representing?’. This wave we wished to check back in with consumers to see if anything had changed in the last year. Unfortunately, only 1 in 4 (26%) of Brits feel they are fairly represented in advertising. Seems there is still some work to be done…


Keep an eye on @the7stars on twitter for more nuggets from this wave of the QT.

To find out more on any of these topics, or ask for more information please email