Lightbox Loves

Lightbox Loves: Love to hate the Christmas Creep?

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

From the moment John Lewis released its much-anticipated Christmas advert last week, the bitter air of late autumn was filled with familiar conversations. “I swear it gets earlier every year” pleads the man in the coffee shop as he collects his festive cup. “It wasn’t like this in my day,” your granny assures you, as she knits your yearly reindeer sweater.

It’s true: Christmas season is upon us, in media circles at least. The likes of Boots and M&S joined John Lewis in launching their campaigns in early November, while online retailer Very opted for an even earlier start, telling a tongue-in-cheek tale of a family jumping the gun on festive celebrations – much to the surprise of calling trick-or-treaters.

But this is no new phenomenon. In 2015, Aldi and Lidl both released their seasonal campaigns the day after Halloween. The cause – then, as now – was a wealth of data showing consumers planning their gift shopping earlier to beat the forthcoming rush. There’s even a term for it: the Christmas creep, and experts claim it dates back to the 19th century.

So, are early Christmas campaigns simply something we all love to moan about? the7stars’ Lightbox Lowdown found that a majority (51%) of Brits think Christmas ads start too early, with just two-in-five looking forward to seeing them. This year, however, the strategic reasons for launching such early campaigns are three-fold. Firstly, supply chain shortages are still fresh in Britons’ minds, prompting many to buy early; by mid-October, one-third had done at least some of their Christmas shopping, according to YouGov. Furthermore, with many of the UK’s near-neighbours, including the Netherlands, implementing fresh restrictions on retail to curb rising coronavirus cases, many British shoppers are preparing for the worst. Lastly, as reported in the7stars Christmas Trends 2021, 36% of Brits plan to spend more on Christmas this year to make up for last year’s lost time, with early campaigns a means to captivate their attention.

While the timing of this year’s festive offering is expected, some critics have been disappointed by the content of campaigns rolling off the production line. Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief of PRWeek, noted that the lack of sustainable overtones in the current crop of campaigns was a strategic own-goal, given their release during the COP26 negotiations on home soil.

Whether the relative latecomers this year will opt to go bolder on sustainability or other topical consumer themes remains to be seen. But, if one thing is certain, it’s that the wave of cheer hitting our screens is just getting started – as are the inevitable cries of it all being forced upon us. Bah, humbug.

Lightbox Loves: The Metaverse

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The metaverse…what is it and why should brands care?

The term “metaverse” is everywhere right now, it’s even been coined as the ‘future of the internet’. But defining exactly what the metaverse is can be difficult and there’s one simple reason for this: it doesn’t necessarily exist. Facebook describe it as ‘a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you’. Put simply, it’s the internet brought to life. A virtual world where users can create an avatar, interact with one another as well as interacting with brands and experiences. Advancements in AR & VR technologies have accelerated the growth of the metaverse, allowing users to connect easily from their physical world, wherever they are. The metaverse can constitute anything from a virtual shop front where users can experience online shopping as if they were truly in a store, to going to a Travis Scott concert in the game Fortnite with 10 million other users.

Facebook have taken a considerable interest in the metaverse and have already revealed their early ambitions about rebranding as a metaverse company, including developments in the physical tech required such as VR headsets or Oculus glasses. Mark Zuckerberg recently said “We believe that this is going to be the successor to the mobile internet.”

However, not everyone is fully on board with the metaverse yet, according to the7stars latest October Lightbox Pulse, with 86% of people either having not heard of the metaverse before or saying that they didn’t understand it. On the other hand, 28% of Gen Z think that the metaverse will be the future of the internet. Many brands have already started launching in this space, for example Balenciaga have released a dystopian game called Afterworld where they hosted a virtual fashion show to launch their Autumn 2021 collection. Brands, especially those that have a Gen Z or young Millennial audience, can embrace this movement to make the metaverse more real and accessible to everyone. Only time will tell how these audiences will interact in this metaverse and how brands will exist in a meaningful and valuable way within it.  Watch this ‘metaverse’ space….



Lightbox Pulse, October 2021, the7stars

Lightbox Loves: From Fans to Family

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Ever been heartbroken at the news of a celebrity couple’s divorce? Perhaps Brangelina’s split, Prince Charles’ affair or Kim & Kanye’s recent parting drew up a well of emotions in you?

Research defines celebrity-fan relationships as parasocial, wherein fans feel an intense and familiar connection to celebrities despite the relationship often being one-sided and mediated over mass media channels. Such a phenomenon was born during the 1950’s and 60’s when the Golden Age of Hollywood first catapulted starlets and heartthrobs onto the screen. However, the transition towards multimedia channels has evolved a breed of ‘superfans’, or ‘stans’ who now have access to a foray of personal information about celebrities and influencers thanks to the scope, constant feedback loop and direct communication lines of social media. The boundary between private and public blurs so much that fans have begun to enter the personal space of their idols digitally, impassioning keyboard warriors to ‘protect’ and ‘support’ during controversies and even liken celebrities to family – brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers whose image, behaviour and personality they can shape beyond normal celebrity worship. This hyper form of fan culture is known as parakin relationships.

Classic examples are arguably more prevalent in collectivist societies where people have one idealised standard and subsequently quash down public figures who sought after individuality or deviate from the norm. For fans who source much of their self-identity from celebrities, influencers and their respective fandoms, fans feel the need to control their idols’ image to coincide with their own sense of self.  In return, fans can escape from their reality and exaggerate the confines of their daily lives. Whilst normal fans create fanart – drawing or painting images of their idols, superfans create and shape the celebrity themselves.

But why is this important and what does it even mean for brands?

In the branded world, co-collaboration and creation with fans is celebrated and often strategic. If celebrities and influencers can be seen as personal brands themselves, earning much of their revenues from likes, shares and comments online, perhaps it’s not so much of a surprise to see fans co-create with public figures in the same way? In fact, this points to a natural desire for devoted fans to want to co-create with branded communities. Celebrities such as Taylor Swift held a ‘Secret Session’ concert in her own home, whilst Tom Daly leverages the digital channel Patreon to provide insight into his personal life, and consequently foster the relationship to his advantage. American start-up ‘Community’ have even developed a one-to-one messaging platform for musicians to message their fans directly. If used positively, stans’ fervour and loyalty can be capitalised, such as in the case of  Game of Thrones where 1.7 million people signed a petition to remake the 8th season. Similarly, Rihanna’s personal perfume ‘Baccarat Rouge 540′ went viral on TikTok, reflecting the fans desire to embody her and boosting sales. What remains clear is that super fans’ strength in numbers, passion and assertiveness can change the game, and make big business.

Source: Canvas8

Lightbox Loves: The Campus Comeback

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

After what has been a well-documented difficult eighteen months for young people, this month, students have been returning to universities up and down the country as campuses re-open and Freshers’ Weeks begin. Many will have been caught up in the pandemic A-levels fiasco, whilst others will have already begun their university experience with online learning, little face-to-face contact and the mental and emotional strain that this brings.

Whilst government advisers have warned that Freshers’ Week festivities may bring about a spike in covid cases, students appear undeterred by the threat of a winter surge, with 2021 seeing a record number of young people accepting university places. With 87% of students planning to get vaccinated ahead of the start of term, students seem positive about the future; according to YouGov, 32% believe that it is unlikely new restrictions will be introduced in the autumn, versus 25% of the population as a whole.

the7stars QT national tracking study further reveals that Gen Z’s are the driving force behind current UK happiness levels with 62% of 18-25s happier than this time last year. Given this optimism, it’s no surprise that students are keen to make up for missed opportunities, friendships and experiences after a year of closed campuses. According to HiveMindMarketing, 52% claim that the pandemic has made them more intent on returning to a normal university lifestyle, whilst Redbus Media report that 63% plan to socialise more this academic year. Students have long been considered a distinctive and attractive target audience. As they fly the nest, many lack established relationships with brands, having moved away from the preferences of their families and parents.

In a new environment and in their formative years, they are open-minded and ready to form new brand loyalties. Research shows these are often long-lasting, with many remaining loyal to brands that they first purchased at university. With students more determined than ever before to get out, spend and engage with the world around them, this offers brands a great opportunity to capitalise on their optimistic spirit. With their appetite for experience, now is the perfect time to follow the lead of others – Nando’s, Red Bull, Wagamama, who in July ran a two-day student katsu curry giveaway and Papa John’s, who’ve recently collaborated with student favourite, Depop – who have entrenched themselves in student culture having recognised the opportunity, and start to initiate long-term relationships with this highly valuable audience.

Lightbox Loves: Autumn Confidence

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

With a collision of events this September – from back-to-school, returns to the office and some late Summer sun – opportunities to spend combined with a positive mindset are resulting in renewed levels of consumer confidence.

At the start of 2021, household savings were at the second highest level on record, with  £190 bn saved during lockdowns. Following a year of restrictions, consumers have been biding their time since early in the year to find their moments to splurge. Intentions to spend on non-essential items have seen a significant increase since June.  In our August edition of the QT, we also found happiness levels are at an all-time high, reflective of the return to more regular social habits and routines. The UK is a social nation – with 21% of consumer spending ordinarily dedicated to ‘socially consumed services’ (such as eating out, leisure activities and holidays). With these activities being stifled during lockdown, people have jumped at the chance to make up for lost time.

Brits are revelling in the new found ability to plan ahead. 87% of people agree that having a holiday planned gives them something to look forward to, and our August QT results echo this sentiment, with 25% intending to spend more money on travel in the next 12 months – almost doubling in sentiment since June.

Brits are also looking for more ways to live, and spend, ‘in the now’.  With an ever-increasing awareness of wellbeing and self-care, there has been an influence on the role for self-gifting. Fatigued from deferred gratification during lockdown, more consumers are turning to little luxuries – whether it’s an ad hoc treat or a regular self-gifted subscription. Additionally, consumers are building anticipation for a big spending opportunity this Christmas, with 1 in 3 planning to start shopping earlier this year and a further 30% planning to spend more money overall on Christmas this year.

These positive signs present many opportunities for brands.  Whether it’s being the antidote to the mundanity that has been too prevalent in recent times, providing an upgrade moment to a spending occasion, or helping people to purchase now for future plans.  Capitalising on the current levels of confidence and joy will be key to capturing consumers wallets this Autumn.

– Rachel Coyle

(Source: the7stars QT, Canvas8, The Times, the7stars Christmas Trends 2021)


Lightbox Loves: Christmas Shopping in the Summer

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Is August too early to be talking about Christmas? A quarter of Brits don’t think so. 25% of shoppers turn their attention to planning Christmas shopping by the end of the Summer, with August seeing the volume of Christmas related Google searches double month on month. The early opportunity in this time varies by industry and audience but if consumers are thinking about Christmas, so should brands and retailers.

eBay reported that sporting goods, as well as toys and games, are the two categories of gifts that start seeing the earliest research, with electronics and clothing shopping peaking later potentially due to the timing of the mega-sales period around Black Friday. With 13% of adults (7 million people) planning to splash out more than normal this Christmas, there is an increased revenue opportunity from gifting than previous years. This makes it beneficial for brands to speak to the audience that gift their products when they begin their research.

With newly formed shopping habits emerging over the last 18 months, marketing teams will not only want to think about who is shopping for their products as gifts, but where they will be shopping. the7stars quarterly tracking study found that Brits plan to shop online more than previously for media products (books, music, games etc.), clothes and electronics, whilst grocery and beauty are more likely to be shopped in store. The increased intent to shop online is being driven in most categories by those aged 35 and over, mirroring where the growth in online shopping came from during the pandemic.

Regardless of whether you’re a Christmas fanatic or a more of a scrooge, the marked increase in intent and research that is being seen this Summer means it’s certainly not too early for brands to be implementing plans to gain the attention of shoppers this coming holiday season.

– Ben Lovett



Googe Trends

The7stars QT August

Lightbox Loves: Putting the Life Back into Nightlife

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

When pubs re-opened earlier this year, the UK shed a layer of pandemic stress and got to let loose a little. We saw a slew of ad campaigns around the occasion, including work from Guinness, Tesco and Young’s that reflected our feelings of relief and joy. By contrast, the re-opening of nightclubs has felt lack-luster with comparatively few brands making an *ahem* song-and-dance of the occasion. After its months-long hiatus, has nightlife lost some of its shine?

Perhaps the worry and confusion over Covid-19 safety rules diminished the re-opening excitement. The7stars’ Lightbox Lowdown found that two thirds of 16-34 year-olds aren’t planning on visiting a nightclub anytime soon, and a third of those say it’s because the risk still feels too high. Stronger safety measures will be in place by the end of September though, with all club entrants needing to have had two jabs. Nightclubs like Ministry of Sound are lending a hand by promoting vaccines through their own channels and venues, and London’s Heaven nightclub hosted a temporary vaccine site this month.

Even as the vaccine roll-out progresses, some people feel their clubbing days are numbered. Lightbox Lowdown also found that a third of those 16-34s who will be staying away from clubs say it’s because they have simply outgrown them. Perhaps newfound pandemic hobbies that place a greater emphasis on mental health and well-being will continue to take priority; Research from Draper Tools found that half of 18-34s would rather visit a garden centre than a nightclub.

For the dedicated ravers and clubbers though, the return of nightlife has been a joyous occasion and an opportunity to come back stronger than ever. Nightlife, like all areas of society, underwent some serious self-reflection over the course of the pandemic. Increased conversation around anti-sexual harassment led to the Change the Line Up campaign against the harassment of women in nightclubs, spearheaded by London-based creatives Tom Snell and Dylan Hartigan. They created 90s rave-style posters for an OOH campaign to coincide with the club re-opening.

The nightlife scene also emerged from the pandemic with a strengthened sense of community as artists, venues, fans and brands coalesced to support each other. During lockdown, Defected Records hosted a virtual festival with live music streamed from Ministry of Sound, and created online content with DJs and artists, like Spotify playlists and social media activations. Brands got involved too, with Jägermeister launching its Meister Drop-In initiative, which allowed fans to book nightlife talent for their virtual events. They also created the Best Nights street wear collection, with proceeds going to help artists through United We Stream.

Brand-led initiatives like these will continue to be important as the nightlife industry rebuilds itself, and brands who can lend a genuine helping hand will build authenticity and trust among passionate fans.

Sources: Lightbox Lowdown, Canvas8, Hypebeast, The Drum, The Guardian, Defected Records

Lightbox Loves: The Greatest Show on Earth

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

With the Olympics now well under way after a bruising finish to the UEFA Euro 2020 Final, we just can’t seem to get enough sport this summer – or can we? Despite Team GB coming 2nd in the 2016 medal table – above China, Russia and Germany – the7stars’ Lightbox Lowdown found that 2 in 5 people say they are less excited about the Olympics this year compared to the previous games. Preliminary UK viewing figures for the Summer Games have then slumped, with the first two days of BBC coverage down a whopping 68% (BARB).

Nevertheless, there are several positive stories emerging that remind us of the Olympics’ unparalleled ability to bring people together and to boost worldwide interest in sport and morale – of why it is indeed, the greatest show on earth.

One of these of course being the string of gold medals for Team GB, which may yet reignite the nation’s interest in this year’s tournament. Tom Daley’s win (not forgetting diving partner Matty Lee!) is a timely reminder that Britain’s current and future sporting champions and role models are diverse, empathetic, and outspoken. Beamed live to Chinese and Russian audiences (both countries where same-sex marriage is illegal), Daley spoke about his achievement as a gay man, and emboldened young LGBTQ+ people to be proud of who they are – and that they can achieve anything.

There have also been several inspiring brand activations which have championed sentiments that chime closely with Daley’s uplifting message. Channel 4’s “Super. Human” campaign for the Paralympic Games explores the daily trials and tribulations of Paralympians pursuing their dreams of being crowned Paralympic champions – with a focus on the ‘human’ aspect opposed to the ‘super’ aspect. Another is from the Olympic’s very own International Olympic Committee, which released a short film titled “What Agnes Saw”, the story of the oldest-living Olympian Agnes Keleti. Before her eyes we see the world and humanity develop, before closing with an image of the youngest-ever British Olympian, skateboarder Sky Brown, reminding us of the moments of joy, hope and inspiration that occur when the world comes together for the Games.

With the Olympics yet to finish and the Paralympics due to start later this month, brands can still connect with audiences that are looking for joy and togetherness by taking note of the inclusive and empathetic behaviours demonstrated not just by brands, but by our very own champions too.

– Ewan Goode

Sources: BARB, Lightbox Lowdown

Lightbox Loves: The New Football Fans

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

Earlier this year we heard from Real Madrid president Florentino Perez that ‘young people are no longer interested in football’. From the social media backlash that followed, it became obvious that he couldn’t have been more wrong and incidentally, the European Super League that he was helping to set up disastrously failed. Clearly, there’s an appetite for football among this new generation of fans, but not everyone is hitting the mark on how to talk to them about it.

To understand what excites Gen Z about the sport, we turned to social media (their favourite media channel after all). The England team’s youngest players were the most talked about during the Euro 2020, with 21-year-old Jadon Sancho topping their list. Jack Grealish was also among the most mentioned, with his Tiktok antics at least partially responsible. One Twitter user joked that ‘I’m on jack grealish x chase atlantic tiktok this is the most serotonin I’ve felt in my LIFE’. Interestingly, Harry Kane had the most negative mentions of all the players – perhaps because at the ripe age of 27, he feels less relevant to under-25s.

Unsurprisingly, Gen Z voices were strong among those who defended the England team’s young black players against racist outbursts after the final match. One Twitter user posted: ‘I love Marcus Rashford for everything he has done for this country.’ Gen Z were also keen to defend LGBTQ rights when UEFA prevented the German team from lighting up their stadium in rainbow colours. One young fan Tweeted, ‘Football will always be tied into politics, and I think Munich should do it anyway as a big f*** you to the Hungarian government and UEFA.’

Clearly, engaging Gen Z means tapping into their empathy, and their empathy and interest are even higher when they see their own generation being represented. Nike did particularly well with  their ‘The Land of New Football’ advert, with messages of inclusion, diversity and 23-year-old Marcus Rashford as the campaign star. Irn-Bru also cleverly tapped into Gen Z’s experiences with their Euro advert, which played on the awkwardness of ‘first times’, a feeling that would hit close to home for many. BT’s Euro campaign revolved around combatting online hate, an issue which affects 1 in 3 Gen Zs according to the7stars’ research.

Understanding how to speak to Gen Z will not only ensure that campaign messages land and drive awareness, but also potentially create valuable brand advocates. As we’ve seen from their vocal reactions to issues raised during the Euros, brands who can tap into Gen Z’s empathy will be able to drive them to take real actions.

– the7stars

Sources:, Brandwatch, AtoGenZ.

Lightbox Loves: Dedication to the Beautiful Game

By | Featured, Lightbox Loves

2021 has seen the long-awaited return of live sport after the cancellation of major tournaments, such as the Olympics and the UEFA Euros, due to the pandemic last year. England football fans celebrated the victory of their biggest match of the tournament so far this week against Germany and with the quarter finals on the horizon capturing the attention of these passionate football fans is going beyond mid game advertising, with multi screening set to reach a peak with the Euros drawing in unprecedented TV, online and social engagement.

In a study carried out by Mediaocean, they showed that 19% of sports fans globally follow the Euros (40% in Europe). Whilst this is 23% lower than the audience share that the Olympics attracts globally, Mediaocean emphasises how it is the importance the level of commitment and passion that is shown by these football lovers in comparison to the Olympics.

For starters, they are 61% more likely to watch sports online everyday than the average sports fan where Olympics watchers are only 21% more likely to do so. The nature and intensity of football also extends to the way that fans interact with the sport. Euros followers are 44% more likely than the average sports fan to follow teams and players on social media and furthermore 54% more likely to the listen to sports radio and podcasts. Again, this considerably higher than that of those who are fans of the Olympics.

With matches taking place across Europe with much reduced crowds, the rise of multiscreen also plays a huge part, with 61% of Euro fans saying that they use social media and browse the internet whilst watching the games, making them 20% more likely than general sports fans to engage with social and online advertising whilst the sport is being played out.

This also highlights the strong community feel that the sport and the tournament generates, especially with fans at home they are turning to digital and social media to enhance their experience of live games, with fans 40% more likely to message people during matches. This is where major social network platforms come into play, with the likes of WhatApp, Facebook, Youtube and new player Tiktok being used as a form of communication and to create a sense of unity, with WhatApp and Facebook Messenger now among the top 5 social platforms for audiences that follow the tournament.

The7stars’ research demonstrates the scale of the social conversation: since the 1st of June, there have been more than 250,000 social mentions of the tournament, discussed by over 110,000 unique authors. Given the ups and downs of the tournament, 1 in 3 posts has a ‘joyful’ sentiment while 1 in 5 is ‘sad’, showing this is a space where brands can tap into consumers’ emotions.

The key takeaway here is that the tournament is and will continue to spread its influence well beyond the allotted time of the matches themselves, offering brands a variety of ways to get involved in the conversation.

– Connie Dillon


Brandwatch social listening data