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The Double Bottom Line

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It’s no longer news that sustainability has been catapulted onto the world stage in the past few years – and even more so during the pandemic. What is emerging, however, is the ever-widening spotlight on large corporations to influence and set the status quo for the sustainability agenda. Furthermore, following the recent global COP26 conference in Glasgow, calls for all societal influencers to exercise greater passion and commitment to sustainability continue to grow.

What we see in the advertising industry, however – particularly during the so-called ‘golden quarter’ where brands fight for space in the ad landscape during the festive period – is often a different picture. Climate change has been named ‘the defining issue of our time’ by the UN, and Christmas is traditionally a period of increased carbon emissions. Yet, despite the augmented spotlight on sustainability in the immediate aftermath of COP26, retailers from Boots to TK Maxx have toned down, or omitted entirely, their green messaging in this year’s Christmas campaigns. This has triggered a backlash from activist circles and some media critics, who expect brands to abandon business as usual and lead the way during a time of global emergency.

Of course, not all brands have suffered at the hands of critics. Clothing brand Barbour’s message of ‘Repair, not Repurchase’ in their own seasonal creative, starring Paddington Bear, has been praised for addressing the elephant in the room without losing the traditional optimism and sentimental overtones intended to unite the nation through Christmas ads. However, this does not mean that jumping on the social issue bandwagon is a lifeboat for brands during such a volatile time. On the other end of the spectrum, John Lewis’ festive creative, which prominently emphasised diversity, was condemned in some corners as ‘woke’, highlighting the potential adversity and sensitivity towards brands perceived as signposting inauthentically.

Some may argue that Christmas should be a time for celebration instead of activism; or that the need for brands to make up for lost sales after a turbulent 2020 festive period trumps their need to be leaders in sustainability. Yet, campaigns displaying a perceived apathy and insensitivity to such current issues can be just as damaging to brands as committing to unsustainable practices. With sustainability now an expectation for a majority of consumers and, consequently, wide acceptance of the ‘double bottom line’, brands must authentically, unapologetically assert their own space within the sustainability landscape in order to remain high in consumers’ regards.

The Return of RAJAR

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The audience system RAJAR has finally made a comeback with its first release since Q1 2020. The latest Q3 2021 report includes radio listening panels as well as a door-to-door survey to broaden out the reach.  The service has been designed around the traditional quarter-hour diary and is reported in the same way. However, this time it draws no comparison with old data, to avoid observing misleading trends and speculative insights across different methodologies.

Radio consumption has remained strong with a total reach of 89% of 15+ adults with a 66% reach across commercial radio stations and an average listenership of 8.6 hours per week. Notably, younger audiences are listening to commercial radio with a 69% reach, versus older audiences between 45 and 69 with 65%.

The data also highlighted how consumption behaviours and habits have changed over the period. In particular, digital and DAB formats now account for over 60% of all listenership – a strong sign of how Covid-19 has encouraged digital shifts from traditional formats. Of the digital total, DAB accounts for 43%, with online and in-app making up 18% and DTV listenership accounting for 5%. Digital stations have also influenced in-car listening too with 53% tuning in via digital channels. How this shift to digital will influence loyalty toward stations remains to be seen. For example, with more and more stations available, will consumers become more promiscuous with their choice or shall we witness choice paralysis?

The digitisation of radio has enabled the launch of smaller, niche radio stations with easier access points of listenership; indeed, many broadcasters are launching bespoke digital sub-stations. Within the new survey, we see the reach of these smaller stations with Greatest Hits Network publishing their first numbers since their rebrand in Sept 2020. They report a weekly reach of 3.2m whilst Magic at the Musicals, and Times Radio also debuted with 184,000 and 637,000 respective weekly reaches. It will be wise to monitor how far the launch of sub-stations will cannibalise their parent stations, or whether their bespoke nature will attract incremental reach from non-mainstream listeners.

The new RAJAR listening data for Q3 2021 confirms the importance of digital listening and digital platforms, which collectively account for two-thirds of all radio listening, despite radio industry commentators previously questioning the viability of DAB. According to latest ad spend forecasts, radio ad spend is set to grow 18.6% this year, and a further 4.1% in 2022 – driven by digital audio spend. Given the focus on digital consumption, it will be interesting to see whether advertisers mirror audience consumption with their audio budgets – a move that could lead to a strong marketing outlook for the channel.

Nudges

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Creative thinking is something everyone can exercise, but the pressure of constant ‘Teams’ meetings and urgent deadlines makes finding enough time difficult.

In The Creative Nudge by Kevin Chesters and Mick Mahoney, ‘nudge theory’ breaks out of the strict confines of government behavioural science units and into the creative realm.

At its most basic, a nudge is a little change to our behaviour or thought pattern that can have a disproportionately large impact on an outcome. A nudge makes things a little easier, a little simpler or more motivating.

Chesters and Mahoney show that making some simple behaviour changes can retrain your brain to be more creative and rewarding while having fun at the same time.

Here are some of our favourite nudges for creative thinking from the book.

1.Do familiar things in unfamiliar ways.  Grab an apple, and instantly make yourself more creative and open to new ways of thinking by holding it in your non-dominant hand and taking a bite.  Walking a different way to work or stirring your tea the opposite way round to usual also does the trick.

2.Embrace fatigue.  You do your best creative thinking when tired as your brain is less vigilant, making it easier for abstract ideas to form.  Tackle your most analytical tasks when at your peak and get creative when feeling low on energy.

3.Daydream more.  Your ‘default mode network’, active when you daydream, is central to your ability to generate ideas.  Allow yourself to get bored.  Go for a walk or find a quiet space and set an hour or so a day to let your mind wander.

4.Become a single-tasker.  Multi-tasking makes it impossible to think deeply or creatively.  Chunk your diary and guard your time fiercely, avoiding interruptions.

5.The overnight test.  We all fall in love with our ideas sometimes.  Before you go to bed, write down your amazing idea as clearly as possible on a piece of paper on your bedside table.  When you wake up, before you do anything else, re-read your idea.  Still excited?

6.Encourage dissent against group thinking. Create a little reminder to yourself not to follow the herd by drawing the number 10 on your hand.  Whenever you feel yourself getting swept along by that intoxicating thought or person in a group setting, count to 10.  Decide whether you really agree it’s the right thing to do.

7.Pick up a pen.  Writing things down triggers a ‘mental lifting’ response in your brain, forcing you to engage more deeply and focus on what matters.

Edge of the Metaverse

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The metaverse has become the latest hot topic to hit the digital industry, with many describing it as the internet 3.0. The news has mostly been generated by Facebook’s decision to rebrand as Meta and commit to hiring 10,000 engineers to help build this ‘new’ environment.

In reality, the metaverse is only part of the next stage in the internet’s development and will never be owned or run by one single company. In fact, the metaverse has already been developing organically within gaming, business and social environments. The ability to meet friends, share achievements, work on projects, sell or trade digital assets or play games together has been with us for a while now but happening within platforms such as Fortnite, Office365, Zwift and Peloton. Often these spaces have sat alongside a game or product, but this is changing and the experiences becoming inextricably linked into a metaverse.

Usage and engagement within these environments have accelerated significantly over the last 24 months with the impact of Covid-19. This has brought significant change in both user behaviour and acceptance that these types of environments are not only here to stay but will form part of society’s social fabric as we move into the future. The line between the virtual and real-world is no longer clean-cut and social interaction or commerce can happen seamlessly across both. Consider working with colleagues virtually on Monday before meeting face-to-face on Tuesday to demonstrate a new feature or present a piece of work to a client. Increasingly, the metaverse will power experiences, work, sporting, social and commerce before linking into the real world. For example; trying on and wearing a jacket in the virtual world before picking it up from a shop and wearing it to a real-world social event – or building experiences in the metaverse that people pay to enter just as they would a bar or festival in the real world.

Alongside these platforms is the hardware that will create and support more immersive experiences such as virtual reality headsets or smart glasses. But currently, this hardware is expensive, bulky and a little awkward – gaming headsets, example. We expect to see this change in the future and, in the way that AirPods have redefined headphones, the same will happen with virtual reality. In fact, the long-term play is for virtual reality hardware to integrate with or replace existing hardware such as the television or laptop.

One major threat to the metaverse could come from national governments, who are already wary of the threat from big tech players like Facebook, Amazon and Google. How will these new environments be regulated? Who will hold the data, police the content or manage the currency and taxation? These are big questions that so far remain largely unanswered. China, however, has already begun a major crackdown on these new environments by shutting down Fortnite and limiting the amount of time children can play online to three hours a week. (They get an extra hour during the school holidays.)

In many ways the metaverse is already here and will continue to develop rapidly over the next 3-5 years, opening up opportunities for brands to engage with customers and potential customers in a way we have never seen before. The line between the virtual and real worlds will blur but the fundamentals will not change. Great products, amazing experiences, good service and strong brands will win out if they are able to adapt and embrace these new spaces and hardware. However, regulation and control remain the major issues and could yet stifle future growth.

Share of Search 2.0

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James Hankins shared further research into Share of Search at the EffWorks Conference. The original study (that involved Les Binet) was extended and the link deepened between change in Share of Search and change in Market Share

Last year’s study was limited to the automotive, telco and energy categories – so this year’s analysis provides a valuable addition. Further extensions veer dangerously close to the limitations of Share of Search data, however. 

A Complement not a Substitute 

Share of Search (and an advertiser’s Brand Search volume in isolation) are intuitive, fully democratised measures of effectiveness. They are a powerful part of the business case for marketing – but not the whole story. 

The value of Share of Search as a metric is derived from its role as a bridging metric between Share of Voice and Share of Market, where the effectiveness literature is much deeper. These metrics remain ferociously difficult to measure, however. In an age of much more tightly targeted advertising, Share of Voice has become almost impossible to measure on a cross-channel basis. However, as the acquisition channels of the typical brand have fragmented, and recurring revenue business models have proliferated, Share of Market measurement remains an equally challenging task. 

The Business Case for Marketing Must be Made in £ Sterling 

As such it is difficult to reverse engineer an investment plan or a credible share of market prediction from Share of Search analysis. As marketers we talk as far as possible in the language of pounds, shillings and pence in order to build credibility. And Share of Search is simply not a plausible metric upon which to structure an investment case. 

Limitations 

Though the research has been extended, there are still categories where the measure is inappropriate. Google Search covers a large share of commerce discovery but, increasingly, search is occurring outside of this net – with Amazon and Facebook platforms representing major primary touchpoints in the CPG and Fashion industries respectively. 

Google Trends data is also sampled and rounded, undermining any attempts to attribute gains and losses back to specific marketing levers. With the sampling also undermining the sincerity of week-to-week or month-to-month shifts. 

SoS does offer a powerful perspective on longitudinal marketing effectiveness and lowers the cost of measuring mental availability for brands. But it must be used as part of a holistic measurement framework as it represents a weak commercial case for marketing in isolation.

Competition in the Streaming World Heats up

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There have been several recent developments in the AV space, arguably the biggest of which is the recent launch of Sky Glass. Sky’s new range of certified carbon neutral TVs with built-in Wifi now offers customers the ability to stream content without a satellite dish.   

Currently, Sky Glass is only available to customers who have been with Sky for 8+ years, but a waiting list is available to everyone else, with wider release expected soon. The TVs themselves can be bought outright or with interest-free monthly payments; a clincher to entice those not willing to foot the bill upfront. Of course, once you throw in Sky Sports, Film, Puck and HD packages, this monthly fee can ramp up to over £80 for the full Sky experience.   

At a time when subscription fatigue is seeing many cut down on their monthly subscriptions, this may be a little too much for some to stomach. On the other hand, Sky Glass will completely revamp how viewers watch and record their favourite shows across multiple content suppliers. Streaming directly from Sky via the Cloud means that customers will no longer have recordings saved directly to a hard drive. Instead, Sky Glass will align Playlists that can span several different suppliers to offer a more holistic viewing experience, thus housing content from multiple sources – like Channel 4, Sky and ITV – in one, easy to access, personalised Playlist. It will also house apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime and other digital offerings. 

The inclusivity tactic should keep Sky customers within the Sky interface, while delighting the networks. ITV and Channel 4, for example, have recently struck deals with Sky wherein their previously limited BVOD inventory has now expanded to include all their content.   

An interesting move that will potentially please advertisers, but may irk some Sky customers, is that viewers will not be able to fast-forward through the ads during commercial content like they could do historically with Sky+/Q recordings. There will instead be an additional £5 “Ad-Skipping Add-On” fee, a feature akin to All4+ and ITVHub+.   

Another development to watch is taking place at Amazon, with the launch of their new streaming channel IMDbTV. The channel sits within the Amazon Prime app on its own carousel and is entirely free and ad-supported. It’s clear that Amazon have acknowledged the so-called ‘subscription fatigue’, favouring advertising spends to fund the platform over subscription costs. 

Advertisers can think of it as an additional BVOD/CTV channel, traded on a CPM metric, mid-roll only, and with the ability to run tags (something they can’t do with Amazon’s live sport content). The channel gives advertisers the opportunity to access lighter-TV and SVOD viewers, as well as having consistent presence on Amazon, as opposed to just their live Premier League and Rugby Prime Video offerings.   

Whilst it’s early days for both Sky Glass and IMDbTV, it’s clear that these evolutions will influence the way we target viewers of Broadcast content in the future.

The Purpose of Brand Purpose ​

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The release of new research from Peter Field has re-ignited the debate on this marmite marketing topic. 

Structured Debate 

The research (released as part of the IPA’s EffWorks conference) was a first attempt at adding rigour to an often unstructured and emotionally charged debate. Indeed, it’s likely that the most valuable contribution of this research is in providing a working definition to the debate. 

Brand Purpose: “A commitment articulated by a commercial brand or its parent company to goals other than improved profits or products, involving contribution towards one or more positive social impacts in the fields of health, the environment, human development, sustainable business practices, or other similar areas.” (Peter Field, 2021) 

Previous purpose debates have been stunted by competing interpretations. For some, purpose exists as a subfield of brand management and must be part of a long-term growth strategy; for others, it is simply purpose for purpose’s sake. 

Sharp Critique 

The broader effectiveness community has historically been critical of Brand Purpose initiatives. Byron Sharp and Mark Ritson have led the charge here – labelling Brand Purpose advocates as ‘apologists for marketing.’ Indeed, Sharp and Richard Shotton have specifically criticised Field’s research – with Shotton labelling the methodology as ‘flawed’. While there is clear selection bias in Field’s study (this is recognised up front) criticisms of the research miss a more important point. In an age of increased corporate transparency and micro-activism, Brand Purpose is likely to have increased relevance. Well executed campaigns represent a route to more sustainable Brand Equity in a more socially conscious era. Despite this, there are almost no academic or commercial studies on Purpose; and as such Field’s study is both a valuable contribution and a stimulus for further work. 

The research clarified the opportunity for Purpose campaigns to burnish the Employer brand – improving reputation among partners, employees and investors far more efficiently than non-purpose campaigns. The analysis also highlighted the high variability of B2C returns from Purpose campaigns. Surely the key lesson of the research is for marketers to tailor their message and targeting more heavily towards relevant B2B audiences and Internal Comms. 

Nascent but Prescient 

Field’s research is an important first step. The depth and breadth of the cases analysed are less than ideal, and the research has not unequivocally demonstrated either the imperative or folly in investing in purpose campaigns. Nevertheless, it does offer valuable guidance on where to focus efforts and recognises gaps in the research.  In a more socially conscious age and, with the real and urgent threat of climate change, it is wise for brands to plot routes to profit with fewer externalities. Brand Purpose campaigns can play an important role in stimulating and illuminating positive changes to corporate behaviour

Into the Metaverse​

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Metaverse or Metaworse? Zuckerberg is facing more criticism as he rebrands Facebook to Meta – taking it from a social media platform to a ‘Metaverse’ business that will hire over 10,000 new employees across Europe. 

Zuckerberg announced the rebrand this week, but ‘Metaverse’ has been his buzzword for a while, having described it as the future of Facebook and a whole new economy for this generation. The Metaverse itself is not a Facebook creation, however, and is a term many in the gaming world already know. Games such as Animal Crossing, Minecraft and Fortnite have already entered this dimension aided by VR and AR. The term has been used in sci-fi for decades, usually to describe a dystopian universe. In fact, the term was first coined in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his sci-fi novel Snow Crash. The Matrix is a metaverse. 

Of course, this announcement coming in the middle of a PR storm over Facebook’s content regulation flaws has led many to vocalise the potential threat to society the Metaverse will bring, given the sheer amount of data there would be to regulate when more users own its AR and VR tools. Frances Haugen, the ex-Facebook employee who is now helping to form the online safety bill to regulate social media, said “Wow, do you know what we could have done with safety if we had 10,000 more engineers?” when she heard the news of the impending rebrand and the hires to support it. 

Whether Zuckerberg is at the helm or not, The Metaverse is coming, and it’s going to change the way we live, work, date, shop, and more. And just because Zuckerberg is the most vocal about it in the media, doesn’t mean other companies aren’t building their offerings around the Metaverse also. It’s likely to create whole new industries and commerce opportunities. There’s been talk of the ability for governments to get involved – can they create public spaces, such as parks, in the Metaverse just like they do in the real world? As tech writer Mike Elgen, said, “the concept of a shared virtual world has been around and in the works for decades, from thousands of companies and universities. By publicly obsessing about it, Zuckerberg hopes to be associated with it as the leader”. 

He’s not leading the way yet, though, with the social gaming industry already offering integration opportunities for brands to reach their hyper-engaged users. We’ve seen Gucci, Vans, Stella McCartney and others take these on. Crypto Fashion week ran a Meta Gala event in September, where avatars modelled virtual outfits to be auctioned off, with luxury fashion house Karl Lagerfield submitting an avatar for sale. 

But from an ads point of view, the new Facebook has the potential to hold the monopoly with its wealth of user data that has been used by most brands as a core part of their marketing strategies for years. Its ad offering is affordable and easy to understand and activate for the smallest and largest of businesses. It’s likely to succeed in creating this in the Metaverse also, and this time, we hope with more interconnectedness across platforms than the Walled Garden of Facebook currently provides. Zuckerberg himself has expressed enthusiasm for this – he’s claimed to have invested £50m into a non-profit to ensure it’s built open and free. We’ll no doubt be hearing this buzz word more, and while Metaverse won’t appear overnight, now is the time for brands to start considering it as part of their future.