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Cinema’s Got Our Attention

By | Featured, What's Hot

It’s been a strong few months for cinema, thanks to the much-anticipated Top Gun: Maverick, an array of Marvel movies and a brilliant awards season: a triumphant return following lockdown struggles. This was celebrated in the recent DCM Upfronts session, which introduced the latest research on attention, cinema’s overall impact and provided a sneak peek of the big movie moments to come in the next twelve months.

Upcoming Movie Moments

Annual cinema audiences are on track to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023. A host of movies are due for release, starting with eagerly anticipated sequels from late Q4 including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar 2. Following the successful first instalment of 2009, Avatar 2 could become the highest-grossing film of all time. The Marvel franchise, which consistently does well with the lighter TV viewing 16-34 audiences, has more in the pipeline for next year, including Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and The Marvels. Tom Cruise returns in his seventh Mission Impossible outing in July 2023, along with, the much-talked-about Barbie movie.

Attentive Audiences

Magnetic’s ‘Pay Attention’ research has previously shown that people believe they are most attentive to cinema ads. However, with an increased industry focus on attention-based media and metrics, DCM were eager to understand whether this claimed behaviour, translated into real-life action.

In conjunction with Lumen, using viewing capture technology, they have observed ‘% of viewable time spent viewing’ to see how consumers view ads in a cinematic environment, taking into consideration time spent looking at phones, chatting amongst friends and so on, to determine actual dedicated screen attention.

Results showed that the cinema generates an average of 77% of viewable time spent focused on viewing the content, surpassing all other channels. In fact, the research revealed that cinema ad attention is almost as high as the movie trailers (77% vs. 80%). This supports consumers’ appreciation for cinema ads and helps justify their place as part of the AV plan when looking to drive attention and impact.

Big Screen Accountability

With one of the most frequent pushbacks to cinema being a lack of accountability (beyond econometrics or paid for brand lift studies), these findings can help justify why cinema can enhance plans, through its attention-commanding context. This has led DCM to recommend that at least 5% of media budgets (where AV assets are available) should be invested into the channel. By doing this, brands can reach audiences who are open to advertising and likely to respond favourably.

Bespoke media planning is essential, so this 5% figure would fluctuate on a campaign-to-campaign basis. However, the increased accountability of this research may inspire more brands to run cinema advertising as part of their overall AV approach.

Not only is cinema back, but there’s so much more to come on the big screen. With the overall fragmentation of video viewing, cinema provides a unique, attention-rich space that can be leveraged within our AV mix.

Cannes 2022: Grand Prix or Effective, but not both?

By | Featured, What's Hot

Cannes Lions 2022 showcased the ‘best-of-the-best’ in advertising and creativity. However, it has divided opinion over what was determined to be award-worthy, with the lines being drawn between purpose vs effectiveness. A high proportion of the entries and winners claimed incredible numbers in terms of impressions, engagements, and other soft metrics – but there was a noticeable lack of business results.

This discussion has been further fuelled by an analysis of the Cannes Lions film category from System1, showing that of the 23 award-winning adverts from the UK and US, 48% received a score of one star out of five. The rating is based on the film’s potential to build long-term brand growth based on the emotional response of viewers. The score of all 23 award winners came in at an average of 2.1 stars, which is slightly less than the average of their database of 80,000 ads, marking no change from last year’s scores.

Purpose-led campaigns were by far the most awarded, most of which were aimed at driving social action rather than commercial growth. While this shouldn’t be downplayed (75% of consumers believe it is the role of brands to solve sustainability issues, for example), it may point to the low System1 scores when some case studies, such as Coors or Dove, couldn’t convincingly point to a resolution of the issue raised.  Yet both won Bronze awards.

What will be interesting to see over the next twelve months is how award winners change in relation to a more challenging market. It is likely that advertisers will rightly push agencies further into the core function of driving growth for their business. Will we see a shift in Cannes 2023 where more emphasis is put on business effectiveness as a stringent part of the judging criteria?

Importantly, a shift toward commercial effectiveness should not come at the detriment of creativity. P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard stated the responsibility of agencies to drive “creativity for growth”. There was evidence from this year’s awards that suggests we can be hopeful. Contagious emphasised that when you look further into the Silver and Gold awards, there were several case studies which quoted strong commercial growth results. Even System1 highlighted examples such as Mastercard’s ‘Spotlight’ and MGM Resorts’ ‘Joy’ as Silver winners who scored 3.9 and 4.2 stars respectively.

There is always going to be contention around Cannes. However, we’re hopefully going to see an improvement in the number of nominations that are built around proven commercial effectiveness, as well as the number that are ultimately awarded. But this needn’t come at the expense of creativity. With brands competing for mental availability and action in a market that is going to be more competitive than ever, breakthrough creativity has a huge role to play.

A woman smiling and holding up a Pride flag.

Taking Pride in Inclusive Brand Safety

By | Featured, What's Hot

As we look back on this year’s Pride Month celebrations, we consider planning and buying practices that discriminate indirectly against minority groups, and how outdated methods can do more harm than good – both for advertisers and publishers.

As reported by Ebiquity earlier this year, Google, Meta and Amazon now account for more than 74% of global digital ad spending. Brand safety is a moving target for advertisers and, with such significant investment into unpredictable environments, a cautious approach makes sense.  One misplaced impression can be captured and amplified on social, or even mainstream media, to the detriment of the brand.

Consequently, for several years, advertisers pursued the most risk-averse course possible; excluding placements, relying on strict inclusion lists, or even opting out of significant media channels and platforms altogether.

Yet, the adverse impact to advertisers of such action can be significant, limiting legitimate reach opportunities and increasing costs – a bit like cutting off your head to cure a headache. However, it’s keyword blocklists that cause another significant problem for minority media.

Ad tech company Teads stated that between 30% and 40% of its campaigns contain requests for keyword exclusions, notably LGBTQ+ terms along with race and religion. As well as excluding entire audiences from targeting, minority publications that rely on advertising revenue also suffer. While figures are down from January 2021, considerable work remains.

Such measures are outdated but also staggeringly ineffective. For example, video content is hard to identify: keyword exclusions often operate only against titles, descriptions or surrounding page content. So, unable to ensure 100% brand-safe delivery, keyword blocklists can disproportionately cause more harm than good.

New technologies reduce the need to use keyword blocklists at all. Third-party tools, such as Integral Ad Science, use exclusion technology that identifies page sentiment and context rather than relying on single words or phrases alone. Unsafe content that would have been excluded by keyword blocklists is still identified and excluded; but legitimate opportunities, using words in a neutral or positive context, are open.

This is why we have taken the stance to remove keyword blocklists as a default brand safety practice. In rare instances, an advertiser or platform-specific case for them might still apply. Otherwise, we now rely only on more nuanced technology and updated native platform controls.

In our tests, removing keyword blocklists results in no drop in the percentage of brand-safe impressions delivered, as measured by IAS.

We make sure that our standards, practices and risk assessments always keep pace with emerging threats and advances in technology. For example, TikTok is assessed as a higher-risk environment, but recent updates in brand safety may change our assessment of that risk considerably and warrant reappraisal from advertisers.

A consistent review of brand safety practices not only identifies new threats but also safeguards responsible media practices that don’t restrict reach away from minority audiences or negatively impact their revenue streams.

A tennis racket wiith some tennis balls.

Passion, People Purpose: ​Harnessing the Power of Sports Partnerships

By | Featured, What's Hot

Whether you’ve enjoyed cheering on the Lionesses, been glued to Tour de France or witnessed Novak Djokovic lift the Wimbledon trophy for 7th time, this year of sport so far has delivered plenty of drama. It has brought excitement, joy, tension and frustration, whilst restoring the buzz of live audience participation. ​

Sport is one of the nation’s greatest passions and has an unrivalled ability to bring people and brands together when passion and emotion are rarely more alive. ​

the7stars’ bespoke research, Connecting with the Crowd, spoke to sports fans to identify what people look for in authentic sports partnerships. We have identified three key pillars that can help guide brands in this space: passion, people and purpose. ​

Passion​

Watching sport can elicit strong feelings. Our research revealed that 40% of Brits generally feel happier during major sporting events. However, the picture isn’t always rosy – 1 in 5 sports fans also admit to crying when watching sports. ​

Brands should consider how they can bring these emotions to life through compelling storytelling to inform or even surprise their audiences. ​

People​

We found that passion is even more powerful when experienced together. 3 in 4 people feel a sense of national or community pride when watching sport, and this feeling can linger long after the event is over. Sports fans can connect with their favourite athletes increasingly more easily, due to social media, drawing people further into the world of sport, and extending their memorable moments. ​

Therefore, brands have an opportunity to enhance the fan experience in many ways beyond the event itself, such as continuing the conversation on social media or partnering with their audiences’ favourite sporting stars. ​

Purpose​

Finally, fans want the sports they love to be a positive force in the world. 3 in 5 agree they want sports to make a meaningful change in society​. Furthermore, half of Brits believe that athletes should be role models to future generations, and this number is even higher among 18-34s.​

Therefore, brands need a reason to get involved. Fans not only welcome brands that can make a positive difference in sport, but they are actively expecting to witness it. ​

Tapping into at least one of these areas is a winning formula for sports partnerships. ​

To find out more about our research, as well as how the7stars can help you make the most of exciting sporting opportunities, do join us for an evening of wine and cheese on 15th September. Please contact your account team for more information.

Man holding a remote as woman eats popcord.

OFCOM to ‘Investigate’ Increasing TV Ad Break Durations

By | Featured, What's Hot

OFCOM have announced that they are ‘looking into’ proposals to extend TV ad breaks and/or allow more breaks per hour. They could also relax product placement rules, allowing for greater integration of brands in shows. This is proposed as a way to counter the rise in streaming, particularly after Netflix and Disney+ both announced their own intention to launch cheaper ad tiers to their platforms.

The Netflix Effect

Regulations have limited terrestrial stations to an average of seven minutes of ad time per hour, with only a single ad break in shows under 44 minutes duration.

With the ‘Netflix effect’ of taking linear TV viewers away to streamers, media owners have argued that the only way to compete is to be able to increase both ad times per hour and increase their product placement and brand integration opportunities.

Rumours of such a move have been circulating for years, but severe TV price inflation has put pressure on TV stations struggling to maintain viewing levels.

A further accelerant has been the announcement that Netflix has now signed an agreement with Microsoft to build their ad tier model. With the infrastructure already in place at Disney, through their ownership of titles like ABC and ESPN, we can expect these new competitors to enter the UK market in 2023.

A Split Reaction

Senior figures at ITV, C4 and Sky argue that this move is the only way of competing with the might of debt-laden Netflix, or the Disney behemoth (despite Sky being owned by US giant, Comcast).

Others observe that the loser will be the consumer. We are already in a market used to skippable ads, second screening and reduced TV reach so if the product is diluted through further ad break interruptions, fears are that viewers will be turned off.

Evidence confirms that not only will viewers complain if they feel their enjoyment is hampered, but TV stations will listen. After complaints of loading up on ads, Sky made the decision to reduce the minutage of ads in the latter Game of Thrones series to avoid detracting from the viewer experience.

An increase in TV ad impacts is likely to be a double-edged sword, with the initial reduction in CPTs gradually lost to a higher exodus of viewers (especially in younger audiences) as viewer experience declines.

A more positive option, if handled carefully, would be an increase in show/brand integrations and tasteful product placement which would open up new revenue streams and innovative options for advertisers.

Prime Day Awaits – Get Customer-Ready with our Special Feature

By | Featured, What's Hot

Amazon has announced that Prime Day 2022 will take place on 12th – 13th July, returning for its eighth successive year. This day is reserved for Amazon Prime customers only, but that number has now reached 15m shoppers in the UK (source: Mintel) and 75% of people are likely or highly likely to purchase a product through Prime Day (source: Kantar), presenting a big ‘moment’ opportunity to generate additional sales for brands that currently sell through Amazon.

According to Kantar, 12% of shoppers have no idea what they plan to buy, and 64% have an idea about what they plan to buy but need more inspiration. This means a large number of people are in a buying mindset, and hence brands can reach and disrupt shoppers in a compressed timeframe. Furthermore, 53% of shoppers are likely to repurchase again after Prime Day, presenting an additional case for the time, effort and budget investment to acquire new customers at this time.

How to get the most out of Prime Day

To get the most of this ‘2-day moment’ means engaging potential customers in the lead-up to Prime Day, during the event itself and nurturing customers afterwards. So, here is a five-point plan to help brands stand out amongst a barrage of messaging, promotions and great deals.

1.Prepare your Store: Before spending any money on media, ensure that your store and content are up to date and relevant to Prime day. Use the versioning feature to temporarily create a Prime Day version of your store, with the relevant content and featured products that can enhance the shopper experience. This will help to increase conversion rates by ensuring users have a consistent journey from paid promotion through to purchase.

2.Amplify your Products: According to Amazon, brands who promote their products during Prime Day with sponsored ads gained a 190% increase in consideration and 140% increase in sales. By using a combination of sponsored ads, DSP and even streaming TV ads together, brands can see an uplift in sales of up to 20%. Think of it as a balanced combination of delivering both saliency and sales in a short timeframe.

3.Choose the Right Promotions: Leveraging the right promotional tactics can nudge shoppers from simply browsing to buying. Whilst it’s too late to run specific Prime Day deals (Lightning deals, prime exclusive discounts, Prime member promotions), it doesn’t stop you from running standard discount promotions.

4.Plan for Presence: Consider using the full range of sponsored formats to provide the best chance of non-restricted coverage (reach) and the opportunity to deliver performance (sales). A strong video asset, in particular, can ensure that you really stand out in search results amongst the competition and conquest competitors who aren’t protecting their brand terms with paid media.

5.Analyse, Optimise, Measure and Learn: As Prime Day takes hold, make sure bids and budgets are ready.  Monitor performance to understand real-time opportunities to optimise in-flight and maximise the opportunity. Using the reporting API to ensure real-time reporting can help you make quicker optimisations and increase sales.

Bounded by the Binary

By | Featured, What's Hot

In recent years the impact of gender fluidity has been highlighted in pop culture, with notable members of different industries declaring their gender a construct and not linked to a person’s sex.

WARC recently published Sex, Brains, and Advertising, discussing the neuroscience behind the idea of the ‘gendered brain’, and how messaging and stimuli are impacting the industry’s view of the construct of gender. Looking back at advertising through the decades, there’s a clear line of reference to gender in countless global campaigns. These recent openings in the conversation have led more advertisers to understand that basing their activity on gender steeped in stereotyping is not beneficial to public opinion and business success.

In 2020, here at the7stars, we released our whitepaper ‘Beyond the Binary’, partnered with Sign Salad and Neuro-Insight, outlining actions brands can take into their thinking and planning to understand the societal shift to a flexible binary that so many in our day and age feel represents them. With 75% of Gen-Z more likely to believe in gender fluidity than previous generations (Beyond the Binary, 2020), it is imperative that brands are listening to their ever-evolving customers and that telling stories that reflect them and their lives will resonate with generations to come.

Following our own insight and advice, we implemented this non-binary viewpoint in our recent audience research with John Frieda. In previous activity, a traditional female audience was targeted but, after analysing data, we saw that 1 in 5 of their customers were males. Seeing a gap in the market, we built audiences based on their attitude to beauty as opposed to gender which meant that, whilst still heavily skewed to females, we are not excluding a key demographic.

De-gendering from the get-go must be at the forefront of the mind, and not an occasional spin on advertising. Brands have an opportunity to increase representation and understanding that this is not just about gender, but the movement to a more fluid and expansive definition of identity. Intersectionalities are deeply intertwined and, with cultural incidents such as Roe vs Wade in the US and BLM being at the centre of the cultural conversation, it highlights the intrinsic link between identity, social conversation and commitments brands can make to the dialogue.

We advocate three steps advertisers can take now:

  • Constantly question gender demographics: By always looking at whether advertising needs to be bound by binaries, it’s making way for new insight and analysis for brands’ audiences.
  • Highlight stereotypes and change them: Representation is key and reversing traditional views on gender will open brands up to modern and relevant conversations in society and business.
  • Creativity is key: By looking at Dove’s 2022 Cannes winning campaign, we see how gender is so closely linked to age, race, and identity. Representing different communities in ads keeps brands relevant and effective in their storytelling.

Inflation vs. Sustainability: How are Consumers Adapting?

By | Featured, What's Hot

With inflation currently at a 40-year high and set to reach double-digits before the end of the year, consumers are understandably reassessing their purchasing habits. With this in mind, brands are weighing up whether to continue pursuing purpose-led initiatives (e.g. sustainability), when they know their customers’ priorities are likely to be elsewhere. So, how should brands respond?

the7stars’ latest whitepaper (in partnership with Kantar), A People First Response in a Crisis, offers answers to this conundrum.

The rising cost of living is already having a profound effect on Britons’ spending habits. With 41% of the population feeling less comfortable with their income compared to one year ago (May QT), two-thirds of consumers agree that they are already making compromises on what they buy. For many, this manifests itself in trading down to lower-cost alternatives, with discount retailers and own-label brands the benefactors. As cheaper products typically use less sustainable ingredients and materials, this may suggest consumers are less carbon-conscious in a crisis.

However, evidence shows consumers are still keen to buy environmentally-friendly products – but only if this does not result in a larger dent in their wallets. Globally, 66% maintain such a stance (WARC, 2022), while our own whitepaper reveals that 64% expect brands to be more socially responsible during a crisis. This may seem an impossible dilemma to overcome, but brands who navigate it carefully will be more successful in the long-term.

Some brands will inevitably be required to make tough decisions on sustainable action in order to maintain affordability for customers. But those who do must communicate honestly that this will be a temporary compromise, in order to avoid future damage to brand health and sales. Such best practice was recently exhibited by Iceland, a climate leader within the retail sector, when transparently announcing the “last resort” decision to temporarily re-introduce palm oil to some products.

Furthermore, while price concerns will undoubtedly trump sustainability in the minds of many households during the current crisis, those with the means to invest in greener resources now may ultimately save money in the long run. With gas prices spiralling, one in five have considered installing solar panels in their homes (Kantar, 2022), while Google Trends data for the last 12 months shows a 400% spike in searches for “heat pumps”, after the Government encouraged households to make the sustainable switch by offering installation grants.

The parallel crises of rising inflation and climate change present an arduous tightrope for brands to walk in the coming months. As struggling Brits will ‘keep calm and carry on’ to aid them at a challenging time, brands who demonstrate they are offering a helping hand will be viewed favourably. For many, this may necessitate difficult decisions on sustainable priorities. But such choices must be communicated with honesty and integrity – to avoid a backlash from a population who still endeavours to act sustainably.

How DSPs and Brands Respond to Audio Advertising

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Digital audio is exploding for marketers and listeners alike. Industry research shows the growth is undoubtedly down to the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to the increase in scale we saw across Connected TV, with more people at home with the desire to find new ways to stay entertained. Brands utilising digital audio have a unique opportunity to connect with customers on a platform with targeted reach at scale, where creators develop content quickly.

The Digital Audio Boom

Consumer habits have shifted dramatically in recent months, meaning how people engage with digital content is more disrupted than ever before. Digital audio is now at the top of the list with users listening to podcasts and music at unusual hours. Brands have therefore started to use this content’s innate appeal to their advantage. In a world rife with visual advertising, audio ads help brands attract consumers when they take a much-needed break from their screens, whether from countless Zoom meetings or endless Netflix binges. Brands that can associate themselves with something that evokes an emotional response or sense of relief in a consumer can become part of that consumer’s emotional connection to the media they’re consuming.

While terrestrial radio can be hyper-local, it is not hyper-personalised, as opposed to digital audio, which takes a hyperlocal and customised approach across all devices. Advertisers can craft ultra-personalised spots that appeal to specific consumer interests. By purchasing ads programmatically, they can mass distribute specific messaging with precision.

Purchasing spots through a DSP allows advertisers to take advantage of even more digital audio benefits. These benefits include agnostically accessing inventory across many different podcasts and streaming music publishers. The best DSPs are people-based, deduplicating users across platforms directly through hashed identifiers to their devices instead of third-party cookies.

Deterministic DSPs allow brands and agencies to create one persistent audience segment that can then target users regardless of which audio platforms they consume.

An area for development is around measurement and brand safety. One challenge to propose to DSPs and suppliers is determining how we know a user has listened to an ad, in the same way, we can ask whether someone has physically viewed a linear TV spot.

Why Brands Should Embrace Digital Audio to the Full

Brands should be taking full advantage of digital audio’s benefits. By leveraging demand-side platform (DSP) solutions when purchasing spots, we can centralise optimisation, targeting, and measurement all in one place. Through intelligent programmatic approaches and proper supply integrations, you can reach your desired audience at scale via a medium they are passionate about.

Digital Audio provides an excellent platform to deliver not only innovation, but scale, engagement and new testing opportunities, all backed up with access to 3rd and 1st party data segments we can access through a number of DSPs.

Advertisers can utilise DSPs’ advanced reporting for attribution of media exposures to the desired consumer outcome, whether online or offline sales, site visits, foot traffic, etc. With a people-based DSP, that is possible on a 1:1 basis.

By committing to an evolved programmatic approach to digital audio and partnering with a people-based DSP, brands can create meaningful connections and reap the benefits of programmatic efficiencies.