Our Stance: The First Edition of 2019


Welcome to the first installment of Our Stance in 2019, an irregular - but hopefully welcome - insight into the views of the Edinburgh Strategy and Insight Team. Do give us a shout if there’s anything you’re keen to hear more about. Or if we’ve said something you disagree with. We love a wee fight.

Our Stance

Because Them, Us by Maddy Sim


Over Christmas I ate a lot of food, drank a lot of wine and watched a lot of TV. Pretty standard stuff. On Christmas Eve, lounging across the couch, most likely with a box of chocolates on my lap, a TV ad came on. The ad launches with images of corpocracy, busy office workers looking stressed and demotivated – cut to an image of the younger, the more casual and the happier. ‘Because they did. We don’t’ it reads.

And it carries on that way. Footage of the elite, the stressed, the basic – against the sexy, the new and the hipster. Because they won’t, we will. Because they own, we share. Etc etc.

It grabbed my attention thanks to a great tune (so often the case) and I was pretty intrigued as to whose ad it was. It was for SEAT.

Purpose-driven marketing is a point of great contention. Nike’s support of Colin Kaepernick (bold, pointed, and profitable), Gillette’s stand against toxic masculinity (a relevant re-imagining of their slogan, which doesn’t quite feel like it hits the mark), Lush’s highlighting of the misconduct of some undercover police officers (…?!) – all inspire a debate as to whether a brand has the right to take to the soapbox. Is it too cynical an attempt to manipulate? Worse, is it ineffective?! Or, is it an opportunity to cut through the noise, offer your prospective customer a real reason to choose you, a reason that says something about who they are as a person?

I’m not going to contribute to that debate here - because I can’t work out what SEAT is standing up for. It’s not clear who the ‘they’ is – and because I don’t know who – or what - SEAT are against, nor do I know what they are ‘for’.

According to Neilsen SEAT spent £2.3m on advertising in December - £445k on cinema, £535k on TV, £883k on digital. One of the great things about purpose-driven marketing is that you can target those most likely to agree with your cause. You can target programming aligned with your cause and use psychographic data to reach those highly likely to be swayed by your message. In this case it felt like such targeting couldn’t be called into play – personally, I can’t determine the audience most likely to be swayed by Because Them, Us.


The Bird Box challenge will focus on Netflix if they subject their subscribers to ads by Ian Martin

Forecasts in late 2018 predicted that Netflix subscriptions would overtake the number of UK homes with Sky TV by the end of the year. It took Sky two decades to break 10m homes, if Netflix breach the 10m subscribers mark it will have taken them just 7 years to do so.

No data has been released yet to show if Netflix hit this mark before the clock struck 12-0-0 on the 31st of January, but a study published in early January shows how fragile their position is if they introduce ads to the platform. The study found that 57% of subscribers would turn their back on the platform if they introduced ads and the claimed leave rate remains high at 42%, even if Netflix dropped their subscription price to accommodate – a similar approach to Hulu in the US.

It’s not surprising that some market analysts believe they are considering alternative commercial models, they have an audience captivated by $13m original movies and content in the works from the former POTUS and First Lady. None of that comes cheaply and they can’t generate the box office returns a cinema release can; ‘The Kings Speech’ had a similar budget to Bird Box, but returned $414m globally – Netflix would have had to add 52m subscribers on the back of Bird Box to come close to that figure. That’s not happening.

They have dabbled with tiered subscriptions, primarily to help increase market penetration in smartphone first economies, and personalised recommendations between episodes. The latter caused outrage from subscribers, glee from advertisers and skepticism from business analysts and was the first real indication that ads might be coming to Netflix.

Why introduce ads though, beyond a blind quest for money at the expense of everything else? According to the information freely available, they are already profitable and demand for their content is high enough to withstand the price increases to date. Consider for a moment that the average Sky TV customer pays £50 per month and must watch ads between shows. The Netflix customer pays just under £8 and doesn’t see a single ad.

The scale of the threatened revolt shows that an ad free environment is one of the key attractions to the platform. Netflix is Netflix because they have given consumers what they want, uninterrupted entertainment.

Personally, I hope they continue this path. Let’s finally respect the wishes of the people and leave them some sacred, ad free space. To lean on the great Malcolm Gladwell, Netflix should find the tipping point in subscription price for ad free content and gain incremental revenue for every dollar of difference.


Amazon Sampling by Moira Garden


Since 1994, Amazon have been obtaining an incredible amount of data on each of its customers. Whether you’re buying or browsing, Amazon are capturing in the hope that you might just convert. Fast forward 20 years, it’s getting even more personal with consumers directly inviting Amazon into the comfort of their own homes. It might not look like a web browser but Alexa is banking data on what you want, and when you want it.

But what are Amazon to do with such a wealth of data?

In the last few weeks, it has been announced that Amazon are to work with select brands, including make-up brand Maybelline, as well as coffee manufacturer Folgers, to produce, package and promote products by distributing samples straight to your front door.

Using your purchasing history, Amazon will work with the brands to create a bespoke, tailor-made package, just for you to enjoy. Amazon describe this as “real” recommendations “so you can try, smell, feel, and taste the latest products”.

Of course, sampling is one of the oldest forms of marketing and one that is generally quite effective at boosting short-term sales. So, by using the wealth of data that we have fed them, and an Avon-style approach, knocking on your front door to hand over products that you are likely to buy, Amazon are simply modernising (and monetising) a traditional sales approach.

But of course, there will be moaning. How is our data being shared and who to? Will the products actually appeal to the individual or will there just be unnecessary waste?

For me, it will be interesting to see the role that Amazon take in terms of their own branding. Will they allow their current packaging to be used or will they be delivered in the selected brand’s box? Will they claim responsibility for incorrect posting, or pass you on to the relevant customer service chatbot? I guess only time will tell.

As someone who works in research and spends a lot of time interpreting data, I do think that this is a clever move and the natural next step for the internet giant to take. If Amazon, and their chosen brands, get it right, I think consumers could respond in a very positive manner. After all, who doesn’t love a freebie? 


Our Quick Thoughts on... Short Form Ads

Maddy Sim

I don’t doubt the findings of from Phoenix MI. Years of ever-decreasing recommended lengths on digital video ads suggests it was only a matter of time before similar findings were made with TV ads.

Instead I’ll highlight one of their other findings – short-form ads “tend to work best when running alongside longer form ads or as supporting wider marketing campaigns”. To me that’s the most important sentence in there. Too often in digital we mistake the fact that some short-form content works for the idea that long-form content doesn’t work. There aren’t many brand propositions you could comprehensively cover in 5-7 seconds – but yes, you might be able to effectively remind someone in a short follow-up.

Too often in a meeting someone pipes up that the average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish. That’s a myth – or, at the very least, a misinterpretation.

And hey, if it’s true you’ve probably not read this far anyway.

Ian Martin

As with everything, if the objective of a campaign calls for a short form TV ad go for it, but don’t expect longer ads to become extinct or even secondary. Try telling this story or owning a time of year in 5 seconds.

Moira Garden

We see the argument all the time: people are time poor and require snappiness. Yes, okay, we get it. But how short are ads going to get? Is it really getting to the stage where we switch off and are unable to engage with a 30 second ad? If so, that’s quite a worry.

Whilst I appreciate the stats provided by Phoenix MI and understand the findings in relation to ad and brand memorability, advertisers would need to include short-form content as part of a wider marketing strategy.

I’m a big fan of a ‘teaser’ ad, but 5 seconds? I’d probably blink and miss half of it. For me, it would need to be layered. Whether that’s twice within an ad break, multiple times within a programme or across day-parts, a story needs to be told. This is vital for the consumer to grasp the concept and retain memorability of the brand. 


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