The Rising Cost of Entertainment

Source: This Is Money/HBOS

The squeeze on family budgets was brought into sharp focus by the publication of entertainment inflation figures for the entertainment and leisure pursuits of ordinary Britons. Some of the figures, particularly the cost of attending live sport are astonishing. When coupled with the rising price of fuel these bring the cost of a family day out up to frightening levels and out of the reach of many.

So what might this mean for brands? Well first of all giving your loyalists some kind of helping hand to have fun these days feels like a great opportunity. In the social sphere entertainment based rewards have got to be a great way to activate your community and to build size and scale.

Secondly it also stikes us that in a world rich with second screens and gaming consoles, creating shared family fun experiences to brighten up time at home is a big opportunity. ‘Gameification’ sounds like made up marketing babble and as such may be an offputting concept. However in a world where the price of fun is rising so rapidly, connecting with people through play looks like an attractive prospect.

With increasing numbers of people watching TV with Zeebox in their hands expect to see branded fun built into many major broadcast campaigns over the next twelve months.

Farewell to the COI


The government, among other advertisers, has been using insights from disciplines such as behavioural economics and social psychology to change the public’s behaviour for the better. Launching campaigns such as Change4Life, and with the NHS supporting educational TV programmes such as the Food Hospital, it has started to put the wealth of insight offered by these sciences to good use, and seen some impressive results.

These campaigns have been a great start towards trying to change lifestyles but the government has not fully followed through with their efforts. Amidst all the other budget cuts, the government froze the £540m-a-year COI ad budget (to focus only on ‘essential’ campaigns) until March 2011, followed by a reduction in ad spend by 50% thereafter.  Finally, by the end of the month, the COI will cease to exist as the government has decided to make different departments responsible for their own communications.

The Change4Life campaign initially showed the promise of success. However, since the cuts have been made, there has been a significant drop in the number of visits to the campaign website and to calls requesting information.

This could, as the government is probably aware, be a false economy, and the deterioration of public health can have wide-reaching and costly long-term effects. Ignoring the nation’s unhealthy habits could lead to more government spending on healthcare – potentially undoing the savings made by slashing the communications budget. In addition, an unhealthy society could lead to a less productive workforce – costing the government even more money. Given how effective the Change4Life campaign has been, it would be great to see the government reinvest its time, effort and money to engage with behavioural change communications.

We hope that even with the COI closed down, the government will be able to continue producing creative and effective behavioural change campaigns, like the one below – Kathy Can’t Sleep ad from the late 1980s, promoting safe driving under the slogan ‘drinking and driving wrecks lives’. It depicts a little girl Kathy whose dad got into a fatal accident, leaving the family to deal with the consequences of his actions.

Social Media Week Diary – Part 2

Last night Ella and I went to “Using Data from Social Media to Improve Performance”, an event excellently moderated by Cathy Ma (Head of Social Media, IPC Media).

Peter O’Neill (L3 Analytics), who spoke about the importance of measuring flow between social media and websites, organised the event because he couldn’t see why we would have a social media week with no talks about measurement. Here are a couple of titbits on what the other speakers had to say on social media analytics:

Joshua March – Co-founder/ CEO at Conversocial

Brands often ignore importance of customer service when managing their social media presence. Having a social media expert responding to customer complaints or requests is not enough. Well may they refer a customer to an email address or a phone number, but if a person has chosen to contact you via your Facebook page it is either because they don’t want to email you or because email already hasn’t worked. Put a customer service person (or team) in charge of monitoring your Facebook page or Twitter account, and have a target response time of under an hour.

Josh’s  presentation can be found on the Conversocial blog:

Simon Cast – Head of Products at PeerIndex

Simon Cast – who moved from rocket science to influencer algorithms – presented on how brands can use influencers to gain reach in an efficient way. It was questioned how accurate these algorithms can be (something I’ve previously blogged about). He sees a future where algorithms for these tools are made public (as with PageRank), and could be amended for purpose. If this eventuates this could be an exciting step to keep brands in control of who they see as influential by amending these algorithms themselves.

PeerIndex’s website is here:

Christian Howes – Consultant (recently seen on Big Brother)

Pretty proud of having been banned from major betting retailers, Christian Howes showed how social media analysis can help produce predictions for reality TV shows’ winners and losers. From him we can learn that it’s how you present data just as much as using your brain.

This last comment perhaps seems obvious but I think as analysts we can often forget that part of the puzzle. Cathy Ma hit the nail on the head when she described analysts as storytellers. We have so many data sources available but it is up to us to constantly ask what the data is actually telling us.

Targeting ads by moods


Negative moods alter the way we absorb information, making us engage in a more rational way with messaging.

At any particular moment in time, we are in a certain mental state that will affect how we absorb, remember and act upon the advertising we see, and although our mood is personal and often based upon specific individual circumstances at any given moment (why hasn’t she texted me yet, why only one kiss? what do you mean clingy?) it can be generally guessed at based upon the place and content that an ad fits in to – think of the stress in a crowded tube carriage in the morning or the excitement in a cinema lounge before an Aaron Sorkin movie.  Various recent research papers have started to shed light on how consumers’ moods affect their response to different types of advertising content.

A recent study, “The Effects of Positive Mood on Memory”, suggests that a positive mood enhances the learning of brand names by “prompting the classification of brands on the basis of their category membership, which then serves as an effective cue for brand name retrieval”. Another study, “Consumers’ mood states: Antecedents and consequences of experiential versus informational strategies for brand choice”, goes further suggesting that negative and positive moods directly affect how an ad is incorporated into our memory, suiting different types of ad content. A positive mood (and according to recent news reports, magic mushrooms) encourages us to absorb information in an experiential way, associating content with feelings and mood, while a negative mood encourages us to process ads in an informational way, weighing up a more rational input-output relationship to the proposition.

On the opposite end of the emotion spectrum, a research paper called “Fear and Loving in Las Vegas: Evolution, Emotion, and Persuasion” suggests that targeting content that induces fear (scary movies or, personally, movies with Cher) will help products that are trying to make social claims, but harm those that encourage an individual to stand out, when the content has unconsciously encouraged them to seek the safety of the group. Conversely, targeting romantic desire works best for products that suggest they help you stand out as, when aroused, people unconsciously want to be noticed as different and better in order to attract a mate.


When people are stressed out, they are more likely to give in to temptation.

One area that has been researched more thoroughly is the effect of stress on reducing cognitive resources. Stress reduces the part of the brain that normally controls emotional urges. This means when stressed or mentally occupied we are more likely to give into temptation (and possibly take on board emotional messaging), as we can’t control our emotional impulses. This suggests for example that although positive analysis suggests chocolate advertising would suit positive moods, when our minds are absorbing content in an experiential manner, it may also be beneficial to target stressed consumers when there is an opportunity for purchase, such as on trains and in shopping centres.

In addition to our moods, there are other factors that can affect our memory and level of persuasion. These range from the time of day affecting ad recall, with adverts shown in the morning scoring higher on memory encoding, recall, comprehension, attention, and liking due to people having higher cortisol levels upon waking, to the strong relationship between caffeine consumption and persuasion, with those who have higher caffeine blood levels, appearing more open to persuasion than those who don’t.

As yet there is limited data on the numerical benefit of ad content targeted by mood, compared to factors such as cost, reach and frequency, on which we have plenty of data. However, it appears to be an area of growing importance, with the development of outdoor ‘gladvertising’ (digital outdoor adverts that react to consumers’ moods by using emotion recognition software) and the emerging opportunities to use social media to target people by mood.

Nouveau Niche: The Rise of Invitation-Only Social Networks

Larger social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have done a lot to democratise the web; to give us the opportunity to rub shoulders with all sorts of people. But this comes at a price: the ‘tyranny of attention’ requires that we be prudent in how we spend our time and mental energy. In real life, we take care to pick and choose the social circles that we move in. So how do you ensure that you’re in good company in the online space?

Invitation-only social networks are built around this premise. Why jump into the endless and unpredictable ocean of large-scale social networks, when a vessel populated by like-minded individuals would offer much smoother sailing?

By vetting those who come aboard, invitation-only social networks can offer a number of advantages that ‘free-for-all’ social networks cannot. Dribbble is one such example. In many ways, it bears a strong similarity to DeviantART, allowing users to upload demonstrations of their prowess in graphic design and illustration. However, unlike DeviantART, Dribbble’s user base is divided into three tiers: Spectators, Prospects and Players. Anyone is free to sign up as a Spectator; this grants the ability to passively explore the design portfolios hosted on the site. Prospects are those who have indicated that they wish to join. Players are the lucky few who have passed the drafting process, and have the right to upload designs and comment on other people’s hard work.

Dribbble combines high quality content with a seductively pretty UI

The crucial point is this: any member who invites a non-member to the community has to vouch for the quality of the non-member’s work. Done properly, this preserves the quality of the content on the site, as well as guaranteeing that only engaged and passionate people become part of the Dribbble community. A similar model can be found among a slew of other social sites, such as Pelime (a creative arts community), WIWT (a fashion community) and Teazel (a virtual hangout for surfing enthusiasts).

There exists a further species of invitation-only social networking site that has arisen. While the aforementioned networks thrive on shared interests and skills, networks such as Squ.are and Angel’s Circle have the unique selling proposition of simply being very hard to get into. Asking how to seek an invitation is an exercise in futility; if you have to ask, you’ll never know. If you’ve ever asked the price of something at an expensive restaurant, you’ll understand the thinking that underpins this philosophy. Nevertheless, they represent an interesting counterpoint to the staunchly egalitarian attitude of the larger networks.

Finally, I couldn’t wrap this article without giving an honourable mention to the most exclusive social network of all; where simply being human renders you ineligible for membership. I am, of course, referring to Dogbook, the social network for man’s best friend. Take a look – I hear it’s a right wag.

Coffee: the irrational behaviour that defies austerity

To quote the Evening Standard on 3rd January before the news of the verdict in the Stephen Lawrence case broke,

‘New research shows that Londoners are more addicted than ever to their daily latte, cappuccino or flat white and are searching out quality coffees.

Sales are up overall by about 10 per cent (now twice the level of 2005) and a new wave of artisan espresso chains has sprung up in London despite fears of a “double dip” recession.

 About 35 independent coffee bars opened in London last year compared with 56 cafes belonging to big chains.’

However, they are increasingly second or third branches of bars set up by passionate “caffeine-heads”.

This suggests a couple of interesting things that we should take note of when planning for 2012 and beyond.

1) London (and the South East) is a market of its own and consumer behaviour is potentially diverging even more from the rest of the U.K. This poses some significant marketing challenges to national plans and national messages that underweight the area.

2) Routines trump rational behaviour: coffee breaks help people navigate their day. The product is over priced and potentially means that someone is having to economise on their lunch. However the sacrifice is deemed worth it by thousands of squeezed punters.

So when planning for tough times in 2012 don’t assume that people will react the way that you might logically expect in all categories.