Black Friday sales – trick or treat?

Hot on the heels of the last commercial ‘event’, Halloween, we’re fast approaching Black Friday. But how easily are consumers persuaded to part with their money?

Shoppers used to eagerly await the January sales for the post-Christmas bargains. Then the sales moved forward to Boxing Day, seeing the keenest camping out over Christmas to make sure they were at the head of the queue.

Now we have adopted Black Friday from the US. Starting as a single day flash sale of electrical goods the day after Thanksgiving, it extended quickly across every retail sector. Joined by Cyber Monday in recent years, the last weekend of November has become a pre-Christmas shopping bonanza. Last year spending increased by 6% over this period.

As the sales move earlier and earlier, starting even nearer the beginning of November this year, how does this impact Christmas sales?  Do sales increase overall or simply move forward, leaving consumers shopped out by mid-December?

It would appear not, Boxing Day sales increased last year.

Clear trends are also appearing in pre-Christmas spending. Black Friday (or Black November?) has become a time people buy for themselves, leaving December to remain as the key time for buying gifts.

Can we therefore simply create ‘events’ and expect people to keep spending money?  It seems we can.

Chinese Singles’ Day began in 2009 as a bargain day for young singletons. Held on the 11th November, maximising the single number (11.11), it is now the biggest shopping day of the year for all Chinese shoppers.  Sales rocketed from $9 billion in 2014 to $18 billion just two years later.

So where is this going?  Grey Monday, Pink Wednesday, Divorced Day……….?!  Wherever it goes, consumers are keen to spend.

Find out how we can help you capitalise on that appetite.  Contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or

Success for AJ and its clients

AJ clients featured time and again among the business winners celebrated this week at the inaugural Express Home and Living Awards.

At a sumptuous lunch for 350 in Covent Garden’s elegant De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms, AJ found itself on the podium three times collecting awards for clients; more than any other agency attending the awards ceremony.

AJ’s Ann Gardiner and Jack Gillett

Alongside agency giants such as Mediacom and Mediavest, AJ punched well above its weight positioning its clients successfully in a range of categories. AJ’s well-crafted entries ensured its clients’ top-quality products and services were recognised up against well-known brand names such as John Lewis and Marks & Spencer.

AJ’s co-owner and Client Services Director, Ann Gardiner, hosted the agency’s table at the Awards:

“I’m so proud of what AJ and our clients achieved here today. I am pretty sure our table won the most awards, which shows just how well we stack up against larger, London-based agencies.”

David Salisbury triumphed as Best Outdoor Building Supplier.  The judges recognised the company’s unrivalled technical innovation, describing its orangeries and outdoor rooms as ‘top quality, thermally efficient and designed to fit around customers’ lifestyles’.

New AJ client, Dream Doors picked up two awards, taking out the Best Money Saving Product and Best Kitchen Supplier awards.  This is great news for a company looking to improve results, having recently appointed AJ to revive its direct response campaign.  These awards underline its position as a leading supplier of stylish replacement doors, transforming kitchens at an affordable price.

AJ client finalists:

  • Best Money-Saving Product             Kinetico Water Systems
  • Best Money-Saving Product             Dream Doors
  • Best Outdoor Living Furniture          Out & Out Original
  • Best Outdoor Building Supplier        David Salisbury
  • Best Outdoor Building Supplier        Eden Verandas
  • Best Retirement Living Solution      Nationwide Mobility
  • Best Kitchen Supplier                        Dream Doors


AJ clients impress

AJ’s clients short listed in the inaugural Express Home and Living Awards have reason to celebrate.

All AJ’s client finalists shape up well against their opposition, according to the judging panel comprising some of the UK’s most respected journalists and designers in property and interior design.

‘Technically brilliant’ is how the judges describe Kinetico’s Premier Compact water softener.  Noting its ‘neat and pleasing design saves money and has a positive environmental impact’ illustrates why it’s on the Best Money-saving Product short list.

In the Best Retirement Living Solution category, Nationwide Mobility’s inflatable bath lift, The Bathmate, is deemed a ‘great idea for people no longer able to climb in the bath’.  Its simple design makes it a highly popular mobility product.

Outdoors, two clients are vying for the ‘Best Outdoor Building Supplier’ award. ‘Uber-stylish and contemporary’ is how one judge describes Eden’s glass verandas, with David Salisbury’s orangeries and garden rooms noted as being ‘top quality, thermally efficient and designed to fit around customers’ lifestyles’.

Bridging outdoor and in, Out & Out Original’s ‘upmarket range of outdoor lounge furniture’ is ‘durable enough to withstand sun and rain outdoors and stylish enough to be kept inside in a conservatory or garden room’.  The company’s impressive environmental credentials also set it apart.

Short-listed in two categories, Best Kitchen Supplier and Best Money-Saving Product, is AJ’s newest client, Dream Doors.  We’re excited to be working with a company described as making the ‘updating of tired kitchens look easy’ using the latest computer design software.

Congratulations to all our short-listed clients.  We wish them every success at the Awards on 26th October.

AJ clients on track for Express Home and Living Awards

Five of AJ’s clients have been short-listed in the inaugural Express Home and Living Awards, celebrating the UK’s best household products, services and retailers.

When the Express first announced its new awards celebrating the best of British home and living solutions, AJ was quick to encourage its clients to enter.  The awards comprise 15 categories, judged on design innovation, ease of use, sustainable sourcing, customer service and value for money.

AJ’s finalist clients are featuring in the following categories:

  • Best Money-Saving Product              Kinetico Water Systems
  • Best Outdoor Living Furniture          Out & Out Original
  • Best Outdoor Building Supplier         David Salisbury
  • Best Outdoor Building Supplier         Eden Verandas
  • Best Retirement Living Solution       Nationwide Mobility

Here’s a taster from the entries we submitted on behalf of our clients, highlighting how each company and its products fit the attributes being judged.

Best Money-Saving Product: Premier Compact Water Softener, Kinetico Water Systems

Kinetico’s Premier Compact Water Softener is powered by water – not electricity – making it both economic and environmentally sound.  Its patented technology removes damaging minerals from hard water as it enters the home, eradicating limescale and its associated problems.

The increased efficiency of appliances using softened water can save a family of four up to 12% on energy bills and £400 per year on groceries.

The Premier Compact’s reliability and performance, together with Kinetico’s excellent customer service, led to it being chosen by the National Health Service for their ‘Home Kidney Dialysis’ programme.  Kinetico water softeners are also used in such prestigious establishments as Buckingham Palace and the Savoy Hotel.

Best Outdoor Living Furniture: Outdoor lounge furniture sets, Out & Out Original

Out & Out Original’s outdoor lounge furniture design combines outdoor durability with indoor style, allowing the lounge sets to look as good in a conservatory as in the garden.

Out & Out Original understands its moral and ethical responsibilities to both its furniture makers and the environment.  Using a number of natural materials, including FSC-certified sustainable eucalyptus and recycled teak, the company works to ensure valuable resources are retained or replenished for the future.

This range of furniture is also fit for purpose, with features essential to its use outdoors.  These include UV stabilised resin, 100% polyester cushions with removable covers and tempered glass on coffee tables.  It is designed to wear in not out, making it cost-effective and robust.

Best Outdoor Building Supplier: David Salisbury Orangeries and Garden Rooms

David Salisbury describes itself as ‘engineers in wood’. Every product design is unique and precision-made, remaining in keeping with its surroundings.

The company was an early adopter of environmentally-friendly policies, installing a biomass boiler over 10 years ago, feeding it with timber shavings and offcuts generated during manufacture.  Factory roof solar panels provide 20% of the company’s power supply reducing its footprint by over 88,000kg CO2 per year.

Every aspect of a David Salisbury product is considered carefully, and corners will not be cut at the expense of quality.    The company demonstrates unrivalled technical innovation as well as a commitment to excellence in customer service.

Best Outdoor Building Supplier: Glass verandas, Eden Verandas

Eden’s glass verandas allow customers to enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather.  The high-quality materials used give customers total confidence in their outdoor living products.   Eden’s glass verandas can complement any home, new or old, large or small, and can be retro-fitted giving maximum versatility, with the option of converting into a glass room at a later date.

Eden Verandas offer a free design service with a no obligation quote. Designers are based throughout the UK, providing a local business experience coupled with the peace of mind gained from a national company.

Eden’s glass verandas add value to any home and any lifestyle.

Best Retirement Living Solution : The Bathmate, Nationwide Mobility

Nationwide Mobility is a company with a simple philosophy – it is dedicated to offering the best possible bathing solutions for those no longer able to enjoy safe bathing at home.  With over 20 years’ experience, Nationwide Mobility has a deep understanding of customer needs.

The Bathmate is an inflatable bath lift offering a simple solution for those having difficulty stepping in and out of the bath.  It doesn’t require installation, fitting into a customer’s existing bath, gently lowering the customer in and out by inflating and deflating at the touch of a button.

The Bathmate’s uncomplicated design makes it one of the most ingenious and popular mobility products available.

We’ll keep you posted on their progress; the winners are announced on  Thursday 26th October.




Relevant and appealing or intrusive and unnerving?

We already know the power of loyalty cards in allowing retailers to target offers to our individual product preferences.  The same is happening in TV.

We now have the flexibility to watch whatever we want when we want across several formats; we aren’t tied into the same schedule as everyone else.  National Grid doesn’t have to cope with the spikes in power usage seen previously in nationally-significant televised events.  No longer are millions of kettles put on or fridge doors opened simultaneously during ad breaks.   A cliff-hanger episode of EastEnders in 2001 finished with a 2290MW power spike; today spikes rarely top 200MW as our viewing habits become more and more disparate.

Aligned to this substantial viewing variety, so-called addressable TV advertising allows ads to be carefully targeted; advertisers paying for audience segments and impressions rather than content.  In effect, it’s direct mail in a TV format.  It’s not new in Britain but is gaining momentum and the UK is believed to be at the forefront of the sector’s development.  Addressable TV allows neighbours to watch the same ad at different times or to see different ads even if they’re watching the same programme.  It offers ads appropriate to a consumer’s individual circumstances, aiming to be more appealing and engaging.  And it seems they are.  Sky has seen a marked reduction in channel-switching during ad breaks when ads are relevant.

For advertisers, the benefit of this targeted approach is the ability to create a personalised strategy giving greater flexibility with creative, deeper insight and less wastage.  It’s particularly attractive to smaller, regional or more specialist companies with less budget available than mainstream TV advertising demands.  Although cost per impression is undoubtedly higher, many advertisers believe it’s a price worth paying to gain precision and save on wastage.  But it’s not for everyone.  Bigger brands often prefer to keep talking to as wide an audience as possible.  As a result, the breadth of TV advertisers is increasing; two thirds of Sky’s advertisers are either new to TV or new to Sky.

A valid concern for advertisers, though, is around measurement and attribution; critical to get right but harder to achieve with audiences watching TV in a myriad of ways.  There is also little consistency between platforms; each broadcaster using their own approach.

According to the US Video Advertising Bureau, addressable TV is bigger than LinkedIn, Instagram and Wikipedia.  Sky is the market leader in the UK with AdSmart.  Having struck a deal with Channel 5 earlier in the year, the company has just announced an agreement with Virgin Media, expanding the reach of its platform considerably.  Channel 4 is also active in this area, with ITV due to launch in the next couple of months; their aim to attract online advertisers.  Those broadcasters without a set-top box have to use a different mechanism to target audiences based on census-type data.

At AJ, we’re keen to try addressable TV with a new client offering a premium product.  Having used direct mail previously, due to its targeted nature, addressable TV is the obvious choice as a new and suitable alternative to attract high-end customers.

To find out more about how addressable TV could work for you, contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or

Sunday Times advertorials join the party

Following in the footsteps of the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Times is joining the growing number of newspapers producing their own advertorials section mirroring those compiled by Alison Cork.


As we’ve reported previously in New interiors feature for Telegraph’s Saturday, Alison Cork writes advertorial-style pages for several papers including the Telegraph, Times, Evening Standard, Mail, Mirror and the Sun.

One by one, newspapers are beginning to run their own version of these pages; this weekend the Sunday Times becomes the latest.  A major disadvantage of the Alison Cork pages is the size and position ‘lottery’ of being hero or almost zero without any control.  Like the Telegraph, the Sunday Times is running a more equitable system of all advertisers receiving the same space.  This makes our life as planners much easier with more predictability and consistency.  Our clients have enjoyed fantastic results from the Telegraph’s new Interiors section so we’re excited about what this new Sunday Times opportunity can offer.

If you’re keen to see what these advertorial-style pages can do for your business, contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or

Certainty amongst the uncertainty

Last night’s election results might have plunged us into more uncertainty, but one thing is definite, more of us are reading newspapers this week. So, what does this mean for advertisers?

Print volumes are expected to increase by 10% for the next five days – maybe longer given the inconclusive result.  There will be more readers and more engaged readers, so we’ve been encouraging our clients to make the most of this uplift.  With plenty of news to report and debate over recent months, the quality newspapers and weekly news magazines have enjoyed stable, and in some cases increasing, circulations; a fact reflected in our clients’ results.

I is for Inserts

For the first time, the i is taking loose inserts.  This is a great opportunity for AJ clients and one we’ve grabbed with both hands.  Here’s why.

The i is a top-performing title for AJ clients.  Its profile of ABC1, with 74% in the 45+ age group, is perfect for the majority of our DR customers.  And its new insert offering has key benefits we have been quick to exploit.

The i has a total print run of 360,000, broken down into four regions.  For a designer and manufacturer of water softeners, such as Kinetico, the ability to advertise regionally is an attractive option as it protects against wastage.  We ran their new insert in the South only where water softeners are an increasingly necessary household item.

The inserts are solus and mid-week only.  This gives clients great standout and weekday exposure in contrast to many other titles only taking multiple inserts at the weekend.

Early signs look encouraging for Kinetico from the insert we ran on Monday, with Aquability testing it next week in addition to their existing advertising channels.  With AJ accounting for 25% of those who have tried this alternative method of lead generation in the last couple of weeks, we are confident it has much to offer our clients.

To learn more about how AJ uses inserts successfully, see Look and feel: why inserts work

New Interiors feature for Telegraph’s Saturday

Just two months old, and Telegraph’s Saturday has a new Interiors feature starting this week.  AJ’s Alice Buttling tells us what she thinks.

Alison Cork has a built a strong platform writing advertorial style pages under the guise of ‘hunting’ for great home/garden offers for the consumer.  In reality, of course, advertisers are just paying to be included.  These features have appeared regularly in the Telegraph, Times, Evening Standard as well as, but less so, in the Mail, Mirror and the Sun.

Not long ago, the Daily Mail decided to replace the Alison Cork section with their own version, called ‘Home and Away’.  In addition to home and garden offers, it also includes travel, and has proved extremely successful, now running a full page each week.

Next to follow suit is the Telegraph.  Unlike the Mail, it will continue to carry the Alison Cork pages, but is launching its own ‘Interiors’ page this weekend in the relatively new ‘Saturday’ section.  What I love about it is you get what you pay for; large, medium or small image and text, you pay accordingly.  This is not the case with Alison Cork – it’s pot luck.  In one issue, you might secure the large hero image, but next issue find yourself with a tiny image in the gutter – both costing the same price, with no control.  This has become a real bugbear for our clients who despise unpredictability – particularly when they end up in the gutter the size of a postage stamp!

At this stage, the Telegraph doesn’t have a ‘face’ for their feature.  In contrast, the Daily Mail has chosen its features writer, Harriet Arkell, to source their offers.  Whether or not a ‘face’ is necessary remains to be seen.  I personally think the new Interiors section looks great; AJ has booked three of the nine advertising sites, including the big hero shot for our client Eden Verandas.  I’ll keep you updated on how well it works…………

Titles on the Up

Many titles appear to be accepting an ongoing circulation decline, so it’s great to see others bucking the trend.  How are they doing it?  Are they simply printing more copies, like the Evening Standard?  It appears not.

Common themes are price and producing concise news.

The Daily Star reduced its cover price and in doing so proved cost was an issue for some of its readers.  Not only has the paper managed to halt the decline in its circulation figures but has taken share from The Sun, to achieve a 14% year-on-year increase, now nudging a 500,000 circulation.  At AJ, we don’t use this title very often as it’s not a great fit with most of our clients’ target audiences, but love what they’ve achieved.

The I is another title proving price matters.  With a circulation pushing 300,000, it has overtaken the Guardian and Observer, and is closing in on the Sunday Telegraph.   It’s amazing to see a newspaper can launch in the current day and reach this level of circulation.   We love this title and it achieves great results for our clients’ products; from reading lights to coffee pods, oak extensions to cashmere sweaters.

The Times has also increased its year-on-year figures by nearly 10%.  No price change, just a quality product and, over the last 12 months, more engagement with news and politics.  Without an increase in rates, The Times has become a very strong title for us – a top 3 performer for many of our clients.

A couple of other titles showing year-on-year circulation increases are the Week at 206,000 and Private Eye at a record 250,000, thanks largely to Brexit.  Both these titles work really well for us.

The days of buying newspapers and magazines are certainly not dead.  To succeed or remain successful, titles must adapt to the current times and needs of the population; in some cases, cash rich/time poor, with others just cash poor.   We would encourage national newspapers to test price points and content more often, much as we do for our clients when trying to find the winning formula and maximise returns.  We don’t always succeed first time, but we keep testing and do whatever we can to turn results around rather than accepting a decline.