What’s hot in the heat?

The recent heatwave has impacted clients’ results. So how do we respond?

The summer sunshine of mid-June was a welcome treat, but the intensity of such infrequent high temperatures can make us sluggish.  And we certainly saw a slower than normal response to ads during that time.

But that’s why clients employ specialist direct response agencies like us – as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

We used our specific late space skills to secure deals as late and as cheaply as possible.  We focused on prime positions such as back page solus, front page strips and solus ads on editorial pages.  All have helped to stimulate demand.  Here are our top tips for combating the effects of heat-induced lethargy:

  • Private Eye and the Week have worked particularly well, with circulations stronger than ever. Being non-daily publications, they benefit from being read throughout the week. 
  • A front page solus 10 x 8 with the Daily Telegraph is a tricky format to make work, but worth the effort as it’s delivered great results when bought short term.
  • Advertorials have also produced positive results. The formatting of text and images by the newspaper or magazine brings a valuable perceived endorsement for the advertised product.
  • You may have noticed AB splits are all the rage with us at the moment; we never fail to learn from them. They offer a low risk way of testing headlines, offers, creative styles, price points and even the positioning of an offer within an ad.  The offer position made a 200% difference to response in one of our recent AB splits; you can’t ask for clearer than that.

If the hot weather returns, and we hope it does, we know how to protect our clients from advertising ‘sunburn’.

Never too old to learn – update

The refining and re-testing continues on the creative for quality meat producer, Donald Russell. Here’s what we’ve learnt.

Our initial testing of creative for Donald Russell gave us results from which we could learn and build.  In a second Telegraph AB split, we tested the original ‘control’ copy against an AJ version.  The results remained neck and neck throughout the subsequent fortnight finishing almost level in terms of sales.  Just as importantly, the great short-term rates and fantastic positions we secured ensured both versions, plus the test control copy in the i last weekend, hit target for cost per new customer.  These are great results for the client.


We also tested the successful control copy in the Daily Mail, a title the client had used previously.  Securing a position on a Saturday, with its 30% higher circulation than mid-week, plus it being the Saturday after the General Election, gave us the best chance to maximise exposure.  In short, the results disappointed, missing target by a long chalk.  This reinforces our belief, as a quality meat producer, Donald Russell’s core customers are AB demographics, and this is where spend should be concentrated.

Donald Russell has gone from not having any ads achieving target this year, to all but one exceeding it.  Their faith in press is returning.

 “We moved our OTP buying to Attinger Jack about a month ago in an attempt to revive a channel that had previously performed well but was suffering declining response and increasing CPAs. Their creative options and media buying rates have already breathed new life into our activity. They understand our brand and the challenges we face and are keen to help us to make the transition. They’re challenging but supportive, and fun to work with too.”

Elaine Lee, Head of Customer Acquisition, Donald Russell

With the forecast promising us a stunning weekend ahead, what could be better than a delicious Donald Russell steak on the barbecue?

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 lesley@aja.co.uk

Going all out to improve results

There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a new client’s results improve after using fresh creative.  This weekend we’re running two A/B splits for Out & Out Original – how will they perform?

At AJ, we’re delighted to have been appointed by Out & Out Original, an online furniture store committed to supplying ethically-sourced furniture. Having had disappointing results from DR, Out & Out Original has built its business from advertorials and online.  We think it’s time to show how DR can work, aiming to hit their ROI targets from the start.

This weekend we’re testing two AB splits – one for garden furniture, the other for some of their indoor range.  One version of the ad replicates the advertorial style they’ve used successfully to date, the other slightly more ‘salesy’ with, for example, more overt offers and a company logo.

Once again, we’re running a competition in the office to see who can predict the difference in sales value resulting from the two ads.  What do you think?  Will readers of the Times and Telegraph respond to the advertorial-style ad or the more obvious sales pitch?  We’ll keep you posted.

Indoor furniture advertorial style
Indoor furniture sales style
Garden furniture advertorial style
Garden furniture sales style

Discover how DR could work for you – contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or lesley@aja.co.uk

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 lesley@aja.co.uk

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.

Time to spruce up the garden

According to author, Margaret Atwood, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”  At this time of year, we’re busy preparing our gardens for the summer ahead.  To stay up with the play on the latest trends in garden design, AJ team member, Jack Gillett, visited this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

The Chelsea Flower Show offers inspiration and ideas on creating a look for your garden or outdoor space, however big or small, rural or urban.  Like a fashion show, what’s on display may seem unattainable to the average gardener, but it’s the concepts being displayed which trigger a thought or form the start of a plan.


With unparalleled knowledge and experience in the home improvements market, AJ’s client portfolio includes manufacturers of top quality conservatories, verandas, awnings and garden furniture, such as David Salisbury, Eden Verandas and Out & Out.   How these can blend with a garden is an ever-present element of the world-famous Show.  The BBC/RHS People’s Choice Award winner, the Morgan Stanley Garden, featured a stunning oak and limestone loggia surrounded by formal and informal planting.  It illustrated perfectly the opportunity for synergy between a manmade structure and the natural world.

With this year’s design trends at Chelsea also including water, textured walls, angular paving, copper elements and wall niches, there’s plenty to complement and enhance every garden and outdoor space.

To find out more about our work in the garden and home improvements market, contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or lesley@aja.co.uk

Never too old to learn

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked in a business, there’s always more to learn.  The final result from our new Donald Russell creative testing is now in, giving us reason to celebrate and opportunity to build.

Record sales

Both the new and control copy smashed their previous results, with total sales 100% above forecast.  This alone gives reason to celebrate and endorses attributes of both ads tested.

Creative differences

The final result on the AB test shows a 56/44 split in favour of the control copy.  We’re therefore working further on the control copy to ensure we have the most responsive copy.

Brand versus offer

The new creative appealed more to existing customers, indicating the value of brand to those already buying from Donald Russell.  The new creative led with brand and followed with offer, whereas the control copy, appealing more to those less familiar with the brand, led with the offer.

Next steps

Once we’ve maximised the responsiveness of the control copy and addressed the balance of brand and offer in the new creative, the stage will be set for another challenge.

For now, congratulations to our New Business Director, Lesley Bowman, whose sales prediction for the AB split was closest; a box of succulent steak is on its way to her barbecue.

To learn more about working with Lesley and the rest of the AJ team, contact her on 01225 758222 or lesley@aja.co.uk