It’s all in the timing

We have worked with Out & Out  for 3 years and we have steadily built their media schedule.  Starting with advertorials in home interest mags and newspapers, the success from these led to increasing the range of titles, and also the sizes, so our portfolio of ads now ranges from a composite ad (image and 75 words of text set by the publishers) to a DPS.  The titles range from home interest and gardening mags (we are in almost every one) to national newspapers and supplements to membership magazines – with the focus being a good coverage of their ABC1 45+ typical customer and a low CPT.

We individually code and track every ad – the code gives a discount at checkout so you have to use it to get it, which means we know exactly what each ad is generating.  The results this year have been unbelievable, for obvious reasons, so our job was to maximise the potential of the current lockdown.  As a result our spend in press has increased by 150% while response rates have increased by 250%.

From press we launched on TV last year – a low level of spend saw a very high return in terms of uplift in sales on their website, which started when we turned TV on and reduced when we turned it off, but it was hard to track exactly what was generated in the way we do in press.   So we edited the commercial and included an offer: £100 off with a TV code and can now see exactly what TV is generating. We can see a strong profit from the orders on the code but in addition we see surges in traffic whilst we are on air so there are plenty more sales from TV that are not being attributed.  As a result, we have this week made another commercial for their indoor product range.

Inserts were next – we tested these in February – and every single placement that ran has made a profit and in the case of the home interest titles we are seeing ROI’s of 10:1 – the next plan has been booked and is starting in May.

We are also working on maximising the Out & Out customer base and have created postcards to upsell relevant product to customers (e.g. a protective cover for their lounge set, a parasol for their dining set) and we have seen up to 30% response rates!

All in all, this is the perfect account for us.  The client gives us access to all the results, and he allows us to run the marketing for him. We report the figures back and put forward new ideas, which he is always open minded about trying.  Our client is hard working, ambitious, driven and we work brilliantly together to make the most of every opportunity we can find.

A few shared thoughts on the future

MD, Alice Buttling and former MD and Attinger Jack founder, David Attinger, discuss the potential impact of the pandemic and what might lie ahead for businesses in the UK after lockdown.

David – Just starting to think what the short term might look like for Business and society in general, once the ‘lockdown’ is over. Will home-working really take off after it’s been forced on the Business community?

Alice -I don’t think so, I don’t see how it gets the best out of your team.  Most people that I have spoken to would rather be working in an office environment once the perceived novelty of working from home wears off.

People work better, harder and are more motivated in an office and within a team. Those who prefer working  from home are likely to be those you need to keep an eye on most to ensure they are working hard.  That said, I do think that for some a day a week at home to focus on getting tasks done where you need to focus uninterrupted has merit – you can get a lot done in a short time with no disturbance or disruption. 

David -The ‘lockdown’ has now been extended to mid May, what do you think will happen at that point ? Presumably some of the restrictions will be lifted but lots will not I’m sure.

Alice – I think it will be gradual and I think that the general public will want that, there will be a lot of concerns about coming out of lockdown but we have the benefit of being behind other countries to see how the impact works.  I think that businesses and schools will be first but that anything that involves large groups will be postponed until the end of the Summer. 

David – President Macron is suggesting the ‘Schengen border’ will be closed until September so travel across Europe will remain restricted until then.     

Alice – It is hard to imagine the costs to the individual countries if they do restrict travel throughout the entire summer period.  This will destroy so many businesses that rely on tourism and the government simply don’t have the funds to replace this. 

David – I think there is a very real danger of social unrest if this situation continues for too long.                                                                                                                                                            Alice – I think that the social issues are huge, the message of stay home and save lives is fine for some, reality of doing this is horrific for many.  Millions of people are being asked to lock themselves into flats with no outside space, this would be tough enough with a nice flat in a pleasant location but add to this kids all at home, sick people around you, no access to support and at times abuse etc and you have a situation that we should just not be asking -never mind telling – people to put themselves in. I think we are paying too high a price and asking too much. 

David – but the biggest damage is to Business in general. Travel, Hospitality, Retail, Holidays, Automotive, Construction, Property, Aerospace, Oil, Sport etc, will be damaged and plenty of small players will not survive.                                                                                                            Alice – We will lose so many businesses, some that were fragile anyway who now have the perfect excuse for their failure, but some who were good solid small businesses who just didn’t have the cash in the business to keep afloat – mainly seasonal businesses who rely on the April to August period to carry them through the rest of the year.

David – But most will, so how will they and their sectors change ?                                       Alice – The ones that survive will be a combination of the big, fat, greedy ones and the really smart ones.  We have seen a real mixture of lay down and die or stand up and fight and we have seen clients willing to try new things, adapt, invest and do all they can to ride the storm, others who have been surprised to actually do really well and have been focussed on maximising this advantage.  I think this could be the final straw for retail, with those who were reluctant to adopt shopping online now being forced to do so I am not sure they will now return to the high street.  Who knows when the travel industry will recover, I think even when restrictions are lifted there will be a lot of fear about travel, there will also be billions of pounds lost in refunds which will finish off many companies and I am sure many consumers will lose out here.  I think there will be a greater divide, those who have retained their jobs, kept working (albeit mainly from home) will feel pretty financially strong, they have retained their income, saved a fortune not leaving the house for 2 months and will have money to spend.  Those who have been furloughed on 80% are probably all square having saved the 20% by staying at home, but there will be a chunk of those furloughed who don’t have a job to go back to, the 3 months are up, the mortgage holiday is over and things are going to look very grim.  So for the markets that service the higher end, I think recovery will be quick and there will be a backlog (this also applies to the 70+ market who when they are released from lock down will probably be the best off as their income has stayed the same but their outgoings dropped) 

Personally I think that we need to come out of lock down as soon as possible and for there to be a better balance of priorities – we need to save as many lives as possible (obviously) but the lives of those vulnerable to Covid 19 are currently being valued far higher than the rest of the world, social welfare, business, the economy – the main reason for this has been the rapid spread and NHS not being able to cope with the sick.  When we start to see the spread being under control then I hope more priority will be put on everybody and everything else – we will have a build up of immunity, more knowledge, more tests, capacity in the new hospitals, ventilators etc – we could then start seeing some of the death statistics in context of other deaths the day – like normal flu, cancer and one that is likely to start increasing…suicide



A MEDIA UPDATE – and what to do next

We have now completed 3 weeks of lockdown so I thought it was time for an  update on the media landscape  and to include some insights that have been shared by media owners based on consumer or market research.  All media consumption, with the exception of course of Cinema and Outdoor,  has increased, and I have given a bit more detail on the key channels and ideas of what you can be doing now.

Newspapers – the circulations increased in the early days of the virus spreading with so many wanting to get their news from the papers, the majority of newspapers are offering free delivery, which has certainly helped to protect the 70+ most isolated group.  Although the Telegraph has remained static, the majority of circs have now dipped back to slightly below average (single % decreases month on month), due to the habit of picking up a paper on the way to work to enjoy with a morning cuppa (The Sun & Daily Star most hit) and people doing their grocery shopping online don’t stick a paper in their trolley as they would in store.  That said digital subscriptions are up (The I have replaced their paper losses with the digital version which replicates the paper but the ads are not clickable); The Times likewise but the advertisers don’t benefit as their online paper is a different version and is sold separately.  That said the rates that we are getting from press are more than off-setting any dips in circ and the newspapers continue to be a lifeline to readers for both news, connection and pleasure so engagement remains high, as do response rates, for anything that is giving people joy or serving a practical purpose right now and so they remain a very solid investment for advertisers.

TV – as you would expect the channels are seeing record viewing figures on standard TV and also on demand having record views – the majority of increases, as you would expect, being big screen at home rather than tablets or mobiles, which also indicates that families are watching in groups rather than individually on separate devices – it is nice to think that this medium is bringing people together.  The highest increase by age is the 25 – 34 year olds (up 50%) although all age groups up to 75 see increases of over 32%.  Demographically, it is the ABC1 who have increased their viewing the most, those who previously have been out at work.  In terms of daypart, Coffee and Daytime have increased by 55 and 49% – perfect for cheap DRTV packages.  News on TV is the most trusted up to date source and viewing is up over 200% on news channels.  There are also strong increases in entertainment (Friday Night Dinner), movies (viewing up 20% – particularly family movies) and factual (Jamies Keep Cooking and Carry On).  So the inventory has increased and continues to grow, making it a buyers market – with airtime deals at sub £2.50 CPT these are the kind of prices usually reserved only for Christmas – I think it is highly likely your campaign would be over-delivered too, making it even greater value.

Inserts – we are seeing some great results from inserts, subs copies of magazines, third party product despatch (volumes of mail order have increased as have their capacity to carry inserts) and customer mags – essentially all things mailed into the home.  Again engagement is high; they have a long retention value, so are a great option for anyone whose business is restricted right now as they are likely to be held on to until the situation changes if the consumer has a want/need for the product.  Traditionally with inserts, we would plan 2/3 months at a time, getting best value from print and looking at a robust plan, but this requires confidence and long lead times.  Our insert expert, Helen, has negotiated a series of deals with media owners on a print and media package – so you book it more like you would an individual ad, making it low risk and a faster turnaround and you could just pick a few titles to test.  Due to reducing the media and print cost the rates are comparable with a large block booking on a CPT basis.  So a great time for a small test.

Magazines – this sector is performing well both for subscriptions (home interest market is up on average 170% with titles like Good Housekeeping and Country Living both over 240%), the in store sales are also strong with people still having access to supermarkets and newsagents and with the titles being monthly they are visiting them during this timeframe (unlike daily for a newspaper).  Home improvements is a huge category with 56% of people (Heart magazines reader survey) planning to carry them out from a lick of paint and putting up shelves to a room renovation.  Working from home and finding space to incorporate a home office is also a priority.  The survey also asked about what people are looking for right now and that was: happy, inspiring stories, facts, distraction, positive news stories and anything to reduce fear/panic and finally ways to relax & unwind.

Docmail – A5 individually printed postcards that you can send to your database for the cost of a 2nd class stamp.  These are a flexible and cost effective way to either communicate with your leads/appointments that you can currently not service, upsell to your customer base, recommend a friend incentives – again guaranteed to fall on the door mat, receptive audience – we are seeing some fantastic response rates of up to 25%! You can send 10 cards or 10,000 cards the cost per card remains the same to print and post, so it could not be any more low risk.

Digital – online traffic is huge in particular news, social media and entertainment.  As with TV with increased inventory and engagement the prices are highly competitive, we have access to the lowest ever pricing on the Mailonline and Telegraph sites as well as Timeinc and Hearst (the majority of monthly magazines are produced by these 2 publishers)

Radio – as mentioned in my previous email, not a traditional DR medium, but huge increases in usage and consumption being at home and therefore listeners are in a position to respond (unlike when driving) changes the norm.  It is also a great brand tool for anybody looking to send a message to a captive audience.  With low production costs and quick turnarounds you could be on air in a few weeks.

Some further market research from Kantar has been drawing comparisons from the closest situation, the 2008 recession which showed that brands have to be 1) ready to spend 2) have a healthy share of voice 3) maintain consumer confidence 4) consider their messaging as people are thinking and behaving differently and in the current situation VERY differently.

At the moment people are still shopping for what they deem to be ‘essential’ which is both for survival and wellbeing, there has been a 40% increase in sales of health products.  They are still engaging in what is ‘postponable’ it is needed or desired but it can be put off.   As thing start to return to ‘normal’ there is forecast to be a high demand for ‘treats’ and ‘postponables’ so brands need to be front of mind to benefit from this.  So retaining your profile with existing and potential customers is important, brand image and brand importance are 2 different things.  Lower spend currently gains larger rewards currently, competitors spending less means share of voice is quick to gain and with lower rates it is cheaper too. Spend less, get more..

I hope this round up is helpful, from a media perspective the picture is very positive , but I appreciate that everybody has restrictions that vary from extreme to opportunity – I would like to think that there is a platform for everyone in some form.  Although I mention ‘brand’ throughout, I always come at this with my DR hat on (as I don’t have any other hats!) so anything I would recommend to you individually would be a purely on the basis that I think it would return.

I think it will pay to be brave, consumers need to be reassured and comforted and showing empathy is vital.  If you have an opportunity then you should take it – it is not being greedy or capitalising on an awful situation, it is essential that all business do this to help the economy recover when we come out the other side.  It is key that say the right thing, at the right time in the right place.

It is only when the tide goes out do we see who’s been swimming naked – Warren Buffet

Best wishes




A message from our MD, Alice Buttling

If only we could freeze time…but we can’t and yet the Government’s assistance to business assumes that we can; that by giving employers the option to furlough their employees they are solving the current problems that businesses face.

Often the employees are keen to be furloughed so that they can stay home and stay safe, even when the employer is providing a safe place to work within all the restrictions that have been set.  The employee is working on the basis that they can get 80% of their pay (or 100% in some cases if the employer tops it up) and they can return to work in a few months when everything goes back to ‘normal’.  Unless, due to having no employees there is no business left. The doors may be closed but work still needs to be done to keep the business functioning: a garden centre with plants that need watering, a shop full of stock that needs to be paid for, a restaurant full of consumables and a landlord that needs paying.  What about the business owner that can’t furlough themselves and relies on the income to support their family? How about the business that survives 12 months of the year based purely on their season sales which carry them through off-season and their season is March to August….what happens to the lost revenue?  Suddenly all those wonderful, individual businesses set up by brave individuals or handed down through families, that are not cash positive enough to ride the storm and don’t have a few months buffer to get them though, disappear.  Then all those who were furloughed and thinking they had a job to go back to, are now redundant after all.

So, I urge everyone to think about where they spend their money right now, as it will make a real difference to what our country looks like when we come out of the other side.  The big companies like Amazon and the supermarkets stand to be the winners so far, but they don’t need our cash.  Shop local, the Co-op were the first to recruit for their stores offering jobs to people who had been made redundant within days of the virus spreading, way before the businesses knew they were protected by the furlough scheme.  Farm shops are working around the clock to provide fresh produce for us.  We don’t need to load up our trolleys (virtual or otherwise) these shops have food on their shelves every day and I guarantee you won’t find people fighting over the loo roll.  There are lots of business that are doing all they can do keep trading – restaurants offering takeaways, pubs delivering draught beer in jugs – please do all you can to support this.  One thing we don’t need right now is free next day delivery (and we won’t get it anyway) be patient, choose wisely and put your pounds in the pockets of the businesses that you really wish to buy from in the future..

And on that note, if you know anybody who has been forced to close their retail doors but they have products that they could sell direct to consumers through advertising then newspapers could be a great opportunity to keep the till ringing.  Demand is very high for anything that brings joy and can be delivered contactless – this could be fresh coffee, garden play equipment, DIY tools, books, flowers and plants, grow your own kits, clothing, jewellery, the list goes on….. We would be happy to help, advice and support any small business to try to sell direct – either on the phone or online, we will help find the best solution for them – things are changing and I have the feeling they will never be quite the same again, but in there is opportunity.



How direct sellers can keep their businesses moving right now

Well a lot has changed in the last week or so and although this will be the toughest challenge most of our business face, there are some positives that we’d like to share along with some ideas and support that AJ can offer which we hope will be helpful.

Newspapers –The circulations are increasing all the time (Daily Telegraph 12%, Daily Mail 5%, The Times 6%) and several newspapers have put measures in place to ensure their papers still get to their readers by offering free delivery.  The Evening Standard is  being distributed in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose as well as being home delivered within certain postcodes.  There has never been higher engagement with the news content and in the 70+ age bracket in particular where their main source of news is their paper it’s going to be a very welcome delivery of the thing that is connecting them with the world. In addition, we have negotiated reduced rates in many titles and there are deals to be done.

For many businesses, there will be benefits, for example The Daily Mail have surveyed their reader panel and 45% of people plan to do more gardening and DIY in the coming weeks.

Inserts –We would avoid newsstand inserts at the moment (although the majority of magazine sales are through supermarkets who are still open), but there has been a surge in magazine subscriptions with home interest titles increasing their subs by over 100% in the last few days.  Third party inserts, subs and membership titles are all guaranteed to get into the home and again are more likely to be read in the current climate.  The other benefit to inserts is that they are retained and therefore if you have a product/service that can’t currently be sold (as you need to be in homes for appointments/demo/installation) then inserts are a great way to communicate as they will be kept by those who are interested but can’t action now, so the spend is not wasted.

TV – as you would expect the viewing figures are escalating; 56% of the population plan to watch more TV in the coming days/weeks.  News viewing is up 44%, daytime viewing has increased by 20% and viewing of on-demand platforms like All4 and ITV have increased by 10%.  There is increased inventory, high engagement and the ability to reach the working population during daytime (just like that sweet spot between Christmas and New Year).  We have negotiated reduced rates in daytime and expect to be able to get approximately 20% reduction in CPT – so if you have a TV commercial and you have services that you can sell now then this should be a great opportunity to drive traffic and make sales.  If you are currently restricted, then TV is a great way to keep your product front of mind with a customer for when we do return to normality and you could achieve this with a very low-level spend.

Digital – online traffic to the newspapers and magazines is seeing huge spikes with record numbers day after day.  We have deals in place with the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph – but there are plenty of options outside of this too, for performance based campaigns to a profiled audience for lower CPT than they have ever traded before and in the case of the Daily Mail they will guarantee a click through rate for each client too.

How we can help

If you can keep the ball bouncing now it will be far easier to hit the ground running when the restrictions are lifted, even if this is at a very low level. AJ is still very much open for business, with the whole team set up to work remotely. We can offer our service on a project basis to fill any gaps in resources or services that you have available. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if we can be be of any help to your business at this time.