You can have your cake and eat it

Thinkbox Lockdown Stats

As you would expect, TV viewing figures have increased and this provides an opportunity for advertisers to either gain some brand awareness or, more importantly right now for most advertisers, to drive business.

As we are easing out of lockdown and businesses are able to trade slightly more freely than they have been for the last 2 months, there is a great opportunity to either test TV or go back onto to TV if you have tried it before and it has not given the returns you hoped for.  Here are some of the reasons why from a recent Thinkbox study.

Linear TV viewing (live rather than on demand) has increased by 21%, the most significant category has been previous ‘light’ viewers where this has increased by 51%.  Daytime viewing has surged as has the ABC1 and 16  – 34 audience. This group is essentially those who work full time, have busy lives and have less time in ‘normal life’ for watching  – so they have been previously hard to talk to through TV advertising, making them more valuable.

Shared viewing has increased by 30% and big screen viewing makes up 71% overall – so families are sitting down together rather than watching in isolation – this is a better environment for advertising as it provokes discussion.

Karcher started on TV at the beginning of lockdown when they were restricted by their retailers closing and they saw an increase in their search volume of 300%

Out & Out have spent at a steady £25k a month and have seen more than 5 times the return on spend on their outdoor furniture so are due to start with indoor in June.

So TV has never been better value, there is a high supply of inventory, lower pricing (30% down on this time last year), more flexibility in booking deadlines, higher engagement in TV viewing and if you are targeting ABC1’s then you would typically get a high wastage during daytime (which is offset by pricing but you still can’t reach the younger working population) and now you can literally have your cake and eat it. And here’s one to tempt you:

Gratuitous pic demonstrating homebaking prowess under lockdown

If you are a brand looking to emerge strong from a very low spend to build back some momentum and gain share of voice; a TV advertiser who has tested TV in the past and not seen the returns or you are new to TV altogether – we can help you to take advantage of TV.  It could just help you gain a valuable advantage from the current situation.


Still pretty much ‘business as usual’

As a business we’ve adapted well to this new way of working and the team continues to be incredibly busy – so much so that our media partners tell us we are booking more space than any other DR agency out there.

It’s not all been plain sailing of course; IT can be frustrating and communicating remotely is never as easy as firing a quick question across the office.  We’ve had to come up with solutions to the raft of problems that lockdown has created to ensure we maintain and deliver the range – and high standard –  of services our clients are used to.

Regular phone contact, Zoom meetings and the continued swift turnaround from our creative head and studio team have ensured no time has been lost. And the media team has been quick to create schedules that make the most of the reduced rates and deals they have negotiated.

Helping our clients deal with lockdown.                                                                     We know that clients rely on us for a vast range of services and support and we’ve been very quick to help them make the most of this new situation. We’ve looked carefully at the changes in how media is consumed at home to help clients maximise the new opportunities available. Considering each client individually, we’ve identified how their messages – and their preferred channels –  could be adapted to suit this changing climate. Examples of this include focusing on leisure wear for one client, gift/treat ideas to cheer you or a loved one for another and a budget- friendly radio campaign for one of our gardening clients.  For those clients unable to physically sell their products or services currently, we have suggested cost-effective ways that will maintain customer interest so they are front of mind once selling can resume.

Continuing communications                                                                                           We see a lot of success sending printed pieces by post to help generate new business which in the current climate, with everyone working from home, is no longer viable. So, rather than lose this contact stream we have re-created our printed pieces into digital books.  Although not as tangible, they are easy for people to access and to read in their own time and a particularly useful tool as digital engagement is currently higher than ever.  And where we would usually supply clients with hard copies of their newspaper and magazine adverts, we have been supplying them with detailed digital presentations with the visuals and information so that everything they need, and would usually receive, is clear and concise and to hand.

Working with new clients                                                                                                  We are delighted that, despite the lockdown, we have been approached by two new clients looking for immediate help with their direct response advertising. In both cases, we have been able to respond immediately and have produced ads for both, agreed budgets and created media schedules in the usual way, without any delays. We are very excited to be working with them both.

Even a ‘visit’ from the auditors hasn’t held us back                                     Usually taking over the boardroom for a week, with all files and information close to hand, an audit from external accountants is a relatively straightforward process so we wondered how the remote experience might pan out. Whilst not the easiest of tasks undertaken remotely, we have managed to provide all the information required without too much difficulty and our financial controller – and the auditors – seem to have coped with the situation remarkably well and are still speaking to each other.

We hope our clients, old and new,  and our partners would agree that we are continuing to offer and deliver the level of work and range of services they have become accustomed to and expect. In fact, we are in the process of sending out our client surveys to ask them precisely this so watch this space for further news to see how we are really doing..

It remains to be seen, of course, how long we will continue to work under lockdown but we are glad to report that here at AJ at least, it continues to be pretty much business as usual.

Working from home, love or loathe it?

Ralph (trainee artworker) doesn’t like to be disturbed

At AJ we are endeavouring to maintain ‘business as usual’ wherever possible, which means the team working remotely from home. Clearly a very adaptable and capable bunch, we’ve just got on with it. Like many out there, we continue to keep in touch with each other, our clients and media partners via regular phone calls, Zoom catch ups and of course, many, many emails. Having asked the team for their feedback, it’s been interesting to find out the impact this has had and for those of you also working from home, you might find some common themes…

So, what do we miss? – Each other, apparently. We are social beings and miss the chance to chat and tease – along with getting each other’s opinions and advice, whether that’s thoughts on Boris/Trump/Killing Eve or what goes best with smoked garlic/Manchego/roasted aubergine.

Eva’s impressively tidy spot

And what do we absolutely not miss? The commute. For those spending time travelling between home and office sitting in traffic or battling with public transport, the lack of commute is a real bonus; whether it’s another half hour in bed or just extra time at home, it’s bliss!

Are lunches at home any different? Always interested in others’ food choices I was curious to find out whether people are eating differently at home or whether we are all creatures of habit? It seems there are two camps here: those who have embraced the opportunity to eat more healthily, taking time to prepare more interesting meals, with healthier, fresher food and perhaps following this with a swift lunchtime walk or run…and then there’s those (of us) who relish the opportunity to have a second breakfast or a ‘dinner sized meal’  for lunch and breakfast and embrace the close proximity of the fridge for endless daytime snacking.

Ann’s home study

What difference does WFH make to your job? On a positive note (rather impressively, I think) most of us are getting much more done – without the distractions of the chat that we all miss. But for some, and I count myself in this camp, the lack of camaraderie and visible ‘team spirit’ can be difficult from a motivational point of view. Sitting at a desk at home alone can make it harder to get on with the more tedious jobs or tackle something you are unsure how best to approach and would welcome a little ‘committee advice’.

So, is it harder to do our job at home alone? Overwhelmingly yes – and if not actually harder ‘definitely less enjoyable’. And although we are finding ourselves in many ways more efficient and productive, technology can let us down; slower download speeds at home and working from smaller screens can be frustrating.

So, do we actually prefer to work from home?

It seems the ideal mix is probably a bit of both – flexible working that reduces a commute; provision of some quiet time or a calmer space to concentrate on work with less distractions but also allowing plenty of time to enjoy being part of a great team who work well together and get along too.

Roll on July!



Media Update from Alice Buttling

In a week where we thought things might be getting clearer with the promise of a ‘road map’ to exit lockdown, it seems the opposite has happened and there is more confusion than ever (and frustration I am sure). Not a huge amount has changed on the media landscape, but there is certainly talk of pricing returning to ‘normal’ from June with the ‘lockdown’ deals coming to an end, but this will obviously be dependent on demand, results and circulations from a direct response perspective. Below is a quick snapshot by sector.

Newspapers – the circulations have settled, with winners and losers, but even the ones that decreased have not seen significant drops.  Sunday papers are seeing increases in double figures in the case of Sunday Times and Sun on Sunday.  Circulations were up 6% on average in the week running up to VE day – it was welcome to see news on something other than COVID19.  For the rest of the month at least there will still be some great deals, which will make the CPT lower than pre-lockdown – we have seen many clients getting some of their best ever results and ‘out of season’ spikes thanks to a combination of pricing, engagement and product suitability; in fact for some the biggest issue has been not being able to get enough stock.  For those who have been most impacted by the lockdown in terms of accessing their customers, it could be a good time to take advantage of the prices as we emerge at the end of the month.

TV – still going strong with linear viewing up 21% and VOD viewing up 45%.  The largest increases from 16 – 34 and ABC1 audiences.  72% of viewing is now on the ‘big screen’ taking 10% share from mobiles and the largest increases are from group viewing over individuals.  There is still a large appetite for news with a 45% increase, but also family viewing such as films seeing a 34% rise.  With pricing set to remain low on Channel 4 and ITV (Sky are currently putting their prices back in for June) there has still never been a better time to be on TV.  As recent study by Thinkbox showed their direct sellers web traffic increased by over 300% when they started on TV during lockdown enabling them to sell direct whilst the retailers were closed.

Inserts – third party inserts have struggled to despatch the volumes they forecast as these would have been planned way before any of this happened so there is a bit of catch up in this area, however subs for mags are getting great results and there are many deals to be done as the availability is high due to many advertisers who typically run large insert campaigns pulling out – mainly travel.

Magazines – still a very strong sector with subs high – the real winners being home interest and hobby titles magazines and news/current affairs.  The prices are set to revert for the August issues, out in July, but this will be gradual and there will still be some good deals in these issues I think.  I would expect September to be back on track for them.

Postcard mailing– Now is certainly the time to make contact with your database, whether this is a customer base to cross/upsell to or an enquiry base to start easing into making appointments from existing leads, this will undoubtedly be the most cost effective exercise and it could not be any more flexible or low risk with a printed postcard at 60p, regardless of volume you can dip your toe in and test the water then ramp it up quickly if the results look good.

Mail newspapers carried out some research with their readers and found that 1 in 3 of those surveyed have bought from e commerce sites they have not used before, 50% of those who have not ordered online groceries before have done so for the first time and intent to continue.  They have seen a 56% increase in use of their voucher code site in April and people are saying that they will choose to come out of lockdown very slowly – with mail order purchasing being favoured over high street retail.  Now is the time to make a good impression and reap the benefits of changed consumer behaviour – more virtual meetings, online shopping and less face to face contact.  Top of the list for when lockdown ends though is getting a haircut and having a beauty treatment so that we can emerge back into society without the Zoom filters.

Alice Buttling, MD, 15th May 2020

The ‘no plan’ media plan

As we came out of April we would usually be thinking about media plans for June; as a short term agency we don’t tend to plan too much ahead so are used to working short term. This year however, we are looking at May and forecasting for Q3 has gone completely out of the window. This is the ‘no plan media plan’: no commitment, no budgets, no pressure and I quite like it.

Every client is in a unique situation right now, all have challenges (some greater than others) but there are opportunities too.  We have found that by taking each week (and sometimes each day) one at time, we can maintain a steady flow of spend, look at results as they come in and make a decision about what to do tomorrow based on these.

So how did April shape up? Some clients have had to fully exercise the furlough scheme as it makes no sense for them to try to operate in the current market, so they are ‘on hold’ but actually still receiving a steady flow of interest for when they can function again.  Others have remained fully functioning as a business, despite not being able to sell, and used the time to ‘tidy the classroom at the end of term’ poised in a very strong position to hit the ground running as soon as they can.  We are still running ads in their key titles at much reduced rates to maintain momentum.

Finally, we have the ‘operators’ –  those who have been able to function (albeit with some adaptions and restrictions) with staff working from home, factories running with half capacity, deliveries no longer being signed for and people’s acceptance that delivery does not have to happen the next day.  For some the main issue has been stock: things selling too well and reduced ability to re-stock; but for a number of our clients we have seen our best ever results from individual ads.  With buying rates at rock bottom, circulations still strong and engagement still high it is very much possible to get amazing results from advertising.

So what about May?

With some lifting of lockdown what will be the impact?  I don’t know – but I do believe that the majority of people will still favour mail order over standing in a queue outside a shop, 2m apart, 1 person at a time. Socially distanced shopping will remain only for those shopping for necessities or for those who have a really strong desire to obtain something particular – there is no real  pleasure to be gained from retail shopping for the foreseeable future.  Beyond that we will continue to monitor daily as the responses and the deals come in – the beauty of direct response is you get to see exactly what your £1 spent has generated so you can justify (or not) the next ad.

So no predictions for the future just yet – except perhaps a baby boom in the New Year – as among the busiest websites currently (gardening, home learning and DIY) are Love Honey, whose sales are doing particularly well during the enforced ‘stay at home’!

Alice Buttling, MD & Media Director


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