September has brought about more change and innovation as brands continue to adapt – and thrive – in this increasingly digital-focused world. Local lockdowns may be on the rise but so are marketing budgets as brands step up their efforts to reconnect with customers.
So what are the biggest stories this month and which brands should you be watching? As always, we’ve curated a newsworthy mix of our favourite digital headlines.
Find out all the latest from social, Google, and brands below.
The Latest Social News
Closed captions arrive on IGTV
Facebook has offered auto-captions on video uploads since 2017, but now the feature is being rolled out to IGTV as part of a wider accessibility campaign. Facebook explained:
“While there is no shortage of information, not everyone can access it. It needs to be available to the hundreds of millions of people in the world who are deaf or hard of hearing. According to the World Health Organization, over 5% of the world’s population – or 466 million people – have disabling hearing loss, and that is projected to increase to over 900 million by 2050.”
Besides increased accessibility and inclusion, closed captioning has a wider appeal, with many users choosing to watch videos with the sound off as a preference. In recent insights, Facebook revealed captioned ads score 48 per cent higher in relevance to viewers, and lead to a 42 per cent higher purchase intent in lab studies. For Instagram, the addition of auto-captions to IGTV videos also distinguishes the platform from TikTok, where captioning isn’t an option.
Instagram hasn’t yet revealed whether similar auto-captioning options will be added to Stories and Reels too. On IGTV, there are 16 language options to choose from with the new feature.
Facebook removes ad text restrictions
In a move that is sure to thrill advertisers, the 20 per cent text limit on Facebook ads is being scrapped. Following a trial in April, Facebook will now no longer automatically reject images if they feature too much text.
Before you celebrate though, there’s more. The amount of text your ads feature will now determine which of four new categories they will sit in: “Ok”, “Low”, “Medium” and “High”, with Facebook limiting your ad’s reach for everything above “Ok”. For the most text-heavy category, Facebook warns, “you may not reach your audience if you use this much text”.
Both Facebook and Instagram have maintained that audiences prefer adverts with less text as a justification for ad text limits. So, why have the restrictions been scrapped? The simple answer: to increase the platform’s ad revenue.
The question is, should you increase your ad text now that the option is there? We’re not convinced.
TikTok reveals data on content removals
US negotiations on the sale of TikTok may be ongoing, but in the meantime, the app has published its latest transparency report. One significant insight from the report is how much content has been removed in the past year – and why. The top reasons for video removal included:
- Adult nudity and sexual activities (30.9 per cent)
- Minor safety (20.3 per cent)
- Illegal activities and regulated goods (19.6 per cent)
There have been significantly more videos removed in 2020 than in the previous reporting period. TikTok stated:
“In the first half of 2020 (January 1 – June 30), 104,543,719 videos were removed globally for violating our Community Guidelines or Terms of Service.”
This compares to 49,247,689 videos removed between July and December 2019 – less than half of the 2020 total.
Is it a cause for concern that video removal has seen such a large spike? While the increase in post violations is bad news, it is also a reflection on TikTok’s rapid growth and popularity. As TikTok notes, the 2020 total represents “less than 1% of all videos uploaded on TikTok”, which means there have been at least 10 billion video clips uploaded to TikTok in the first half of 2020 – a large increase.
TikTok is keen to emphasise that it removes the vast majority of videos before anyone views them, but efforts to curb misuse and misinformation should remain a priority.
You can view the full transparency report from TikTok here.
The Latest Google News
Businesses get new search listing options
In an effort to help businesses advertise updated service offerings, Google is adding new options for listings on Google My Business. The additional options reflect how business has been changing throughout the COVID-19 crisis, capturing service changes, pick-up options, and more.
“You can now highlight dining service attributes like ‘Dine-in’ and ‘Takeout.’ Soon you’ll be able to feature retail service attributes, like ‘In-store shopping’ and ‘Curbside pickup.’”
With searches for “curbside pick up” having increased globally by 3,000 per cent year on year, being able to highlight this option is not only a practical advantage but may increase businesses’ visibility, too.
As well as tapping into changing customer behaviours, it is hoped that the new listing options will help reduce in-store shopping time and enable better social distancing.
It’s well worth updating your business profile in light of these updates: the closer your digital listings match up with the needs of your audience, the better the results. So, to get started, simply log into Google My Business and update the relevant fields in your profile options.
Google rolling out video appointments and online classes for businesses
Google is currently testing new options to enable businesses to offer video appointments and online classes with Google My Business. A spokesperson said:
“Merchants can already note on their Business Profiles that they offer virtual services and add links for booking online appointments. We’re testing some new functionality to help merchants easily get started with video conferencing providers so they can begin offering virtual services.”
The new features will likely require businesses to have a Reserve with Google relationship to enable scheduling functionality, though this has not yet been confirmed.
The availability of online classes and consultations represent a shift in how small businesses will deliver their services going forward, and this new functionality from Google could prove useful in terms of advertising new, online-only products and services.
The Latest Brand News
Seventy-year-old brand Uncle Ben’s rebrands
Following criticism that the Uncle Ben’s brand promoted racial stereotyping through its name and image, Mars is rebranding the 70-year-old rice range.
The well-known brand will change its name to Ben’s Original, dropping the “uncle” and the image of a black man.
Since the 1940s, the image of Uncle Ben’s has been a white-haired black man, sometimes with a bow tie. Mars said the character was originally modelled after a Chicago maître d’ named Frank Brown – critics argue the image evokes servitude.
In response to news of the rebrand, Mars Food global president of multisales and global customers, Fiona Dawson, said:
“Over the past several weeks, we have listened to thousands of consumers, our own associates and other stakeholders from around the world… We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the previous brand, and as we announced in June, we have committed to change.”
It’s unsure exactly what the new face of Ben’s will be, as the new brand image is yet to be decided. However, the brand is just one of many changing its image in the wake of BLM protests and heightened public awareness – others include Quaker Oats, who are dropping their Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake brand, and Washington’s NFL franchise which is dropping its “Redskins” name and Indian head logo.
Beyond the brand name and image, Mars has pledged to show commitment to racial equality, with plans to run community outreach programmes, offer enhanced education opportunities for more than 7,500 students, and to support aspiring black chefs through a $2 million scholarship fund.
Next ramps up marketing spend following lockdown hiatus
By pausing its marketing spend during lockdown, Next made a £21 million saving. As well as pausing their digital marketing, the brand also stopped producing printed catalogues and cut its photography investment, all in a bid to support its supply chain and cope with increased demand.
Now, Next is ramping back up its marketing efforts and expects ad expenditure to return to normal in the second half of the year. Chief Executive Lord Wolfson said:
“Whilst the pandemic has been hugely traumatic and very expensive for the company, there have been some good things that have come out of it in terms of what we’ve learnt about how we can operate… It has accelerated the pace at which we’ve developed new opportunities for the group.”
As well as marketing, Next is confident things will return to normal on the shop floor, too – it anticipates the majority of its 3,500 furloughed staff will return to work in the run-up to Christmas as demand increases. It remains to be seen how exactly Christmas shopping will look on UK high streets this year, but by Next’s predictions, there may still be a festive rush.
Campaign of the Month
Heinz and Magic Breakfast target child hunger
An estimated 1 in 5 children are currently at risk of going to school hungry. Heinz has just launched a new campaign with charity Magic Breakfast to help combat child hunger, in partnership with BBH London.
In the 90-second illustrated film, a young girl named Jess goes to school haunted by a scary monster, “The Rumble”, which makes it hard for her to concentrate and learn at school. A teacher explains the monster is hunger and helps Jess by introducing her to a Magic Breakfast club.
The campaign will be further supported by an “Empty Plate” illustration of London’s South Bank and a social media campaign. Heinz will also be providing 12 million free breakfasts with this partnership.
Heinz Beanz brand build lead, Matt Mill, said:
“We’re passionate about helping solve child food poverty in the UK and our work with Magic Breakfast can help fuel children towards a better day at school.”
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