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Exploring FOOH: Is the future of marketing synthetic?

The rise of fake-out-of-home media and its implications for the marketing industry

By Jordan Carroll, Robert Stevenson and Jonnie Owen

Wednesday, 20th of September 2023

How many times in the past 15 years have you lectured your frustratingly undiscerning close ones – usually those older than you – for believing everything they see on the internet? Well, life comes at you fast, doesn’t it? In 2023, you might now find yourself scratching your head, watching smartphone camera footage of giant Jacquemus bags cruising along the streets of Paris. You’re looping the video for the second or third time, squinting, then asking yourself: it can’t be real, can it?

This new form of reality-bending media has been dubbed as FOOH (or fake-out-of-home), and has been the burning topic on the marketing world’s lips for the entirety of the summer. The art form usually involves the addition of giant CGI products to mobile-shot footage of OOH city locations. Seemingly, the objective is to capture attention by duping audiences into a short state of disbelief, poking them to ask the question: is this real or not?

After months of fanfare has continued to grow for this type of media with each viral execution, right on time, we now have an alternative thread of discourse which stands to shine a negative light on FOOH. Is FOOH misleading audiences? Is it harmful to the OOH industry? Is it quickly getting very old and tired, anyway? The answer to each of those questions requires a nuanced one.

We turned to our Innovation team to help answer each of these questions. On the topic of potential harm to audiences via deception, our Innovation Director, Jordan, says that this is a common concern with the advent of new media formats:

“We have historically always had a tendency to invest blind trust in new centralised sources of truth, especially those driven by new, sophisticated technologies, which get closer and closer to seeming like real-life. You might think that tension contains itself solely to the internet age, but this definitely isn’t the case.

85 years ago, when a relatively new media format in radio reached mass adoption in the US, a radio drama broadcast of The War of the Worlds contained a news bulletin detailing aspects of a Martian invasion. Lo and behold, droves of war-anxious audiences believed it to be true, as they had just newly become heavily reliant on radio for their news. 

Things like this are all par for the course with new media formats, until the right regulation is introduced and the format becomes familiar. But in the instance of FOOH, in my view, there is little to no room for harming audiences through deception, apart from those who are sensitive to feeling a bit foolish for believing!”

In fact, instead of harming audiences, FOOH seems to be getting mass buy-in because of its artificiality, showing that any perceptions of this format getting old or tired are solely contained in our marketing bubble. Taken from a sample of FOOH content during the months April to August 2023 (Tagger), brands that have jumped in have achieved 1,701% – 16,441% more engagement on their FOOH videos than on the average engagement from their previous 30 posts, with the best examples of success coming from fashion and beauty. 

Maybelline’s Sky High mascara example is perhaps the most viral, depicting the attachment of giant eyelashes to the top of a tube train, which are brushed by a giant Maybelline mascara as it drives by. This video alone achieved 451% more engagement than their previous 30 posts combined, with droves of positive sentiment centered around the fact they actually loved the deceptive nature of the ad.

Despite the fact marketers continually evangelise for authenticity at any cost, Jonnie, our Music Partnerships manager, believes that audiences are more than willing to suspend their desire for authenticity in order to be entertained on social media

“First of all, it’s important to point out that entertainment and authenticity are never mutually exclusive. Live music, family vlogs, and documentaries can be just as entertaining as a fictional Netflix series.

But content that is absent of authenticity allows our imaginations as marketers to run wild and ensure that there is diversity and innovation in the media we are consuming. Consumers do not want the same old, same old every time they open the app, and I would stress that we as an industry do not want this either!

Ultimately, we are in a dogfight for attention everyday, and for that reason, there has never been a greater need to be inventive. My view is that invention exists more in a frame of mind that pushes authenticity further down the menu and prioritises entertainment, like FOOH does. And why shouldn’t we use a medium that helps us achieve incredible organic results at a time when we’re all being asked for our budgets to work harder?!”

@maybelline 📣 All aboard the Sky High Mascara Express ✨🚄 After hitting the NYC Streets, we’re taking over London💂🇬🇧 We are on the move with #SkyHighMascara elevating your lash game to new heights🌤️ 🌇 it’s guaranteed to serve limitless lash length 📏 and full volume😍 #Maybelline ♬ original sound - Maybelline New York

Of course, just because examples so far haven’t been harmful, it doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye altogether. As AI democratises skills for everybody and allows for the generation of synthetic audio, imagery, and deep fakes, there is an industry wide need for legislation which enforces the labelling of assets that are artificial, especially those masquerading as the real thing. FOOH also exists in this world.

Whilst each platform develops its own solutions – with X (Twitter) opting for crowdsourcing moderation with community notes, TikTok asking for self-moderation with threat of consequence, and Meta releasing self-labeling tools if you use their AI – we are embarking upon a messy ecosystem where there is indisputably more margin for audience harm.

Agencies like Ogilvy have taken it on themselves to self-label when content has been produced through use of AI, and if a joined up effort from social platforms is too much to ask, it may fall on the industry to help create best practice with legislators in order to protect our own industry from any potential disrepute upon the horizon.

When you peel away concerns about consumer harm and the potential longevity of FOOH, you’re left addressing the concerns of the OOH industry. It’s within this arena where your empathy should be most directed, as FOOH is a sample of what is to come when our environments become virtual, immersive, and removed from the real world. The real world where JCDecaux, Clear Channel, Global Outdoor, TFL, and others rule the roost. 

McKinsey found that Gen Z, millennials, and Gen X consumers expect to spend between four and five hours a day in the metaverse in the next five years, where large-scale brand advertisement will be completely democratised, without limits, and potentially, completely decentralised, too. 

The metaverse is completely at odds with authenticity, where humans adopt avatar appearances to explore synthetic worlds, with a goal to be entertained through escapism. Is the outrage at FOOH a sign of the resistance that legacy marketers will have as we edge closer and closer to the future of online media? Ocean have already pioneered in examples of DOOH in specific immersive environments, but decentralisation and fragmentation will mean OOH buyers need to be nimble-footed.

Our Business Strategist, Rob, believes metaverses could completely reimagine the way in which media is bought, which is why the whole industry should be wise to the implications that Web3 brings with it:

“Augmented Reality and CGI / FOOH ads are a stepping stone to virtual worlds. Media fragmentation means that competition for attention is at an all time high and is only headed in one direction.

Clearly not many people are prepared to wear massive VR headsets just yet, however, Apple Vision Pro may be the driver the industry is looking for. Of course, younger generations, such as Gen Alpha may come to be considered VR natives, who have moved way beyond the current question of ‘is this real?’

In virtual worlds, marketing will evolve further and take different forms. We already see static in-game billboards sitting alongside race-tracks, advertising Gatorade – but this is a rudimentary version of what could be.

The direction of travel appears to involve the democratisation of CGI tools and a user preference to play with and remix brands. Combined, I believe we will see companies open up their brand assets, enabling creators in spaces such as Roblox, Sandbox and Fortnite to produce fantastic CGI, which is a fundamentally different way of assessing brand engagement.

In the meantime, we’re at an interesting juncture: Web 2.5. Where virtual and IRL co-exist and blend, but there are no rules, benchmarks or disclosure.”

Why are We shopping more on ugly apps?

Chinese e-commerce apps look busy to keep customers busy buying

By Jordan Carroll

Thursday, 7th of September 2023

Picture this. You’re online shopping and see a silicone head-massager that looks like a torture device. Next, a rainbow of miniature Crocs attached to a keyring, closely followed by a plastic rocket launcher with 40 barrels that fire fairy liquid bubbles.

There’s also timers everywhere. Interruptive pop-ups. Reams of cramped text. Zero white space. Does this read like a description of the #1 app in the United States?

Well, that’s exactly what Temu is. It’s an online marketplace containing an endless raft of wacky products, set to hit $1bn monthly gross merchandise value in 2023. If sensory overload is your thing then you’re in luck. This app has one design principle and one design principle only: stay busy.

Temu is not alone with this ‘stay busy’ ethos. Whether it’s Ali Baba, Ali Express, JD.com, VIP.com, or SHEIN, Chinese e-commerce apps are consistently achieving success in the West, in spite of the formulaically eyesore app experience they strive for. It seems like the sole aim with each of these apps is to cram as much content into a single scroll as possible.

And culturally, there are a whole raft of reasons that explain why that might be precisely the case. Logographic languages like Chinese are visually more dense than English, with no spaces between words, and higher character complexity. This allows readers of Chinese to process more information, in more compact spaces, in a shorter period of time. Ultimately, it’s more efficient to cramp content.

The complexity of single Chinese characters also means that designers find no use for Westernised typographic rules. Large, practical and uniformed styles are favoured to make text as legible as possible, leading to the overwhelming of a Western eye that is used to clearly stylised headings, sub-headings and body copy.

The proliferation of mobile web in China predated smart phones, meaning flip phones were used to browse the web, with less processing power and less digital real estate to display content. Websites were resultantly designed with as much content in one page as possible to limit loading, a principle which still exists today.

And surely one look at Hong Kong, one of the world’s major cities of commerce, has some pointed influence. Rambunctious streetscapes of neon ads, busy crowds and sweeping traffic, vibrant streets of markets, bustling beneath towering modern skyscrapers. Commerce in Hong Kong is visual stimulation 101, and it’s also a real life manifestation of what the shopping experience is like on Chinese apps.

So, being busy makes good sense for Chinese customers, but why do these design principles make their way to the West?

Ultimately, this design works in line with the business objectives of Chinese e-commerce apps in the West, in spite of how this might affect its appearance. An app’s design and interface sits very closely with the brand, and Temu for instance, is inherently anti-brand. It’s a marketplace for white label, non-branded products to thrive. Goods are sold directly to customers from factories in China for the cheapest possible price. 

There is no brand image to build, no brand story to tell, no brand values to uphold, no brand love to harbour. Customers are paying purely for the product. And the same can be said for all the other aforementioned Chinese e-commerce brands.

Therefore, any design element to create brand-love is abandoned in favour of elements that are data-engineered to drive you to checkout. This data-led decision making is known as horse racing, where multiple teams are assigned to build the same feature with slight variations. All versions are tested at a huge scale, with businesses like Temu leveraging China’s one billion internet users through their sister companies in the East. 

They then optimise their apps before exporting the learnings overseas and scaling. Everything that appears within the app is incrementally engineered to drive more transactions, even if these developments are made to the detriment of how the app might look. We’re seeing marketing experts evangelise for experimenting with ugly ads because invariably they work

Clearly ugly apps are also a winning formula. 

With all that said, once you peel back the chaotic front-end, you will find that businesses like Temu are not solely feats of Eastern engineering. Rather, they are unsustainable business models, powered by great tech, backed with a bottomless pit of cash and driven by a sole objective: scale user adoption by any means possible.

How does that manifest itself in strategy? Whilst the exact fees that Temu take in transactions aren’t known holistically, its sister company Pinduoduo only charges a commission of 0.6% for each sale. With many products listed for less than $1, that’s an extremely small charge for what the platform offers in exchange to sellers: acquisition, payment, logistics, partnerships. 

Add to this the fact that the creator economy is also invited to join the Temu Affiliate Program and earn up to 20% commission on affiliate sales, with a $5 sweetener for each new download they drive, that’s an eye-watering expense on top of a paper thin margin.

Resultantly, it has been reported the average loss on each order on Temu is currently $30, and the expense doesn’t stop there. Changing shopping habits is a big traffic play, which is expensive from an advertising perspective. Temu know this and are not shying away: they reportedly plan on spending $1.4 billion on advertising campaigns in the US this year, and $4.3 billion next year. How is that bottom line going to look?

Being a loss-making enterprise in tech is no new and novel practice exclusive to Chinese e-commerce apps, but what happens when these apps feel they have achieved the minimum viable DAUs to change gears and start striving for profitability?

Heavily subsidising sellers and consumers can’t continue if Temu wants to be profitable, and as soon as the huge discounts are not found on Temu, purchases on those nice-to-have products will dry up. Pumping a bottomless pit of cash into sales-focused paid ads is not sustainable, as customers need something more when price isn’t the only driving factor.

That something more is called brand and customer experience, both of which are currencies that Temu do not value. Temu has already been subject to more than 30 complaints to the Better Business Bureau with a score of less than 1.5 stars, with concerns lodged about losing packages, sending incorrect orders and product quality issues.

By acting as a middle man between Chinese factories and Western customers, and having a proposition centred on sending non-branded products for as low cost as possible, it feels like this will be par for the course for Temu or any other e-commerce app that follows the same operational template.

Is this the tension which TikTok Shop can thrive within? TikTok Shop is inviting Western brands to house their shops within the platform’s e-commerce infrastructure, using the same app design principles that all successful Chinese e-commerce apps follow. But whilst Temu has no reason to visit beyond price, TikTok is where product discovery takes place, with conversion available within a few taps, on your favourite brands, as well as the zany products you might find on Temu.

TikTok has also already spent its billions hitting the sky-high daily active users needed to make this a sustainable play, and those users open the app to consume content from influential creators responsible for deciding which products are in vogue. Their own localised fulfilment centres will also deliver products within timeframes that align with Western competitors. With all of these factors priced in, you would assume that it will be TikTok Shop which is able to win the battle for Western wallets.

The jury is still out on that. Case studies are being released pointing towards singular examples of success, but TikTok will also go down the same path of subsidising creators, consumers and sellers in order to drive adoption and try to own every step of purchase decision-making. One thing’s for certain: e-commerce in the West is never going to stand still thanks to the influence of the East.

Trendsetters: The Rise of Finfluencers

A breakdown of why finfluencers are impacting our financial decision making

By Bella Hales

Wednesday, 30th of August 2023

In recent years, a new breed of influencers has emerged, capturing the attention of millions across various different social media platforms. Known as ‘finfluencers, these individuals have gained remarkable popularity by offering financial advice, tips, and strategies to their growing audience. With their engaging content and expertise in personal finance, they have effectively carved out a space in the financial advisory landscape.

Here, we explore the multitude of reasons as to why finfluencers are taking over the financial social space, and explore the impact of their influence on individuals’ financial decision-making.

Accessibility and Relatability

One of the main reasons behind the increase in of finfluencers is their ability to make financial advice more accessible and relatable to a wider audience. Unlike traditional financial advisors who may seem intimidating or unapproachable, finfluencers use social media platforms to share their knowledge in a casual and engaging manner. They break down complex financial concepts into digestible bites, making it easier for people with little to no financial background to understand and implement the advice. They also often share their personal experiences, including financial successes and failures, fostering a sense of authenticity that resonates with their audience. This genuine connection builds trust, leading their followers to consider their advice more seriously.

Millennial and Gen Z Appeal

The rise of finfluencers is closely tied to the demographic shift in the audience seeking financial advice. Millennials and Gen Z, in particular, form a significant portion of their followers. These younger generations often prefer digital platforms and social media for information consumption, finding more affinity with influencers who understand their unique financial challenges, such as student loan debt, housing affordability, and gig economy work.

Educational Content and Empowerment

Finfluencers have made it their mission to increase financial literacy among their followers. They offer educational content that covers a wide range of topics including budgeting, saving, investing, and retirement planning. By empowering their audience with knowledge, they encourage them to take charge of their finances and make informed decisions. With the cost of living crisis in full force, this is something that is more in demand than ever.

Community Building and Peer Support

Finfluencers excel at community building, creating supportive environments where their followers can interact, share experiences, and learn from one another. This sense of belonging can be particularly valuable for those who might feel isolated or overwhelmed by financial challenges. The community aspect fosters a collaborative learning space where members can openly discuss their financial journeys without judgement.

Digital Disruption in Financial Services

The rise of finfluencers coincides with a broader trend of digital disruption in the financial services industry. Fintech innovations, robo-advisors, and online investment platforms have already transformed how individuals access financial products and services. Finfluencers fit into this evolving landscape, offering a human touch and personalised guidance that complements the convenience of digital financial tools.

It must be said that taking advice from finfluencers does come with its own risks. In a recent interview with the Financial Times, finance expert Bola Sol explained how ‘the accessibility of social media means new creators crop up frequently and produce content that takes advantage of people.’ There are, however, new measures being introduced to tackle the new social financial landscape. 

Money Week reports how the Financial Conduct Authority and the Advertising Standards Authority have teamed up to warn finfluencers that some financial promotions could be a criminal offence and aims to provide them with clear guidelines to follow which they should check before agreeing to promote products.

As a result, many financial influencers are taking the IFA (independent financial advisor) certification to boost their credibility and expand their content. Experts like John Sommerville, head of learning at the London Institute of Banking and Finance, are huge advocates for this, arguing that “if creators aren’t educated enough, there’s a risk that somebody may be put into some form of financial distress.”

Overall, it is clear that the rise of finfluencers represents a paradigm shift in financial advice and education. With their accessible and relatable approach, they have successfully reached and inspired a vast audience, particularly Gen Z and millennials.

While traditional financial advisors and institutions still play a crucial role, finfluencers have demonstrated their impact in increasing financial literacy, building trust, and empowering individuals to take control of their financial futures. As with any source of financial advice, however, it is essential for followers to exercise discernment, cross-reference information, and consider professional advice when making significant financial decisions.

TikTok’s strategy to dethrone Amazon? Uninvite them from the party

THE FIFTH’s Innovation Director delves into Big Tech paranoia

By Jordan Carroll

Tuesday, 29th of August 2023

Seated in the grandstands of the bloody coliseum known as Big Tech, we watch as the world’s biggest companies carve lumps out of one another for global dominance and the relevance of an adage like “only the paranoid survive” becomes strikingly clear. First articulated by Intel’s CEO Andrew Grove in 1996, this adage has stood as a guiding principle for big tech over the past three decades, illuminating the unforgiving landscape where vigilance reigns supreme.

In last week’s showing of big tech vigilance, we once again saw the formidable challenger TikTok advancing with their guard up against Amazon in a pursuit to topple them as the e-commerce incumbent. A new report from The Information suggests that TikTok will throw the kitchen sink at e-commerce from a funding perspective, adding $500m losses to their P&L in pursuit of dominance whilst most notably, introducing a policy to ban links from their platform to outside e-commerce sites – including Amazon. 

Amazon had TikTok paranoia back in 2020 when they aimed to ban the social app on employee devices, and perhaps that paranoia was well placed.

While TikTok denies what is claimed in the report, evidence has been mounting over the past three years that TikTok, piloted by the Eastern e-commerce powerhouse Bytedance, is coming for Amazon’s lunch. After forming a partnership with Shopify and WooCommerce; introducing affiliates; conducting a sustained period of experimentation with Live Commerce; launching shopping ads, opening TikTok-owned fulfilment centres; rolling out product search ads and a Shopping feed, then finally releasing their in-app Shop for all brands and creators; TikTok have been gaining serious ground. Bezos can only watch through the gaps in his fingers.

This latest development, if true and unleashed at the right time, would cause serious disruption in the e-commerce space. And what would a big tech battle be without a vein of irony? 

The Financial Times recently reported that TikTok is rolling out an in-app product promotion called Trendy Beat. This shopping feature will showcase TikTok-owned products that have been manufactured based on in-app data. If the product is popular, TikTok will copy it, probably for cheaper, then sell it directly to customers. These are the exact fundamentals of Amazon’s growth strategy, and you can bet dollars for donuts that TikTok will in the not-so-distant future be accused of copying viral products, then prioritising their own white label products in favour of the original brand’s product. Just like Amazon has been accused of.

This is the specific tension which should terrify brands. 

After brands have invested years into a platform that has helped them gain strong organic and paid returns, all whilst positioning them authentically towards Gen Z culture in a meaningful way, and beckoning in an era of shopping and social that is more tightly woven than ever before, we will now see that same platform use the data from yours and millions of other brand’s investment to cut themselves off a much bigger slice at your expense. This is whilst limiting your ability to drive clicks towards your favoured storefront. We should have seen this coming when the platform birthed dupe culture.

TikTok is now in a race against itself to drive mass adoption of their shop offering. Clearly they believe they have the cultural clout to own the shopping process outright from awareness to conversion. 

Of course, Amazon logistically is an absolute beast, with over 185 fulfilment centres globally, 9.7m registered sellers, and most importantly, the ability to ship with next day delivery to their 300m customers worldwide. But with TikTok owning their own fulfilment centres, could they be inching closer to offering a next day delivery service of their own? 

With TikTok expected to reach 1.8bn users by the end of the year, all of which average 95 minutes’ usage per week, as well as the fact the platform is hugely responsible for the creation of virality around products right now, they’ve become an irresistible prospect – or a frightening one – depending on whether you are a customer, or if you are Jeff Bezos.

There are aspects of the app which also need to align to ensure TikTok can make a dent in Amazon. Of course, their FYP algorithm is well suited to deliver you relevant products with scary accuracy, meaning organic awareness nested with surprise and delight is a great emotion to tap into when trying to drive shopping behaviour. The affiliate payouts are reportedly not bad, considering one creator netted 20% commission on a sale, where Amazon reportedly ranges from 1-20%. But search is a huge reason why Amazon is so convenient. They seemingly sell everything and make discovery completely frictionless – with reviews playing a huge part in that journey – meaning that more often than not, your research within the app drives you down-funnel tidily towards purchase. 

TikTok does not yet boast the power of Amazon’s search engine, nor does it boast the decades of data – including reviews – that Amazon has. When users do search on TikTok, the power of the creator content that exists there is arguably the most powerful discovery content that can possibly be leveraged. Therefore, if TikTok can truly nail search, offer next day delivery, and drive mass seller adoption, you would start to seriously consider the app as a destination for shopping as a consumer.

If you think Amazon’s paranoia should reside solely in the realm of e-commerce, then you would be wrong. Amazon has recognised that to keep consumers within your ecosystem, you need to add an insane amount of value, which is why their Prime subscription houses so many products to make it a no brainer for consumers. Whilst Amazon does not break down the profitability of each of its business segments, half of its Prime revenue is spent on maintaining their streaming on-demand platform Prime Video, with total expenses across Prime Video and Prime Music coming in at $16.6 billion in 2022 against revenues of $35.22bn. That’s before you even consider the logistical cost of delivering their bread and butter at a next day turnaround. Package this up with Prime Gaming, Amazon Day, Amazon Photos, Whole Foods discounts, Twitch subs, and Prime Reading, and you’re talking a lot of added value to make sure consumers keep shopping with you.

How will TikTok compete on those grounds? Well, the platform has been expanding its offerings in many of those areas to varying degrees of scale. It recently launched TikTok Music in select countries, a music streaming platform which clearly will be favoured by Gen Z listeners who are able to support their favourite artists via merchandise, music, and exposure – all within one app. They launched Series, which allows creators to pay-gate premium content: not a stretch on the value offered by Prime Video, but the first step on a long, steep path. TikTok has its own coin donation economy, similar to Twitch’s subs and bits, which allows users to support their favourite creators. Furthermore, TikTok is venturing into mobile gaming, live sports streaming with the NFL and X Games, and even launching a publisher model for creators called 8th Note Press.


Introducing TikTok Series 🥁 Our new premium feature enables creators to post Collections of up to 80 videos, each up to 20 minutes long 🙌

♬ original sound - TikTok Newsroom

With these developments, whilst Elon Musk talks up a good game about making X the everything app, it seems that TikTok is actively building it for both creators and consumers. By offering a similarly eclectic range of services, including music streaming, gaming, content creation tools, and e-commerce, TikTok is positioning itself as a one-stop platform for entertainment and shopping, locking horns with Amazon on more than on ground. Once they reach a product viability level with the right levels of adoption across each of their business divisions, a TikTok subscription to give you all of this value included with free next day delivery would really put the cat among the pigeons.

How can Amazon respond? 

They could make their Shopping platform more social, like Google is doing. Launching Shorts and nesting vertical creator-led content in searches is clearly driven by the adage “only the paranoid survive” in mind. I’m sure Amazon can try to look to Congress and anti-competition for a helping hand. But as they fight anti-competition battles of their own, I’m not sure how much favour they will curry, beyond faux patriotism and anti-China agendas. It seems the plucky challenger has a lot going for it, and clearly, a lack of other challengers with the same strategy. If you zoom out from the battle taking place in the centre of the coliseum between Amazon and TikTok, you can see Meta in the periphery, acquiring VR headset companies ahead of Apple to ensure their metaverse move is bulletproof, whilst copying Twitter wholesale and aiming to improve the things that X users are complaining about on their app via the launch of Threads. Meta have winded down their ecommerce plays in favour of these battles, and you wonder whether they may regret that in coming years.

Why are influencer pr trips so controversial?

We look at how badly PR trips can go, and what happens when they go right

By Laina Claydon

Friday, 18th of August 2023

PR trips are a little controversial of late, aren’t they? We’ve seen an influx of brands send content creators on trips with free airfare, accommodation and products in exchange for posting content. These types of trips aren’t exactly new, but since travel has opened back up again it might seem as though there have been a lot more influencer PR trips happening up and down our social media feeds. The hashtag #brandtrip on TikTok, for example, has 134.1 million views and counting. 

A lot of these trips have been received negatively and rightly so, while others have shown exactly why they’re worth it when they’re done right. 


The most recent influencer-PR trip to hit the headlines came from Shein. The fast fashion brand took a group of influencers to their factory in China to get an inside look at how their garments are designed, manufactured and shipped, and used it as an opportunity to change people’s opinions on the sustainability of the brand. Audiences soon began questioning the influencers’ decision to accept the invitation from Shein despite the numerous reports alleging labour abuses, potential use of hazardous materials, poor working conditions, and contribution to the climate crisis. Both the brand and influencers that took part in the trip were lambasted on social media and it soon became a lesson on how not to do a PR trip.

Lots of brands have also been slammed for a lack of diversity on creator-press trips. Lifestyle blogger Kirsty Merrett shared her thoughts in June, tweeting: “Is it just me who is seeing press trips and events with less and less diversity?!”. Beauty creator Gary Thompson aka The Plastic Boy also asked on Threads last week: “Is it me or have we got back to 2019 I’m seeing events and PR trips with no inclusivity! No boys, No POC, just straight up copy and paste”. 

There’s also been cases where brands or events have tried to raise their profile by inviting large content creators to attend, even if the person hasn’t expressed an interest in them or what they do. TikTok It-girl Madeline Argy told her followers the story of being invited to the F1 and even got the chance to meet drivers like Lando Norris, despite admitting she knows nothing about Formula 1 and therefore had nothing to say to him. Fans of the sport quickly took to social media to complain that ‘it’s like a slap in the actual F1 fans faces’. 

Some brands have, however, got it right. 

@jackwills The party HAS ARRIVED 🔥 Welcoming the Jack Wills Ski Squad to the chalet 🎉 Remember to shop all these looks via the link in our bio ✨ #JWSkiSZN #JackWills @George @Mariam @Maddie Grace Jepson @Joseppi Baggzelini @Grace @coleandersonj @yourboymoyo @max_balegde @georgeclarkeey @bambinobecky ♬ Canyons - Official Sound Studio

There was a time when Jack Wills was extremely popular. Fashion brands Abercrombie, Hollister and Jack Wills were the epitome of cool for teenagers up and down the country and they featured on every young person’s Christmas wishlist. Recently, Jack Wills has had a comeback. Their rebrand has certainly got them talked about again on social media, after they made a group of UK-based TikTokers the faces of the brand, sending them on photoshoots and taking them on multiple holidays where they wore Jack Wills throughout. All you need to do is type ‘Jack Wills’ into the TikTok search bar to see the influencers they chose to take part, from Max Balegde to GK Barry, Joe and George Baggs, alongside others.

Earlier this year, they launched their ski collection by taking the group of prominent UK TikTokers aka the ‘Jack Wills Ski Squad’ on a ski trip. This was similar to when they launched their summer collection last year and flew them out on a private jet to stay in a luxury villa – and audiences loved it. With a cost of living crisis currently going on in the UK, not everybody finds this type of content relatable but audiences obviously enjoyed seeing their favourite down-to-earth TikToker’s reactions to experiencing five-star treatment for the first time. Max Balegde, for example, felt ‘overwhelmed’ and titled his video: ‘you go on a private jet but you’re a scruff’


One great thing about this type of influencer trip is that it brings lots of organic content, where the creators are already wearing branded clothes and the content is more natural. And of course, bringing a group of influencers together can also mean their followers are brought along too which maximises eyeballs on the brand. Choosing to work with the same creators over and over again also enables audiences to become familiar with the brand, and makes the connection between brand and creator more authentic.

Sustainable skincare brand Biossance took 11 influencers to Kokomo Private Island in Fiji, with the aim to help spread the word about sustainability and ocean conservation. Why Kokomo? Christine Tusher wrote on their website that they wanted to give influencers a firsthand look at what was happening to the world’s coral reefs and ‘how we as a brand are making a difference to our oceans. Our hope was that the added exposure would raise awareness and help consumers make informed, sustainable shopping decisions’.

She says they chose Kokomo Private Island not only because of ‘its proximity to the environment we’re trying to protect, but also because of its sustainability efforts. Kokomo is completely self-sustained, from the water in their refillable bottles down to the vanilla beans in guests’ dessert. In addition Kokomo is well known for its ocean conservation efforts, which range from a no-take fishing zone around the island, to coral restoration, ocean cleanup and manta ray protection.’ It was therefore important to them that they share this perspective so that audiences could adopt and share a more sustainable lifestyle. This was therefore an example of a brand using their marketing activities to also spread awareness and be a force for good and education. 

Put simply, it’s about choosing the right creators for a brand trip.

Vegan content creator Jacob King uses his channel to highlight the importance of flavour and spice whilst educating his followers that many cultures have been following a vegan diet for centuries. Recently, him and fellow creator Rose aka Cheap Lazy Vegan travelled across South Korea courtesy of the Korea Tourism Organization to experience the culture, highlight all of their delicious vegan offerings and of course eat good food. Meanwhile, Olimata Taal was sent by the British Triathlon, the national governing body for Triathlon, Aquathlon and Duathlon in Great Britain, to a swim, bike, run retreat. Speaking about the experience, she said “growing up in a low income household, sports has always seemed pretty inaccessible, but I’m grateful to @brittri for challenging that”. Both creators are passionate about what it is they’re posting about, and already have an established connection with the subject matter which their audiences obviously recognise. 

There are certainly a lot of learnings for brands when organising creator-led PR trips going forward. It’s important that the right influencers are chosen to take part who already have a love or interest in the brand, or who have the same views. It also goes without saying that brands need to ensure that those who take part are diverse and that a broad range of people are invited to take part that are representative of wider society. There might be the age-old saying that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ but in some of these cases, that certainly isn’t the case and no brand should want to find themselves in the press for the wrong reason. 

Choose the right creators for your brand, think wisely about what you want your trip to do (and say) and think hard about your audience and theirs – and whether they’re really the right fit. If they are, it’s a no brainer. 

How did the Barbie marketing team get it so right? Nostalgia

It’s Barbie’s world and we’re all just living in it

By Bella Hales, Laina Claydon, Kate Blackwell, Misha Pandit and Jonnie Owen

Tuesday, 1st of August 2023

Barbie has been painting the world pink. Since the teaser trailer was released back in November, there has been a steady infiltration of all things Barbie across social and beyond.

From clothing to gaming, internet trends and even a real-world Barbie Dreamhouse, the marketing team behind Barbie have created the biggest, most immersive marketing campaign we have seen in a long time.

It begged the question: will the buzz last once the film is released and will it result in actual ticket sales for the film? We now know the answer. Barbie has beaten a box office record held by Christopher Nolan’s 2008 superhero blockbuster The Dark Knight, and took in $26m (£20m) at the US box office on Monday (24 July). Globally, Barbie has grossed more than $750 million so far and ranks as the third-largest film of the year, according to Variety.

The marketing of this film has been so successful because it has tapped into something we can all relate to: nostalgia. Collaborating with brands that most predominantly target millennials, Barbie set out to reinvigorate our inner child and allow us all to inject a little fun (and pink) back into our lives. 

Here, we’ve put together a run down of how Barbie’s nostalgia marketing strategy was so effective – and how you can embed it into your own brand strategy:


You’ll undoubtedly have heard of method acting – a technique whereby an actor fully commits themselves to the character they’re playing for the duration of a project both professionally and personally – but have you heard of method dressing? The cast of Barbie certainly lived and breathed their roles fashion-wise long after they stopped shooting.

Method dressing is where actors communicate iconic elements of a film through the medium of fashion during the press run. We have seen this from stars such as Halle Bailey when promoting The Little Mermaid in her aqua mermaid gowns; Zendaya when promoting The Greatest Showman; and Jenna Ortega who fully embraced her character Wednesday on the red carpet. Most recently, Margot Robbie has embodied Barbie at every premiere. 

There is a theory that you can’t have a cult classic movie without an ‘identifiable, iconic outfit that can be turned into a Halloween costume’, says TikTok creator Nicky Reardon here. It’s about creating an outfit or a look that transcends languages, is immediately identifiable, and is widely used in film promotion now when actors wear outfits that pay homage to the film or a niche reference in it on the red carpet.

@nicky.reardon "If your movie can't be turned into a halloween costume then its not memorable enough" #movies #movietiktok #popculture #halloweencostume #halloween ♬ original sound - Nicky

In Barbie’s case, each of Margot Robbie’s pink carpet looks represented an iconic vintage Barbie doll that audiences might have owned when they were children. This strategy gave each premiere an element of suspense and surprise; from the 1960 Enchanted Evening Barbie for the London premiere of the film to the 1992 Totally Hair Barbie for a photocall at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mexico City. 


Strategic collaborations and tie-ins have become standard practice in movie marketing, and the Barbie movie proved no exception. Partnering with a wide range of big brands has further elevated the film’s reach and appeal, engaging the consumer from all touch points. With the release of this film, Barbie targeted an audience they would have targeted many years ago when they were children: millennials. 

They leveraged brand partnerships that offered relevance in communities that they had very little influence over, namely Airbnb with their Barbie Malibu mansion available for rent, Dragon glassware with their Barbie-style drinkware collection, and Bumble where a ‘bunch of Barbies and Kens joined the app to cheer you on as you swipe and match, as well as giving advice about sending compliments on Bumble’. 

Ruggable was another stand-out collaboration. Teaming up with a home interiors company cleverly allows the OG Barbie fans, who are now grown up and most likely in their own homes, to create their own Barbie Dreamhouse. By allowing the Barbie experience to be fully immersive, it allowed those who now have ‘adult money’ to live out their true Barbie life for real.


Makeup creators have come together and created their own consumer-led content to show that ‘this Barbie is creative’, and that every Barbie is beautiful.

The power in creativity and imagination is embodied in the cross-platform makeup tutorials featured on YouTube to TikTok, and really hone in on the idea that anybody can be Barbie and recreate the look that filled our childhood – including the Barbie-coloured eyeshadow.

Brands such as NYX have created Barbie-inspired makeup featuring ‘bright Barbie land’ colours, and even included a mirror compact that’s shaped like a flip phone. It evokes memories of the false applications we’d make as children to our faces which we can now bring to life using real products.

The result of consumer-led marketing and the collaborations Mattel have taken with brands has been overwhelmingly positive, and has brought to life the toys we once played with – and proven life is your creation. 


There has been a real sense of community and togetherness to have come out of Barbie’s marketing strategy. Strangers have greeted one another as Ken and Barbie in the street, whilst groups of friends have gotten dressed up to watch the film in cinemas (including Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai). Young fans have even had their picture taken with a blonde lady dressed up as ‘real Barbie’ on the way to see the film herself – and she was happy to oblige. 


Typically, we’re used to seeing fans dress up as movie characters for sci-fi franchises such as Star Wars, Marvel or Star Trek, but not for debut comedies. This element of immersing yourself in the stories you love through whimsical dress-up was brought to life again, but this time by excited fans ready to see their favourite childhood toy come to life – and reflect back at them the human experience of growing up. 


Produced by Mark Ronson, the film’s official soundtrack Barbie: The Album is a first of its kind and features a female majority all-star line-up of some of the world’s biggest pop stars and emerging artists. Released by Atlantic Records, the artists were revealed through a staggered approach, teasing Barbie-related content across social media, thus helping to keep momentum for the campaign, intrigue for the film and drive global hype. 

Kicking off the star studded album, Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice released ‘Barbie World’, a hip-hop track sampling Aqua’s 1997 hit record ‘Barbie Girl’. The sample floods its target audience with fond memories of school discos and heated games of pass the parcel but now wrapped up (no pun intended) in a hip-hop backing track featuring two of the most popular rap artists of 2023. 

“Barbie World” has featured in over 100M TikTok videos where users show off their pink Barbie-inspired outfits and makeup looks. And as a result, Aqua’s original “Barbie Girl” has been used in over 1M videos on TikTok and gained an extra 3.5 million streams on Spotify since the release of the film on the 21st July. Proving that although we all love a remix, you sometimes just can’t beat the original. 

Barbie memorabilia collectors will also be pleased to know that the soundtrack will be available on both cassette and vinyl. Depending on your age, this is a classic nostalgic (or vintage) marketing move.

Director Greta Gerwig, Mattel and all involved in the marketing activities behind Barbie have created an unforgettable marketing campaign and worldwide experience for women and girls everywhere – and for just about anyone. The approach has been educational but recognisable due to the household name and nostalgic brand that is Barbie, and anybody can see the importance in the lessons the movie provides, but also what has fuelled audiences to want to get involved.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen brands utilise nostalgia to get at our heart (and purse) strings, and after its success, it definitely won’t be the last. With brands undoubtedly taking notes over the last few months, we’re sure to see more collaborations, more method dressing on red carpets and more use of nostalgia used in marketing strategies going forward for film releases and more. 

The widespread marketing angles ensure it is accessible across all walks of life, whatever your interest may be. So go on and “Hi Barbie, Hi Ken” your way down to your next screening.

What is threads and how can brands use it?

A deep dive into twitter’s competitor

By Bella Hales and Nana Akosua Frimpong

Friday, 21st of July 2023

Hitting 100 million users in just 5 days, you’ll undoubtedly have heard everybody talking about Threads. But what actually is the new text-based app owned by Meta?

Threads is designed to take “what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas”, says Meta. “Just like on Instagram, with Threads you can follow and connect with friends and creators who share your interests – including the people you follow on Instagram and beyond”. 

The main focus of Threads is to act as a culture hub, where users can be entertained and continue to build their community. It’s a space where humour and creativity is welcomed, and brands and users can share less curated content, showing their authentic and natural tone of voice.

Within the app, your Threads feed will share posts from your Instagram followers and recommend content from new creators. Positive and productive conversations are at the forefront of the Threads strategy and there have been many tools created to enhance and encourage this. Namely, the limitations you can put on who can mention you or reply to you within Threads, and much like Instagram you can add hidden words to filter out replies to your Threads that contain specific words. Whoever you’ve blocked on Instagram will automatically be blocked on Threads, too. 

With the app only being a few weeks old, it goes without saying that we should be expecting a number of new updates and features in the near future. Improved recommendations and a stronger search function, for example, will make it easier to follow topics and trends in real time. 

Meta has also confirmed that they will be making Threads compatible with the ActivityPub. This is ‘a set of decentralised standards for social networking’ which will make ‘Threads interoperable with other apps that also support the ActivityPub protocol, such as Mastodon and WordPress’. Other services including Tumblr have shared plans to support the ActivityPub protocol in the future, too.

With Threads introducing features like the launch of topics, trends, search and a chronological following feed, it might raise questions about the future of Twitter. It’s important to recognise, however, that both platforms cater to distinct user needs and offer unique value propositions.

Twitter excels as a public platform for real-time news, global conversations, and wide-scale engagement. Its brevity-focused format encourages concise and impactful communication, making it an ideal space for breaking news, trending discussions and public discourse. Threads, on the other hand, emphasises private conversations, intimate connections, and curated content-sharing among close friends, providing a more personal and focused experience.

With Threads being so new, brands and influencers are able to test and experiment to find their tone of voice on the platform. It is also another great opportunity for brands to grow and build their community. 

RyanAir appears to be using the same content strategy from their Twitter and Instagram accounts on Threads. Every marketer is aware of RyanAir’s social strategy. They use memes and humour to jump on topical conversations, making them one of the most followed airline brands on Threads.


Wendy’s Threads strategy is also similar to that of their Twitter account, albeit using different content. Their strategy has clearly proven it works as their follower growth on the platform has grown by 22.09%, compared to their Instagram followers. Wendy’s activity on the platform is indicative of what other brands can and should be doing to keep retention of their followers and receive positive engagement.

Other brands such as Boohoo could learn a thing or two from Wendy’s and RyanAir. In an attempt to use humour to launch their Threads strategy, they asked their followers: ‘what is everyone’s ick?’. Boohoo received negative engagement, with people commenting ‘brands jumping into a new space before everyone’. 

Boohoo’s Threads post is a clear example of brands failing to read the room. Humour is the key factor in using Threads (at least in the early stages) but brands need to be careful with the type of humorous content they post, and should be ready to accept both a positive and negative response. Afterall, Threads is a learning curve for us all.

In deciding whether Threads is for them, brands should factor in their own tone of voice, style of content as well as how often they want to be posting. As the app continues to develop and new features are added, they will need to think strategically about how they want to communicate with their audience on a platform that feels similar but is ultimately different to Twitter.

With a new platform often comes the emergence of a new set of creators. Brands should therefore be keeping their eye on creators that are being born on Threads.

Like with all new apps, there are pros and cons. With the algorithmic element of Threads, it feels addictive and the ability to automatically retain your Instagram followers and blue verification tick means you’re launching with a ready-made audience. This presents a golden opportunity for brands to enhance their reach and engage with relevant demographics, niche audiences, and vibrant communities. They can create tailored content and actively participate in discussions surrounding trending topics.

Being created by Meta, Threads is also a direct extension of Instagram. Traditionally, people would keep their persona’s on Twitter and Instagram separate with distinct and different methodologies. Now, it will be easy to share thoughts you would have traditionally posted on Twitter with Instagram friends. Whether that’s a good thing or not is to be decided.

With the introduction of the ActivityPub, creators will also have the opportunity to allow their posts to appear on other apps and services, boosting their reach and giving them a chance to grow their audience.  


It goes without saying that one of the biggest worries surrounding Threads is the lack of time it has behind it. Could it be another BeReal or Clubhouse that launches to fanfare but quickly loses its interest? Even though it’s early days, the Threads retention rate is not looking too promising, with it being lower than nearly every major platform. According to Sensor Tower, on day one of Threads, the retention rate was at 37%. Over a week on, it’s now at just 16%. 

Olivia Moore, Consumer Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, has a few theories around why this might be the case:

1. The Instagram social graph isn’t ideal for a Twitter-like app. With your account being connected to your Instagram, posts are directly tied to your real identity discouraging anons, meme accounts, and fan accounts. Will users really want friends and family reading their Tweets?

2. Instagram users are well experienced in using images, but we don’t know if they’re any good at using words

3. Even so early on, there have been many celebrities and brands who have joined and are cluttering the feed with blue ticks. This can create an intimidating space which lacks that element of personalisation.

It’s still early days with Threads and with its similarities to Twitter, it’s key for brands and influencers alike to keep an open mind and experiment with different styles of content. It is also a great opportunity, whilst there is no AD placement, for brands and users to organically grow both their Instagram and Threads channels. 

Furthermore, even though there are clearly some positives which will seem attractive to a brand, it’s important to not lose sight of what you know works best. 

If you and your brand are already successful on Instagram, don’t let Threads cloud your vision. Don’t not use it, but be careful to not let it cannibalise your brand’s activities on Instagram.

What is the Quiet Luxury Trend?

It’s less about the rich and more about conscious consumerism

By Nana Akosua Frimpong

Friday, 13th of July 2023

What exactly is quiet luxury? 

According to TikTok creator Charles Gross, loud luxury is all about ‘logos, brands and conspicuous spending’. It’s a shirt or bag that screams ‘I spent a lot of money on this’. Quiet luxury, however, is about purchasing pieces ‘that to the naked eye don’t seem luxury at all. They could be a dollar or a million dollars’. 

It’s expensive clothing that nobody can recognise.

The aesthetic is less concerned with projecting wealth than creating a wardrobe full of high-end everyday staples that speak to sophistication. Smart tailoring, clean-cut lines and elite craftsmanship. Logo-less t-shirts, cashmere sweaters and baseball caps. The quiet luxury aesthetic rejects seasonal fashion trends and instead honours timeless pieces, almost mirroring the ‘buy less, buy better’ promotion of conscious consumerism.

In the last few years, fashion and consumers have become obsessed with the ultra-flashy styles of the Y2K era. From sky-high shoes to mini bags, the resurgence of the early 2000s took over the 2020s. Nostalgia was and still is ‘the’ moment. As of recently, however, runways have focused on perfecting wearable styles. TikTok It girls are deeply invested in the quiet luxury aesthetic, trading Y2K-inspired trends for muted colour palettes. Thanks to the widespread interest, the search term ‘quiet luxury’ has surpassed 40 billion views on TikTok, with ‘stealth wealth’ growing to over 620 million views. 

Drawing inspiration from shows such as HBO’s Succession and celebrities like Sofia Richie Grainge, creators have theorised that by not looking obviously wealthy you are in fact rich. 

Take Mark Zuckerberg for example, he has always been seen wearing casual and unrecognisable branded clothing and yet he is among one of the richest men in the world.

Creators have been providing tutorials on ways we mere humans could attempt to recreate this nonchalant aesthetic, from ‘old money’ outfit inspiration to ‘how to dress like the 1%’. Lydia Jane Tomlinson and Coco Bassey are a few creators showing us ways we can imitate the ‘old money’ aesthetic in our everyday lives.

@newsfash #stitch with @Rae Is it quiet luxury if you won’t shut up about it? #therow #quietluxury #olsentwins #marykateandashley #greenscreen ♬ original sound - NEWSFASH

The concept of the trend itself can be traced all the way back to the 19th century Gilded Age era when minimalist aesthetics and practicality were made infamous, and to 1700s France when conspicuous wealth was all the rage. The fall of the French monarchy and the rise of urbanisation is a great example of stealth wealth. 

The pandemic was our modern equivalent. We saw young aspirational buyers panic buying and investing in large logos and statement pieces. Three years later and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, ‘quiet luxury’ is the new buzzword. 

The desire for those who are financially stable to inconspicuously wear high-value items without garish logos suggests their desire to not obviously flaunt their wealth during hard times. 

There is an argument to be made on how ‘quiet’ quiet luxury is. TV personality and businesswoman Bethany Frankel shared on TikTok her thoughts on why quiet luxury may be considered passive-aggressively loud. She states ‘it’s like when someone tries so hard to look like they didn’t try.’ 

Coco Bassey

Fashion journalist Mosha, known on TikTok as NewsFash, talks about Mary-Kate and Ashely Olsen’s The Row and says wearers of the archetypal ‘quiet fashion’ brand seem incapable of not talking about it, with the running joke being ‘how do you know if somebody is wearing The Row? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you’. She questions: “is the desire to proclaim the antithesis of quiet luxury? Or are we all seeking Olsen-style validation at the end of the day?”.

It is also a fair assumption to make that as per our history books, the quiet luxury trend very much reflects the state of our economic uncertainty. The trend does not necessarily reinforce wealthy stereotypes and ‘rich people blending in’, rather it’s a shift towards conscious consumerism and investing in wearable pieces and most importantly is about putting experience over status.

Gen Z has changed the perception of quiet luxury from expensive cashmere sweaters and muted colours to a mindset that forces us to take a slower more conscious attitude to what we are buying whilst making it accessible to everyone.

Pre-loved and vintage garments that can be sourced through avenues such as eBay, Depop and Vinted enable anyone to shop sustainably. In today’s climate, by taking time to be savvy with our shopping habits, we can all achieve an elevated aesthetic, whilst shopping sustainably.

Quiet luxury may be considered a trend that is so obviously not quiet and very much aligns with the current state of our economy, but will it last? If we were to refer to our history books, then this is a trend that is likely to be surpassed by garish and logo-centric maximalist fashion once we all get accustomed to the current state of our economy. Nonetheless, what this aesthetic has taught us is that prioritisation of sustainability will remain key – no matter the trend. 

Trendsetters: has alcohol lost its cool?

A look into how popular culture and social media are reflecting the changing attitude towards alcohol

By Carla Watts and Bella Hales

Friday, 23rd of June 2023

The pandemic forced us to reevaluate the ways in which we were living, and it’s no surprise that since then people are prioritising their physical and mental wellbeing.

Health and wellness trends are taking off all over social media and with that has come a growing interest in mindful drinking and sobriety.  

Cutting back on alcohol has been linked to improved sleep, increased energy levels and enhanced mental clarity. With this in mind, more and more people are embracing the concept of mindful drinking, choosing to abstain from alcohol completely or moderate their consumption. 

It’s fair to say that social media has played a significant role in popularising this trend. On TikTok, we have seen the ‘sober curious’ movement where hashtags like #damplifestyle have 47.6 million views on the platform, and #sobercurious has 557.3 million views and counting. Through these trends it is clear that an increasing number of young people are beginning to question their relationship with alcohol. 

A DrinkAware survey looked into the UK’s drinking behaviour and found that just 8.1% of 18-to-34-year-olds drink four times per week or more, compared to 25.2% of those aged over 55.

There have also been many influencers joining in on these conversations, whether it’s talking about going completely tee-total or just reducing their alcohol consumption. One of the leading voices in this community is Millie Gooch who, after being sober for nearly a year, set up an online community for sober and sober curious women to have a safe space to speak about not drinking. Made in Chelsea’s Spencer Matthews gave up alcohol after having his first child and even created a hugely successful non-alcoholic spirits brand called CleanCo.

Millie’s Sober Girl Society Instagram page now has 197,000 followers, proving how popular this type of content is. When speaking to Corq.com, she credits the rise in popularity to ‘an increased focus on mental health, conscious consumption and the cost of living crisis’.

Following on from the success with her community, in May Millie hosted her first ‘Dry Disco’ alongside fellow sober influencer @stephelswood. Dry Disco was a non-alcoholic day festival for women which included panel talks about self-love and sobriety, dance workshops, breathwork classes and a disco party.


Other influencers who have joined in on the conversation are The Michalaks, who recently celebrated 9 months sober and former Love Islander and mental health activist Dr Alex George who shared that he has gone 100 days without alcohol.

On top of this, social media platforms seem to be implementing stronger restrictions on alcohol content meaning younger generations are now not as exposed to content including alcohol which could also explain the shift in attitude. 

The Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) guidelines on alcohol state that it is illegal to promote ‘excessive consumption’, or suggest alcohol can be used to boost confidence or have any other positive outcomes. It is also worth noting that alcohol ads cannot be targeted to under 18s – and you have to be over 25 to feature in an ad. 

This shift is not only evident on social media but in other forms of popular culture too. 


E4’s Skins, which first came out in 2007, heavily glamorised alcohol and other substance abuse. The TV show followed a group of British teenagers through sixth form who liked to party and drink alcohol below the legal age. Despite this, one of the main characters, Effy Stonem, became somewhat of an icon for teenagers.

TV shows today, like Euphoria for example, now tend to portray excessive drinking as a serious problem, rather than ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’. This is reflected in a study carried out by Google which found that 70% of Gen Z would consider binge drinking a ‘very risky’ activity, while 41% associate alcohol with the words ‘vulnerability’, ‘anxiety’ and ‘abuse’.  

Furthermore, excessive drinking on reality TV shows has been significantly reduced too. 

In the early 2000s Big Brother frequently showed alcohol being consumed and contestants were noticeably intoxicated. This is in stark contrast to Love Island which first launched in 2015 and limits participants to 2 drinks a day. 

Even in music, rappers seem to be mentioning alcohol and partying less and less. Dave and Central Cee’s latest release Sprinter (currently number 1 in the charts), for example, doesn’t mention alcohol or going out – unlike the majority of rap songs released twenty years ago. 

As we look ahead, it’s evident that the health and wellness trend, coupled with the growing interest in sobriety and mindful drinking, is here to stay. 

This transformation represents a broader cultural shift towards prioritising holistic wellbeing, conscious consumption, and mental health awareness. By embracing these changes, individuals are redefining their relationship with alcohol, fostering healthier lifestyles, and promoting a more balanced approach to self-care and personal fulfilment.

ADHD, social media and me

Has social media helped or worsened the stigma around ADHD?

By Kate Blackwell

Friday, 16th of June 2023

Kate Blackwell is an Account Executive for THE FIFTH and was diagnosed with ADHD last year. Here, she shares her experiences of getting diagnosed, why her diagnosis was important to her, and whether it’s a positive thing that social media is leading more people to be diagnosed with ADHD. 

(5 minute read. Anywhere between 5 minutes and 5 days if you have ADHD)

With over 25.3 billion searches on TikTok, the hashtag #ADHD has taken over my FYP the last few years. 

It started with creators sharing their personal experience of living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in a bid to connect with a community. Now, there are a multitude of videos on various platforms that start with ‘5 signs you have ADHD’, with the leading symptom being: ‘you get bored of boring tasks’.

I’m being hyperbolic here, but despite social media being a wonderful tool to spread awareness and access new information, it’s also important that we understand the risk of passively consuming and further spreading misinformation – especially when it comes to our health and wellbeing. 

@thefifthagency When you self diagnose yourself with ADHD after scrolling TikTok. Read our piece on #ADHD on our website👩🏼‍💻#adhdtiktok #adhdtok #mentalhealth #officetok ♬ and i.. wait a second - Liam Miller

There has been a consistent increase in assessments and diagnosis, with some assessments for ADHD taking longer than five years. Although it’s only natural that with access to new information comes an increase in diagnosis for any condition, the cause for concern comes from the dramatically high volumes of new cases which could lead to misdiagnosis or over diagnosis due to a stretch of resources, with some trusts and private practises having to ‘shut waiting lists because of demand.

Due to increased interest in the subject, the BBC’s Panorama aired a documentary investigating ADHD assessments in private clinics across the UK, ‘exposing’ three separate private clinics after wrongly diagnosing the reporter Rory Carson.

Just a week prior, Channel 4 released a documentary also looking at ADHD diagnosis,’ but this time through the lens of reality star and content creator Sam Thompson. The programme took us along on Sam’s journey that ultimately led to him being diagnosed with not only ADHD but also with autism and a tic. 

The BBC documentary sparked controversy on social media, in the papers and even from official ADHD non-profit organisations expressing their disappointment. Comments included how the documentary was ‘misleading and damaging in its investigation and has led to further stigma of the disability. Some took to social media expressing the gaslighting and invalidation they have recently experienced since the show aired. 

@dralexgeorge An ADHD diagnosis from a private clinic is INVALID? Or is it? Have you watched the recent BBC Panorama documentary? If you are struggling with symptoms of ADHD, don’t let this stop you from seeking support 💙 #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthawareness #adhd #adhdtiktok ♬ original sound - dralexgeorge

Having been diagnosed with ADHD myself in the spring of 2022, it’s a subject I am interested in researching. I am also keen to understand the new phenomena that is ADHD content plaguing social media and the real life effects this has.

ADHD on Social Media

Since my diagnosis, I have never been happier. 

Before, I simply thought I was stupid. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I just couldn’t do what everyone else seemed to do so easily, whether that be in educational or social settings. 

This made me feel the need to constantly try and prove myself, which manifested in taking on too many projects and eventually burnout – which is very common in people with ADHD.

When I downloaded TikTok back in 2021, I was served some ADHD sketches. They were mostly quite generic and made me think ‘haha, I do that’ (that’s a reference for all my Vine lovers out there), but also made me think: doesn’t everybody regularly forget their keys? 

The more I interacted with the content, the more specific and nuanced the videos became.

I began to consider I had ADHD through TikTok, and so I researched it extensively. It was important to me because if it wasn’t ADHD then what was it? I didn’t want a diagnosis for something I didn’t have, as that’s no more helpful than not having one at all.

Eventually, I’d had enough of basic and likely inaccurate free online tests and booked an appointment with my GP. The entire process took a month and I came out with the comfort that I was in fact not stupid, just different. 

I owe that to social media. 

I owe it to the people who took the time to explain, in detail, the genuine limitations that having ADHD can cause. It had never, and would never, have crossed my mind to even look into it. 

There is a wonderful online community where you can learn about yourself and others through social media. 

Like a lot of things though, social media also has its downfalls. With an increased and over-saturated focus on ADHD, we are seeing videos spreading information that, while may not be totally inaccurate, is downplaying symptoms of ADHD and reducing the criteria of a diagnosis to common and highly relatable experiences for anyone with or without ADHD. 

This further adds to the existing stigma around the disability and to people being invalidated and possibly misdiagnosed. 

Not in all cases of course, but there is a danger that people are convincing themselves and often self diagnosing themselves with ADHD purely because of the content they’re seeing on social media.

In comment sections you’ll typically see an abundance of comments to the effect of ‘I couldn’t even concentrate on this whole video lol’, or ‘my doctor told me I didn’t have ADHD when clearly I do’.

Ultimately, we’re relying on the responsibility of creators to share accurate and contextual information. There is however also a responsibility yourself to actively research serious topics of all kinds that might have a real life consequence. 

The NHS is seeing an increasing strain on its resources due to a sudden surge of assessments, which can lead to people sitting on waiting lists for several years who really need the help. 

If you think you have ADHD

Firstly, there are a few common myths around ADHD to debunk. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • You can develop ADHD

This isn’t true. Symptoms of ADHD are present in childhood and continue into adulthood. Sometimes symptoms of ADHD are easier to spot in adulthood due to the lack of routine typically found in educational environments.

  • Boys are more likely to have ADHD than girls. 

This myth is likely down to the fact that girls and women are better at ‘masking’ their symptoms, coupled with the idea that ADHD is attributed to naughty little boys who couldn’t sit still in class. This lack of understanding can lead to many girls and women never being diagnosed.

  • You can’t have ADHD if you have been successful. 

Of course you can achieve great things, including obtaining a degree, a masters, PHD or any kind of job if you have a disability.

For more information, visit https://www.adhdfoundation.org.uk/resources/ where they offer an abundance of information and advice for finding support. 

Creators to follow

Social media can be a wonderful and free way to access new information in a bite size, fun and more attainable way. Find below a few select content creators who talk about ADHD and who I would recommend giving a follow:

Is this the end of the clean girl aesthetic?

We’re all entering our cool – and messy – girl era.

By Laina Claydon

Friday, 9th of June 2023

The internet appears to have chosen its newest It Girl. 

Alix Earle is a 22 year-old US-based TikTok creator and college student living with friends in Miami. She is one of the fastest growing creators on the platform, and is known for her chaotic ‘get ready with me’ (GRWM) videos – and for never turning down a party. 

Boasting over 5.3M followers, Alix Earle’s GRWM-style of video offers a good insight into the lifestyle she leads, which includes a lot of partying and travelling. As her follower count has grown and engagement increased, she has taken part in big brand trips – all whilst finishing her college degree. And yes, she can be found doing an exam at a beach with friends on holiday.

@alixearle Update: outfit took 2 hours i had a breakdown and almost didnt go . 😭👍🏼 #umiami #grwm #ootd ♬ original sound - alix earle

Something her followers love is that Alix Earle has always kept it real in her videos, often getting ready in her messy bedroom or regaling stories of when she was out partying the night before, and sharing her drunk TikTok drafts. She has also been incredibly candid about her journey with acne and kept her audience updated on her accutane journey. 

Some say she’s like the real-life Serena Vanderwoodson, the character played by Blake Lively in Gossip Girl. Both have the same unbrushed hair, last night’s clothes and way of living. Many have also said Serena ‘is the blueprint’ of the ‘messy girl aesthetic’.

So, is this the end of the clean girl aesthetic

Blake Lively as Serena Vanderwoodson

The messy girl aesthetic is the complete antithesis to the clean girl look, which is all about embracing a seemingly casual but also minimalist and effortless lifestyle and beauty. The hashtag #messygirlaesthetic is currently sat at 20.6M views vs #cleangirlaesthetic’s 4.1B views. It might not be as many, but it’s certainly on the rise.

As if there aren’t enough trends to keep up with already, there’s also the ‘French girl beauty’ trend that has been featured in the likes of Vogue, which is all about being undone and effortless. The hashtag #frenchbeauty currently has 67.2M views. Want to achieve the ‘messy’ French girl makeup look yourself? Watch this. 

These trends aren’t really anything new but they are relevant again. Remember Kate Moss in the 90s and early 2000s with her smudged makeup and undone hair? Showing it’s back in fashion, she recently brought back her iconic messy bedhead hair at the Met Gala last month.

Another example of the ‘undone’ look was showcased in the Miu Miu Fall Winter 2023 fashion show, where they debuted models with messy, frazzled unbrushed hair. They were described as ‘strutting down the runway with fastidious confidence, frazzled but possessed with purpose’. Their purpose being ‘beyond getting dressed for the day. So rushed that they accidentally tucked their prim, buttoned-up cardigans into their pantyhose and didn’t have time to smooth their unkempt hair’.

As Dazed says, ‘hair that’s a little bit messy has never been cooler’.

Why are people oversharing on social media?

And how social platforms are encouraging this trend

By Laina Claydon

Friday, 19th of May 2023

We’ve all been guilty of oversharing in the past. 

It’s that feeling you get when you get home and think: I could have kept that to myself. 

In an age of social media, the line is blurred and sometimes it’s hard to know where we should stop sharing. 

We’re encouraged to pour our hearts out online and social platforms like Facebook will ask you before you post a status to share ‘What’s happening?’ or ‘What’s on your mind?’. 

We’ve also seen trends emerge where oversharing is seemingly encouraged. The Get-Ready-With-Me (GRWM) style of video, for example, includes video topics like ‘GRWM for my nans funeral’ and ‘GRWM while I tell you about how my small business is failing’. 

Why does Gen Z feel so comfortable sharing so much of their lives?

@mollypashbymua My heart will forever be broken but i know your happier and out of pain! Love you always my angel 🫶🏻🕊 only a short video #fyp #foryoupage #candycrush10 #makeup #mua #grwm ♬ Possibility - Lykke Li

It might be because these types of video feel personal, as though you’re on Facetime with a friend while getting ready and that’s when you’d typically share that kind of information. Also, the medium of makeup being a distraction from personal news may make it easier to talk about and for a viewer to digest.

A recent trend that also may be considered an overshare is the Notes app trend. This is where you quite literally just share a photo carousel of what you keep in your Notes app, some of which can be quite personal – for example Amelia Dimoldenburg’s version of the trend showed topics to bring up in therapy and an ‘I think we’re better of as friends’ text.

There are, of course, positives to oversharing. This can be the fact that talking about mental and physical health issues may help not only the creator but the viewers feel better and less alone. Dr Gerrard, a lecturer in Digital Media and Society at the University of Sheffield, says: “On social media, you see people sharing stuff online in a way which they simply can’t with their friends or families. If people are sharing a lot but they’re creating a space they don’t otherwise have in their life — then that’s amazing and can be integral to their survival.”

In this age of social media, people also have other ways of sharing – but only with the people they choose. This can be in the form of a closest friend account, or a private Snapchat or Instagram ‘close friends’ story where you can select exactly who is seeing the stuff you share, and what you’re ‘oversharing’.

The Giggly Squad podcast has a bit more of an extreme view on oversharing, stating that people who will post themselves crying on Instagram for example are “not trying to solve the problem, you just want to be heard”. 

On the other end of the spectrum, some choose not to share their lives regularly on social media and rarely upload an Instagram Story. They therefore can come across mysterious and unbothered. People won’t know much about their lives and it might lead to people wondering: what are they up to?  

It has even been described as being ‘sexier’ if you have no social media presence at all. In this Vice article, they discuss why ‘the “zero online presence” person is the crème de la crème of the internet’. 

But why is being offline so attractive? Vice says, ‘being offline suggests inner confidence. You are presumably not bothered about being “seen”. You are not bothered about the opinions of others. You do not need their likes and follows. You are just out there, living your life. This points to self-assurance, a solid sense of self-esteem – all attractive qualities.’  

Being off the social grid, then, will lead others to be intrigued and a sense of mystery or unavailability can be attractive to some. 

Crucially, there is also a lot less to judge. 

There are now even how-to guides on ways in which you can be mysterious. Instagram accounts such as @newyorkercartoons and their 3.6 million followers are sharing tips on how you can be a mysterious woman because ‘everyone loves a mysterious woman’.

If you type into TikTok ‘how to be mysterious’, you get lots of results like this TikTok from dating coach Jacob Lucas who states ‘mystery builds attraction because you become a puzzle for that person to work out, and that is exciting to them’. 

It is, of course, down to an individual how much they want to share on social media. It’s about what makes a person comfortable and what information they’re happy sharing. You might have a friend who posts a Story of everything they do in a day, whilst you might also have a friend whose account you have to double-check to see if it’s even active anymore. Everyone is different and there’s no right or wrong way to do things. 

How can a brand use this sudden interest in oversharing in its marketing strategy? 

Over on TikTok, @thesilklabs makes a fantastic point about how companies perform much better on social media when the branding is contains more personal content, such as videos like ‘a day in the life of a founder at..’, or sharing Stories throughout the day behind-the-scenes of your business. 

At THE FIFTH we have found the same thing to be true. When our content was based on aesthetically pleasing graphics, it didn’t perform nearly as well as a team TikTok would do. 

So overshare with your audience – sometimes it’s the random things and little niches of a business which garner the biggest interest.

why should marketers embrace  chatgpt?

Make sure you read this article right to the end…

By Bella Hales

Friday, 11th of May 2023

As technology continues to advance, it is important for businesses to adapt to the latest trends in order to stay ahead of their competitors. One of the latest technological innovations that has been gaining a lot of attention in the marketing and advertising industry is ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer).

ChatGPT is a powerful tool that utilises artificial intelligence and natural language processing to generate human-like responses to user input. This technology has already been implemented in various industries, such as customer service and healthcare, but its potential applications in marketing and advertising are vast. 

Whilst the technology has gained widespread use and acceptance in many industries, there are still some sceptics who are hesitant to fully embrace it. One of the main reasons being the concerns around accuracy and bias. As with any AI technology, ChatGPT is only as unbiased and accurate as the data it is trained on. If the data used to train ChatGPT is biassed or incomplete, the responses generated by the technology may also be inaccurate. 

Additionally, there are concerns around security and privacy, as ChatGPT collects and analyses user data. Some people may also be sceptical of the lack of human touch in ChatGPT responses, as it may not be able to provide the same level of empathy and understanding as a human representative.

@acflips17 I wrote this caption with chatgpt 😅 I bet you haven't even considered using chatgpt for your business. There are so many different ways to use chatgpt for your benefit, and here are some starting points! It can save you so much time so at least try it out! #chatgpt #gpt4 #aiforbusiness #ai #amazonseller #reseller #amazonfba #amazonfbaseller #aientrepreneur #entrepreneur #levelup ♬ Blade Runner 2049 - Synthwave Goose

With this being said there are many brands who have already successfully implemented AI technology, namely beauty brand Lottie London who have used it to speed up brainstorming and Pizza Hut, who in 2016 implemented a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that allows customers to order food directly through the chat interface. 

And there are many more ways in which ChatGPT can positively impact your brand.


Streamlined content creation: ChatGPT can help streamline content creation by generating content ideas and providing inspiration for writers. By inputting a topic or seed keyword, ChatGPT can generate a list of related keywords and content ideas, making the content creation process more efficient and effective.

Personalised advertising: ChatGPT can help create more personalised advertising by analysing customer data and generating targeted messages. By understanding customer preferences and behaviours, ChatGPT can generate advertising messages that are tailored to the individual, resulting in increased engagement and conversions.

Enhanced SEO: ChatGPT can help enhance SEO by generating long-tail keywords and optimising content for search engines. By identifying new keyword opportunities and analysing search intent, ChatGPT can help improve website traffic and search engine rankings.

Improved customer service: Chatbots powered by ChatGPT can provide 24/7 customer service, handle a large volume of inquiries, and improve engagement with customers. By providing personalised and conversational responses, Chatbots can create a positive customer experience, resulting in increased satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Predictive analytics: ChatGPT can help with predictive analytics by analysing customer data and generating predictions for future behaviour. By understanding customer behaviour patterns and preferences, businesses can make data-driven decisions and adjust their digital marketing strategies accordingly.

Overall, it is clear that ChatGPT is a powerful tool that has the potential to transform the businesses helping them create more effective and efficient marketing strategies. And as ChatGPT continues to evolve and improve, it will undoubtedly become an even more valuable tool for businesses in the future.

So, would you use ChatGPT as a marketer? 

We just did. In fact, ChatGPT wrote the entire article you’ve just read.  So you have the answer directly from the Horse’s (Bot’s) mouth! 

Could you tell?

*Disclaimer*: To produce this article, we gave ChatGPT the following commands: “Write an article on: Why marketers and advertising specialists should embrace ChatGPT?” , followed up with “Why are people sceptical about ChatGPT?” and “How have brands started to use ChatGPT in their marketing strategy?”

What is lemon8? A deep dive into bytedance’s new app

The social media app without the social aspect 

By Nana Akosua Frimpong

Friday, 28th of April 2023

If you’re obsessed with TikTok and familiar with its parent company, Bytedance, then you’ll undoubtedly have heard about Lemon8.

Considered to be a combination of Pinterest and Instagram, the sister app of TikTok may seem like just another social media app – but without the social aspect.

The app is currently growing steadily in the US and has even climbed into the top 10 on America’s app stores. Initially launched in 2020 in Japan, Lemon8 looks to rival China’s social app Xiaohongshu (which means Little Red Book) with its photo-heavy layout and peer-to-peer reviews. 

With TikTok facing a ban in the US over data privacy concerns, Bytedance seems to be undeterred – and instead is focused on its new app.

But what is Lemon8?

Classed as a cross between Pinterest, Instagram and Canva with its editing tools and long-form captions, it is reminiscent of a blogging page. It has close ties to TikTok with a similar algorithm, but Lemon8 looks to stand out against its competitors. 

Combining the best aspect of the 2016 era of Instagram with product focus and categories seen on Pinterest, Lemon8 is built for content curation. 

TI @ladmeetsmakeup

The top trending topics on the app so far are fashion, beauty, food, travel, wellness, fitness and pets. Under each category are suggestions and recommendation content from get-ready-with-me styles of video to aesthetically pleasing content.

Nail inspiration, outfit details, food recipes and workout routines also seem to dominate the app. Creators post slideshows of their content including the name of the products used as text on the image. On fashion posts, creators are seen tagging their outfits with where they bought specific items and food creators usually post a video of them making their dish or share a slideshow of the several meals with the recipe in the caption. 

Lemon8’s user interface is perfect for those who enjoyed the pleasing and curated aesthetics of Instagram but hated the algorithm style of TikTok. Much like all other social platforms, you are able to scroll through video and photo content on the app. It even has a For You Page. 

The new platform has grown in popularity since its soft launch in the US, where creators were relied upon to help pull audiences over to Lemon8. A report in the New York Times confirmed that micro-influencers were paid to start posting on the app with specific guidelines on how and what to post, and to promote the app using #Lemon8partner.

Since its stealth launch in February, it would seem the paid strategy behind Lemon8 has worked well as more and more creators are joining the app. 

@kyyahabdul Lemon8 would face the SAME FATE as TikTok if this Restrict bill were to pass. Let’s continue to educate ourselves and focus out energies on contacting these reps! #lemon8 #tiktokban ♬ original sound - Kyyah Abdul

Lemon8 seemingly attracts creators with smaller followings on other platforms, such as TI (also known by his pseudonym ladmeetsmakeup). Interestingly, it would appear that creators with millions of followers on TikTok and Instagram have yet to migrate, but it’s more a question of when. 

With the official launch in May, we look forward to seeing the app grow to discover new creators alike.

Is Lemon8 better than TikTok? 

Well, like most social media platforms, Lemon8 allows users to create content that will serve audiences differently, but Lemon8 seems to lean towards influencer marketing more than TikTok.

Lemon8 is recognised as a product placement platform, where brands can work with creators to promote their products to sell a specific lifestyle aesthetic to their audience. 

Creators on TikTok, however, are typically known for their niche content that engages with a specific audience. And with video content, creators on TikTok are able to convince their audience that their content is natural. 


On Lemon8, though, there are a large number of creators who create aesthetically and perfectly curated content.

As the popularity of Lemon8 increases, some creators already want users on the platform to be authentic with their followers. Creator Issac Rochell posted: “Can we all agree to NOT ruin this app? By making it too aesthetic”. His post resonated with a lot of users, with one commenting: “I love a good aesthetic, but it sucks the fun out of social media”. 

As the app grows, will it disassociate itself from the perfectionist nature that we all know social media to have? 

The overarching question that many have been asking is: Is Lemon8 worth the investment?

For smaller creators, it is a great opportunity for them to establish themselves on a new platform. Creator Natasha Huggins is one of many creators on the platform who has seen a big growth in followers since joining. 

It may also be an opportunity for small business owners to further expand their reach. 

Monetisation on the app is currently unclear and marketers could be hesitant to invest in Lemon8 due to its parent company, ByteDance, and its volatile relationship with the US government. TikTok creator Kyyah Abdul, for example, raises a valid point that Lemon8 might face a similar fate to TikTok once it surpasses over a million users. 

Until then, Lemon8 is in its infancy stage with a promise of being a prominent contender in the social media market. With its official launch in May, The FIFTH is in exploratory mode: we are keeping a pulse on anyone of influence and learning more about the platform, and waiting to see what happens next.

AI-generated Drake and The Weeknd song raises serious artistic concerns after going viral

AI Drake and The Weeknd song Heart on my Sleeve has been pulled from digital streaming services

By Jonnie Owen

Friday, 21st of April

The interactive restrictions put on us by the pandemic forced technological advancements at a rapid pace. We relied more than ever on technology to communicate in new innovative ways by upgrading existing tools and developing new formats. 

The music industry, like all industries which rely heavily on IRL interaction, experienced a monumental void when live performances were cancelled. Music artists showed immense resilience and quickly adapted to the status quo by engaging with fans in new creative ways via virtual worlds, live streams and staying connected to fans on social media platforms. 

The same technology that had a part to play in helping the industry overcome the restrictions of the pandemic, however, is now a threat to the legal, moral and creative rights of artists and their work.

Drake and The Weeknd via Getty Images

Earlier this month, an AI-engineered song surfaced across digital streaming platforms and social platforms, and took the music world by storm. The track titled ‘Heart On My Sleeve’ was AI-generated by a yet-to-be identified ‘Ghostwriter’. 

The composition featured the AI-generated voices of Drake and the Weeknd. 

The track was met with much dismay by Universal Music Group (UMG) who told Billboard magazine that the viral postings “demonstrate why platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists”, as this is a clear copyright infringement. On the flipside, it has been welcomed by fans of the artists and curious music fans alike with comments to the song that include: “This would literally go No.1 on the charts if Drake released it”, and: “What a time to be alive”. 

Drake and The Weeknd aren’t the only ones. Other music artists are also being faked. Recently, a fake Oasis album which again utilised AI was instead praised by Liam Gallagher. 

The album titled The Lost Tapes Volume One under the playful name of AIsis also went viral and featured music and lyrics written by Hastings band Breezer with Liam’s voice generated by AI. Responding to a fan on Twitter, Gallagher was asked if he’d heard the AIsis album yet and responded: “Mad as fuck…I sound mega”.

Before being forcefully taken down from streaming platforms by UMG, the Drake and The Weeknd track wracked up over 600,000 Spotify streams, 15m TikTok views and 275,000 YouTube views.  

Watching this unfold over the last week has given me deja vu as it brought back memories of the catastrophic events between music rights holders and Napster. Up until 2001, Napster was a peer to peer file sharing platform that allowed users to upload and share millions of files, in particular music tracks, globally yet illegally. 

Piracy choked the music industry of billions of dollars of profit each year. The Napster controversy came as a result of a few events. The digital revolution – in particular the ease of sharing music via mp3 married with the global connectivity capabilities of the internet. But I would also argue music piracy came as a reaction to the price tags put on physical music formats. 

At that time the CD was king. I remember paying £15.99 for Idlewild the Remote Part in HMV. It’s a great album but something I could never justify today. Now I’m one of the 9 million Brits with a Spotify subscription for a fraction of that cost per month for unlimited music wherever I am. 

What Napster proved then was just how unprepared the music business was for technological advances. Piracy on sites like Napster happened en masse. Music was freely available in huge clusters globally to a point where it became difficult to stop until legal action was taken at source and directly against the pirate sites for copyright infringement. From this, Digital Service Providers (DSP) platforms arose out of the dust like iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music with the major music labels on board to help counteract the file sharing and make up for lost revenue.

Could fake AI music have similar consequences that Napster had in the music industry? At the time of writing, duplicate versions of the Drake and The Weeknd song are still being shared across social media platforms in video form. So how do you make it stop?

TikTok has seen a huge rise in popularity, with users creating their own sped up and slowed down versions of popular songs, becoming the new ‘remix’. They are similarly illegal as they are not authorised by the rights owner. Are these new AI versions the new cover versions? 

And what if the fake AI track had featured offensive lyrics? This could have damaged the reputation of the artist and a lot of time and money might have been spent to remedy the false narrative with the truth. 

The wider concern for music rights owners is the fact that AI engines are being fed already existing musical compositions, which begs the question: how will music labels crack down on identifying when an AI creation has infringed? Especially when we’re talking about millions of pieces of music data being fed and then spat out into a new-(ish) stitched together, tangible creation. This will be a priority for music labels to mitigate before it spirals out of control. 

Interestingly, it’s also been reported by Music Business Worldwide that Drake himself is actually being investigated for copyright infringement by Ghanaian artist Obrafour for allegedly using an unauthorised sample from the Ghanaian’s 2003 track, ‘Oye Ohene’, in one of his own compositions: ‘Calling My Name’.

But despite the fact that AI is receiving a bad rap within the industry, there are many ways in which this technology can do the industry a lot of good. It could be a useful tool for music label A&R departments to save time and money to test collaborations before getting major artists into a studio only to find their voices or playing styles are not compatible. We could experience Marvin Gaye perform a cover of Gabriel’s track, could dig out some of Kurt Cobain’s unfinished demos and use AI to help finish them off, with David Grohl and co directing it as a gift for die hard fans. 

There are, however, many issues to work on in terms of mitigation. Music distribution companies (i.e. Distro Kid, Tunecore, Sound:On) for example, are responsible for making music available across DSP’s and social platforms, and it is a requirement between music labels, artists, DSP’s and social platforms.  

They work on behalf of music artists, labels and music rights owners to ensure the music being uploaded for consumption is delivered correctly, legally and properly tracked for royalty payouts and stream and sale counting. So, it feels like a tougher vetting process needs to be applied at this intersection. The social platforms where videos of the AI track are still running free should also be held accountable as this feels like the wild west, yet platforms and DSP’s should know the rules of the game by now. They have a duty to protect artists’ intellectual property as they are given the privilege to exploit musical creations to their customers.

In regards to live concerts, the success of ABBA Voyage is testament to a balanced relationship between technology and human interaction. Voyage is a VR experience where a live band performs on stage led by avatar versions of the Swedish pop group known as ‘ABBAtars’, performing pre-recorded moves by younger performers with the original vocals from recordings added on top. With this in mind, If the future allows me the opportunity to see John Lennon perform ‘Mother’ in a live environment I can experience with an audience, then I’m in…

AI being used as a tool in addition to or as an idea starter to a human-made creation sounds useful. Music artists have worked with machines such as synthesisers, guitar fx pedals and drum machines since their introduction to popular music. I throw AI in the same bracket as these, as it’s a tool to aid creation but not to solve creation. I’m not a supporter of music or any form of art being solely created by an AI engine. I want my favourite artists to share with me their blood, sweat and tears. I want the real heart on sleeve, not bot on dot. 

Trendsetters: What is Nostalgia Marketing?

a go-to guide to incorporate it into your marketing strategy

By Bella Hales

Friday, 21st of April 2023

Nostalgia is described as ‘an affectionate feeling you have for the past, especially for a particularly happy time.’ 

When it comes to marketing, nostalgia is typically used to evoke consumers’ emotions by tapping into their fond memories and associations with the past to build trust for new campaigns. Examples of brands that have successfully used nostalgia in their marketing strategy include Coca-Cola, who brought back its favoured “Hilltop” ad from the 1970s; Nintendo who released the NES Classic Edition, a mini version of its iconic video game console from the 1980s and more recently Supreme who collaborated with Tamagotchi – the quintessential 90s toy.

The latest nostalgic trend to take 2023 by storm is low-fi and old-school looking content.

Remember the camcorder? Well, it’s back and @Kyliejenner is one of many well known faces to have jumped on the bandwagon and used it to create social content. Whether it be in a shoot teasing her upcoming Kylie Cosmetics makeup collection or a post exhibiting her Oscar’s outfit, the low-fi content of both evoke positive memories of the old-school home-movies of the 1980s.

Some may question why, in an age where technology is at its height, low quality content is being favoured. Here at THE FIFTH, we believe it’s down to the ongoing craving audiences have for authenticity and honesty from content creators. Posting low-fi content almost reverts social media back to the old ways of capturing content, where there wasn’t the false reality of filters and edited images, making creators seem more relatable and trustworthy. 

A further example of a creator using nostalgia successfully in their content is @Fajereats, a food content creator from Kuwait who is well known for her mukbang content. In a recent collaboration with The Cheesecake Factory, Fajer created one of her classic mukbang style videos, but used the caption to reflect on her childhood memories of the restaurant. Her Reel is evidence that nostalgia sells. According to Corq, the Reel resulted in an engagement rate of 2.7%, which is higher than her usual 2.46%.  

@thefifthagency All the nostalgia 🙌🏼 check out our new trendsetters piece about nostalgia marketing on our website #nostalgia #nostalgiamarketing #officetok #london #agencytiktok ♬ original sound - Sam Munro

So, why should brands look to incorporate nostalgia into their marketing efforts?

By tapping into shared experiences and memories, brands can create a sense of community among their customers. According to research by Wildschut et al. (2006), this sense of community and connection places people in a positive mood, which can make them more willing to spend money.

Nostalgia evokes strong emotions. It can transport people back in time and trigger memories of happy experiences. By tapping into these positive emotions, brands can create a strong connection with their customers which can lead to increased brand loyalty and advocacy.

It sets brands apart. In a crowded market, it can be challenging for brands to stand out. By leveraging nostalgia, brands can differentiate themselves and create a unique selling proposition that resonates with their target audience.

It appeals to multiple generations. Nostalgia is not limited to a specific age group with people of all ages having fond memories of the past. Therefore, using nostalgia in marketing can help brands reach a broader audience.

It can be cost-effective. Nostalgia marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. Brands can use existing assets, such as old logos or advertising campaigns, and repurpose them in their marketing efforts. This can be a cost-effective way to tap into the power of nostalgia.  

Overall, nostalgia marketing is a powerful tool that brands will continue to use to create a sense of familiarity and comfort to connect with their audiences and drive actual results. 

Trendsetters: is snapchat a dating app?

“Can i get your snap?” the line that begins many a love story

By Milan Charles

Wednesday, 5th of April 2023

Snapchat, also known as ‘Snap’ among its users, emerged as a social media app that offered a unique alternative to text messaging. Its popularity soared in the mid-2010s, particularly among younger users, who found it to be an ideal platform for communication. 

The app’s primary feature is that any media, be it a picture, video, or message (or ‘snap’), can only be viewed by the recipient for a limited time before it disappears. This temporary nature of Snapchat was intended to promote more authentic interactions.

Snapchat has, however, evolved beyond its original purpose and transformed how we communicate online. It is now much more than just a media-sharing service and can even help you find your perfect match. 

Snapchat dating has emerged as a new way for modern teens and young adults to navigate the dating scene in the digital age. By facilitating intimate and immediate multimedia conversations, Snapchat surpasses the limitations of conventional dating apps. Here’s how:

@haleyybaylee And he didn’t even snap me back. 😭#snapchat ♬ Sonic - MoneyGamer

The Intimacy Bubble

Snapchat’s approach to privacy is highly personalised and designed to safeguard users’ content. The app allows users to customise individual ‘snaps’ to disappear in as little as one second or as long as 24 hours, ensuring that their content is not available permanently. Additionally, the app notifies users when someone takes a screenshot or saves their snaps. Snapchat also uses encryption for all photos and videos sent within the app, providing an additional layer of security.

As a result, users feel a sense of safety on the platform, knowing that their private thoughts and feelings can never be saved or shared without their knowledge. This sense of security is especially important given that social media platforms are often geared towards a larger public audience. Snapchat’s direct line of communication, however, enables users to share their most genuine and innermost feelings in a controlled and contained environment, making it an ideal platform for private and personal conversations.

Context in Communication

Snapchat offers a unique advantage when it comes to communicating with your partner. The app’s multimedia ‘snaps’ allow you to contextualise your thoughts and feelings through a range of formats such as video, voice messages, text notes, selfies and Bitmojis.

This provides a high degree of precision in your communication, ensuring that your partner understands your intentions exactly as you mean them to be. Whether you’re teasing, flirting or pouring your heart out, the multimedia format allows you to express yourself authentically.

In contrast, texting can often feel awkward and limiting. Snapchat’s informal and playful environment makes flirting and getting to know a new potential partner more fun and low-pressure. With face filters, backgrounds, games, chats, and cute selfies, the possibilities for playful interactions are endless. This makes Snapchat an ideal platform for those who want to build a connection with their partner more naturally and enjoyably.

The Snap Map

The Snap Map is a feature that allows Snapchat users to share their location on a digital map with others. When using the Snap Map for the first time, users have the option to choose who can view their current location, providing a sense of control over their privacy.

The Snap Map provides a useful tool for discovering interesting people in their local area, helping users to expand their social circle and make new connections. By customising the settings, users can choose which contacts can see their precise location, ensuring that their privacy is protected while still enabling them to connect with others in a meaningful way.

Overall, the Snap Map offers a unique way to connect with others and explore new opportunities in your local area, while still providing the necessary tools to maintain your privacy and security. Whether you’re looking to make new friends or find someone special, The Snap Map can help you achieve your goals in a safe and controlled way.

Long-Distance Doesn’t Exist

Dating on Snapchat has revolutionised how we bridge physical space in long-distance relationships. The app provides the necessary tools to have a three-dimensional relationship with a faraway lover, enabling partners to feel connected in a way that distance has never allowed before. While phone calls and text messages are limited in their ability to convey emotions and experiences, Snapchat’s personalised videos of you in your everyday life, walking the dog or having breakfast enable your partner to feel like they are there with you.

This creates a new level of intimacy in long-distance relationships, as partners are able to share moments and experiences in a more momentous and original way. With Snapchat, physical distance is no longer a barrier to building a strong and healthy relationship. It allows couples to stay connected and engaged in each other’s lives, fostering a sense of closeness that can help strengthen the bond between partners.

In conclusion, Snapchat has evolved from its original purpose as a media-sharing app and has become a valuable tool for modern dating. Its personalised approach to privacy, multimedia communication format, and the Snap Map feature have all contributed to making Snapchat an ideal platform for private and personal conversations, low-pressure flirting, expanding social circles, and bridging the physical space in long-distance relationships. By providing a safe and controlled environment for intimate and immediate conversations, Snapchat has transformed the way we navigate the dating scene in the digital age. 

WILl 2023 see a social media platform become music’s major record label no.4?

What were once clear lines between streaming and social platforms are now blurred

By Jonnie Owen

Wednesday, 29th of March 2023

TikTok has music at its core. Its ‘sound on’ mantra has helped break new artists, led songs to receive their highest-ever streaming numbers after appearing in videos and catapulted music from the past right back to the top of the charts. 

It therefore came as no surprise when TikTok launched SoundOn: an all-in-one platform for music marketing and distribution, designed to empower new and undiscovered artists, helping them develop and build their careers.

If they get SoundOn right, we might see TikTok pivot further towards establishing itself as a more central player providing more holistic music services such as recording advances; development deals; merchandise (live shopping); live events, sync, brand partnerships and 360 contracts. And as a result, they could create their own artist roster for whom they can provide the above services. A one-stop shop for artists both old and new. 

Two recent major developments have taken place that signal a major change at TikTok.

@snoopdogg Tha Dogg checcin in. Excited to tell y’all Death Row Records music is back for you to enjoy. Go get the songs on TikTok’s curated Death Row playlist available now 👊🏾🔥💨 #blackmusic #superbowl @musicontiktok @soundon ♬ Gin & Juice - Snoop Doggy Dogg

Firstly, TikTok recently conducted tests in Australia by restricting some users’ access to the plethora of popular hits usually provided by the major labels via UGC licences. This could indicate they are exploring going at it without major label music catalogues. The catalyst for this is the ongoing complications reported between music rights holders (labels, publishers, songwriters and artists) and TikTok over licensing terms. According to research firm Data.ai, the results for this test have been mixed, with some results that ‘suggest the company is still dependent on its access to popular songs’. It is difficult to account for this wave alone, especially with the current scrutiny the Chinese-owned app is under from global governments which may sway usage.

Secondly, TikTok has attracted established artists such as Snoop Dogg who recently became the first large artist to distribute music via SoundOn, namely the Snoop Dogg-owned Death Row catalogue which features hits by hip hop megastars 2Pac, Nate Dogg, Kurupt and Snoop Dogg himself. This ultimately shows that Snoop Dog recognises TikTok is paramount in today’s music ecosystem in successfully reintroducing music from the past to a new and hungry young audience and creates longevity. Snoop Dog even launched this collaboration during the Super Bowl. A proper PR touchdown.  

Over at Spotify – the platform that claims responsibility for clamping down on music piracy and leading the music consumption race – they announced at their annual Stream On event that they’re introducing short form video content on the home feed, as well as an AI-powered DJ tool which will service streamers.

The purpose of the AI DJ and the 30 second video clips will be to encourage artist discovery by tapping into a feature similar to that of the TikTok ‘For You’ page, where users are algorithmically served content they may like based on their scrolling habits. You can’t help but think, however, that this comes with both negatives and positives for the artists. 

Starting with the positives: there are some opportunities for artists to be innovative in getting closer to their fans with this feature by offering the story of the song, behind-the-scenes footage, fan tokens (NFT), outtakes, special guests (i.e. a collaborator or producer) and thus casting the net out wider in aiding fandom. Perhaps in the future, this feature will also allow artists to leverage the power of influencers and offer takeovers or collaborations and tap into a new audience. Opening the feature up to brand sponsored posts could also provide a lucrative additional revenue stream. 

The negatives however may result in low uptake as it is yet another task upon the already digitally burned out artists who have a long list of social content output in their exhaustive schedule. Thinking long term, the big issue is: will this feature follow the suit of all social platforms and look like a golden cloud to begin with until they flip the engagement and force artists to pay to reach earned and new audiences? Thus, adding another cost on top of a mountain of existing ad costs. This also isn’t the first attempt by Spotify to introduce short form video with failed attempts like Spotify Stories in 2020.

Spotify also beta tested a direct-to-artist distribution service in 2018 only to be shut down a year later. You’d think now was a good time to revisit this type of service that sits more within their lane. 

It does feel that artists, especially independent artists who operate without teams, will now more than ever need to be strategic and selective with what platforms will best benefit them or they could risk burnout. Understanding their audience by conducting litmus tests with their content output and monitoring with the data analytical tools provided by all platforms will be key to getting the balance right. 

I think TikTok might just pip Spotify for being the champions of the platform era, as TikTok parent company Bytedance has in its arsenal a secret weapon: Resso. 

Resso is a streaming service that is yet to be launched in the UK, Europe and USA which has recently filed for patent in the UK under TikTok Music. The BPi reported that 81% of music consumption in 2022 resulted from streaming and so it makes sense for TikTok to want to get in on the action. TikTok Music has a unique opportunity to use learnings from the current Spotify model and offer more favourable royalty kickbacks to artists from streams, and by doing so, providing them with some leverage to heal some of the wounds from feuds with music rights owners. This puts them in a very strategic position.

What were once clear lines between digital streaming platforms and social platforms are now blurred.

SoundOn and Resso, under the umbrella of TikTok Music, could form a music powerhouse: a progressive one stop shop label that earns ad revenue from monetised content that helps drive extra royalty kick back through to its sister streaming service and compete for the majority market share.

Millions of users waking up to a new streaming tab on the TikTok app will rattle the cage for Spotify and others. If a mass exodus of major artists follow Snoop Dog and gain good yards, we may be looking at the beginnings of major label no.4: TikTok Music. I’ve got my popcorn at the ready…