Star Wars, Vodafone, Volkswagen: Everything that matters this morning

We round up all the important marketing, advertising, media and digital news from around the world.

Retailers feel the force

Today is the second Force Friday, marking the launch of a host of new Star Wars products ready for the run-up to Christmas and the opening of the latest film in the interminable franchise, The Last Jedi. This year, the toy launches and special events are set to be drawn out over the whole weekend.

Among the stranger Star Wars products already announced are the Philips ‘Dark Side’ electric razor, an origami set and a Chewbacca bobble-head model.

While the retailers getting on board are mostly US-based, Amazon, Apple and Disney Store are all selling the new products in the UK. John Lewis, meanwhile, opened its Oxford Street store at midnight last night, hosting Star Wars themed demonstrations, while a number of experiential activities will continue at the department store through September and October.

Vodafone jumps on millennial bandwagon

Clearly unbowed by the ridicule doled out to Air France last month for launching Joon, its new ‘airline for millennials’, Vodafone has followed suit and announced a new mobile operator, Voxi, restricted to consumers under 25. It will offer SIM-only tariffs with unlimited data allowances for use on social media, with Vodafone seeking to encourage customers onto more traditional contracts when they turn 25.

READ MORE: Mark Ritson – Only crap marketers mistake stereotypes for segments

Vodafone already runs a sub-brand for young people in Portugal called Yorn. According to the Financial Times, its research shows users aged 16 to 24 use two to three times as much data as the average consumer due to social media and messaging apps.

Voxi will also be staffed by people aged 17 to 25, who it appears will have some influence over the brand’s marketing approach. Head of Voxi Dan Lambrou told the newspaper: “These guys hate stereotypes. You show them a picture of a teenager with a skateboard and they are allergic to it. They will think that has been created by a 50-year-old.”

Gambling industry takings balloon in 10 years

The gambling industry is set to come under close scrutiny after figures from regulator the Gambling Commission showed the amount brands win from customers has grown by 65% since 2007, when gambling laws were relaxed. It is now a £13.8bn industry, up from £8.36bn in the financial year beginning April 2008. The increase is put down largely to the National Lottery, online betting and controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The government is due to publish a review of the UK gambling industry’s use of FOBTs in the autumn, which has been delayed from June after disagreements within government about the level of regulation, with the Treasury wary of reducing tax receipts from the industry. Gambling brands have spent £1.4bn on advertising since 2012, according to The Guardian.

The Gambling Commission also fined 888 £7.8m yesterday for failing vulnerable customers.

Volkswagen the latest to feature real people in ads

Car brand Volkswagen has become the latest advertiser to follow the seemingly unstoppable trend of creating ads about real life. Its latest film for the Tiguan sports utility vehicle (SUV), which will go live on Monday (4 September), gives a best man a second chance to give his wedding speech to the groom, after he was overcome by nerves on the day itself.

READ MORE: The rise of ‘social realism’ in advertising

A number of advertisers, from TalkTalk to BT to McCain, have gone down the same route in the past year, often with the aim of restoring trust or a lost connection with consumers. This campaign by adam&eveDDB is the start of a content series focused on confidence. Chief creative officer Ben Priest says: “Authenticity was key to expressing the insight that Volkswagen SUVs instill confidence in our drivers.”

Meanwhile, VW has followed rival car makers in announcing that it will run its own scrappage scheme, giving customers discounts of up to £6,000 when they trade in any diesel car for a new car under any of its brands, which include Audi, Seat and Skoda.

New measures to prevent ad fraud at source

US ad tech companies White Ops and The Trade Desk have signed an agreement that aims to prevent ad fraud by cutting out bot traffic before an online ad impression is bought. The companies will use real-time data analysis to verify that the device viewing an impression bought via The Trade Desk’s demand-side platform is human in advance of the bid being made on it by the advertiser.

It follows high-profile calls this year for the digital ad supply chain to be cleaned up and to wipe out fraud, notably from Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Marc Pritchard.

Thursday, 31 August

L’Oréal Paris expands its True Match #YoursTruly campaign

L’Oréal is expanding its #YoursTruly campaign, which celebrates diversity in beauty, just one year after it was originally launched.

The campaign which highlights how L’Oréal can match 98% of UK skin tones featured the first man to star in a makeup campaign. It will now feature five new shades of makeup and five new ambassadors, including DJ, activist and transgender, Munroe Bergdorf, who struggled to find other trans women in the media to relate to when she was transitioning.

Just Eat celebrates the unsung superstars of the weekend in new X Factor sponsorship idents

Just Eat celebrates the Unsung Superstars of Saturday and Sunday night in sponsorship idents for The X Factor, launching this Saturday (2 September).

Nine singing chefs and delivery drivers from across the UK will entertain the nation by bringing them their favourite takeaways. The concept was created by agency Karmarama and includes 40 idents from nine Just Eat restaurant partners.

READ MORE: Just Eat makes big bet on The X Factor sponsorship in hunt for consideration 

“We wanted to be able to champion the real heroes of the weekend – the chefs and drivers from our restaurant partners who work tirelessly behind the scenes – and give them a chance to shine on national TV,” says Ben Carter, Just Eat’s UK marketing director.

Expedia names new chief executive

Expedia has named a new chief executive to replace Dara Khosrowshahi, who is leaving to become chief executive at Uber. The role will go to Mark Okerstrom, who joined Expedia in 2006 and has been its financial leader since 2011.

Uber chairman Barry Diller says Khosrowshahi will remain on the board and that Okerstrom was the only candidate the company considered.

“We all wish Dara Khosrowshahi the best good fortune as Uber’s chief executive,” Diller adds.

READ MORE: Expedia names new chief executive 

Uber could go public as early as 2019, new boss says

Uber could be set for an initial public offering as early as 2019, the company’s new chief executive said at his first staff meeting. Dara Khosrowshahi, who is joining Uber from Expedia, said Uber was likely to go public in 18 to 36 months, according to people present at the meeting.

He told staff: “It’s my opinion that the company should go public.”

The comments from the new chief executive are in stark contrast to those made by Travis Kalanick, who resigned as chief executive in June in the wake of a series of controversies.

READ MORE: Uber could go public as early as 2019, new boss says

Co-op enters talks to acquire convenience retailer Nisa

The Co-operative Group has entered talks to acquire UK convenience store operator Nisa. The company is understood to be considering a £140m bid, which would see it take over the wholesale business that supplies 3,000 Nisa stores.

The Co-op has now replaced Sainsbury’s, which had also reportedly been mulling a bid, as the front runner to acquire Nisa.

Nisa’s chairman Peter Hartley says the company has held “positive” talks with the Co-op about a sale in recent weeks. He adds that Nisa and the convenience sector “continue to evolve at pace”, while also leaving the door open to other bids.

READ MORE: Co-op enters talks to acquire Nisa convenience store firm 

Wednesday, 30th August 

YouTube gets first major logo redesign

YouTube is getting its biggest redesign ever with a logo refresh and a revamp of its mobile and desktop platforms. The new logo aims to shift the emphasis away from the ‘Tube’ aspect to the play button that has become so associated with the company. The Tube part will no longer sit in a red box, while the play button will sit at the front of the logo.

The makeover also includes a new typeface and colour scheme, as well as changes to the look of the platform. It runs alongside updates to both the mobile and desktop services, with the mobile app getting gesture control and the ability for videos to adapt to the screen size and shape.

The aim is to better unify the range of services that YouTube now offers and its presence across different devices.

“To put it simply, YouTube’s evolved … a lot. And we’re not even close to done. Over the last few months we’ve started releasing updates and will continue to throughout the rest of the year. When all is said and done, we’ll bring a new level of functionality and a more consistent look across our desktop and mobile experience,” says YouTube in a blog post.

Banks enlist the help of Arnold Schwarzenegger for multimillion pound PPI campaign

UK banks involved in the misselling of payment protection insurance (PPI) have been forced by the Financial Conduct Authority to pay millions towards a campaign urging people to claim for compensation before the deadline in two years’ time. The 18 banks with the most PPI complaints, including Lloyds, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander, have all contributed to the reported £42.2m campaign.

The majority of the money is going on an ad campaign featuring a robotic head of Arnold Schwarzenegger encourging people to see if they were missold PPI. The ad, created by M&C Saatchi, will be aired on TV and in cinemas, as well as on outdoor ads.

The rest of the money will be spent on a new helpline to assist people making claims, as well as updates to the City watchdog’s website, PR and social media. The deadline for PPI claims is 29 August 2019.

READ MORE: Britain’s banks cough up £30m on Arnold Schwarzenegger PPI advert 

BrewDog to give staff a share of profits as it looks to democratise CSR

BrewDog has pledged to give 20% of its profits to employees and charities every year as it looks to become the “best company to work for”. Some 10% of the profits will go to staff, while the other 10% will go to a group of charities chosen by its 1,000-strong workforce and retail investors. The rest of the profit will be reinvested in the business.

The aim, according to co-founder James Watt, is to encourage corporate social responsibility and drive up workplace loyalty.

BrewDog made £7.1m in profits last year and is on course to generate more than £45m over the next five years.

“Outdated corporate social responsibility policies have zero consideration for their real-world impact, existing merely for the purpose of an oversized cheque and an awkward photo shoot,” he tells The Telegraph.

“This is a call to arms for businesses to democratise the impact their charitable contributions can have on their community, their people, and the world.”

READ MORE: BrewDog pledges to split 20pc of profits between staff and charities as part of Unicorn fund giveaway

McDonald’s looks to consultancies for digital innovation project

McDonald’s has appointed Capgemini and Publicis.Sapient as it looks to the next stage of its digital transformation. The aim is to accelerate digital technology innovation and transform the restaurant experience for customers. The move comes on the back of new digital services including mobile ordering and home delivery.

Jim Sappington, executive vice-president of operations, digital and technology systems at McDonald’s says: “[We want to] enhance our ability to bring speed, scalability and disruptive innovation across our restaurant and digital technologies as McDonald’s continues to transform the customer experience through greater convenience and personalisation.”

WhatsApp targets brands with launch of verified business accounts

WhatsApp is giving business accounts verified green badges as it looks to build out its business. A company will have to verify contact information, such as a phone number, to get a badge. They are currently only available to companies participating in a small trial but the feature is likely to roll out widely if it proves successful.

WhatsApp also wants to make it easier for consumers to know if they are talking to a business. In chat, the text bubble will now be yellow for brands and messages cannot be deleted.

The hope is the move will encourage more businesses to sign up.

READ MORE: WhatsApp now adds verified badges to select business accounts

Tuesday, 29 August

Uber picks Expedia boss as new CEO

After months of turmoil, which saw sexual harassment claims and former CEO Travis Kalanick resign, Uber has chosen Expedia boss Dara Khosrowshahi to be its new chief executive.

The decision was made by Uber’s board late on Sunday, a source told the BBC, but the company has made no official announcement.

In an internal memo to staff, Expedia said it expects Mr Khosrowshahi to take the role.

Expedia’s chairman, Barry Diller, told staff: “Nothing has yet been finalised, but having extensively discussed this with Dara, I believe it is his intention to accept.”

Several big names – including Hewlett Packard boss Meg Whitman and General Electric chairman Jeff Immelt – had been touted for the role. Immelt ruled himself out of the race over the weekend, while reports intensified that Whitman was the most likely successor despite her saying she was not interested in the job either.

READ MORE: Uber names Expedia boss Dara Khosrowshahi as CEO pick

Amazon slashes prices on Whole Foods items on first day of ownership

Amazon kept its word by slashing prices of some food items on its first full day of ownership. This in turn knocked the share prices of UK supermarkets.

The US behemoth said it was acquiring the upmarket grocer for a cool £10.7bn earlier this year. Whole Foods has 460 shops with the vast majority in the US and Canada and seven in the UK, where prices were also dropped by up to 33%.

The price of bananas in UK stores dropped from £1.79 per kg to £1.20 – a fall of 33% – while organic tomatoes on the vine fell 31% to £2.40 from £3.49. There were also discounts to be had on meat, including organic beef steak mince down from £5.89 for 380g to £3.99; a Capestone organic whole free-range chicken is now £6.50 per kg instead of £7.99 – a drop of 18%.

The move comes at a time when UK supermarkets are battling against rising costs from business rates and the National Living Wage, as well as a steep rise in import costs on the back of the fall in sterling.

READ MORE: Amazon makes good on promise to slash prices of Whole Foods goods on its first day of ownership

Great British Bake Off returns, spiking baking tool sales

Much-loved TV programme Great British Bake Off is returning to screens tonight. Channel 4 received a lot of pushback for poaching it from the BBC, with hardcore fans worried the programme would be inundated with advertising and product placement, but the initial reviews suggest the show has gone down a treat.

John Lewis says it has already seen a “huge spike” in sales of baking equipment as customers get ready to replicate the bakes seen on the show. Sales of baking tools such as spoons and spatulas are up 50% and 42%, respectively, over the past week, while Paul Hollywood cookie cutters are up 50%, and sales of cookbooks and cake stands have risen 18%.

Sales of certain cupcakes kits are up 225%, perhaps unsurprisingly given the first episode of Bake Off is, as always, cake week. Cupcake toppers are up 19% week on week.

Bake Off, which attracted more than 14 million viewers for its final episode last year, has inspired thousands of British consumers to jump on the baking bandwagon. In fact, between 2009 and 2014, annual baking sales rose from £523m to £1.7bn, according to figures from Mintel, largely because of the popularity of cooking shows.

READ MORE: Sales of baking tools surge as Great British Bake Off returns

Twitter CMO takes on HR with ‘head of people’ role

Twitter has found someone to take over its top human resources role, which has been empty for almost six months, and it’s not who you might expect. Leslie Berland, who is already Twitter’s CMO and head of communications, will be taking on the job.

Berland’s expanded role was announced internally by CEO Jack Dorsey, according to Recode. A company spokesperson confirmed that Berland is now overseeing the human resources team as “head of people” and will continue to run marketing and communications.

Twitter has also hired Jennifer Christie, most recently a senior vice president of human resources at American Express, where Berland used to work. Christie is Twitter’s new VP of human resources; she will report to Berland and handle the day-to-day responsibilities of the team.

Twitter’s old VP of human resources, Brian Schipper, announced he was leaving back in January 2016, the same day Twitter lost a number of other key VPs.

READ MORE: Twitter CMO Leslie Berland is also taking over human resources as the new ‘Head of People’

Fitbit looks to take on Apple with smartwatch

It is no secret that Fitbit has been struggling – it reported its lowest device sales in years during its first quarter results, with many consumers moving to Apple smartwatches instead.

It is now looking to address this problem head on. The wearable device maker launched its newest device yesterday, with features ranging from fitness tracking to contactless payment.

Ionic smartwatches will also feature GPS, heart rate tracking, water resistance up to 50 meters, Fitbit Pay, on-board music, multiple clock faces and a battery that will last more than 4 days.

“Over the coming months you will be able to add eligible American Express cards, as well as Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards from top issuing banks in over 10 markets across the globe,” Fitbit says.

But with a price tag of $299.95, Ionic is priced above Apple Watch’s starting price of $269.

READ MORE: Fitbit takes aim at Apple with new smartwatch launch

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