M&S, Currys, Revolut: Everything that matters this morning

Good morning and welcome to Marketing Week’s round-up of the news that matters in the marketing world today.


M&S rebrands ‘midget gems’ after campaign by academic

M&S has changed the name of its ‘midget gem’ sweets to avoid offending people with dwarfism.

The retailer rebranded the sweets to ‘mini gems’ last year after receiving feedback from colleagues and insight from Dr Erin Pritchard, a lecturer in disability and education at Liverpool Hope University.

Talking about the switch, an M&S spokesperson says the business is “committed to being an inclusive retailer, from how we support our colleagues, through to the products we offer and the way we market them”.

Pritchard, who has achondroplasia, the most common type of dwarfism, says the term midget is a “form of hate speech and contributes to the prejudice that people with dwarfism experience on a daily basis”.

Vegan-friendly brand Free From Fellows, which is stocked in Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, WH Smiths and Boots, has also removed midget from its packaging as a result of Pritchard’s campaigning, but she says most other companies have been unreceptive.

“Having spoken with various firms about the use of the word ‘midget’, it’s clear that many companies are simply unaware of just how offensive the term is, and I’ve had to explain to them why it’s such an issue,” she says.

“We need better awareness about this particular word so that things can change for the better. I’m grateful that M&S has been willing to listen to the concerns of people with dwarfism and has gone ahead with the rebranding.”

During Dwarfism Awareness Month last October, Pritchard tagged numerous supermarkets and sweet companies into a tweet asking them to remove the word midget from their products, but Free From Fellows was the only brand to respond.

At this time M&S had already confirmed it would remove the name.

“For me, this highlights the need for better awareness about just how problematic the word ‘midget’ really is, and I’d be delighted if other retailers and manufacturers followed in the footsteps of M&S and Free From Fellows,” she adds.

Revolut ramps up marketing investment and embarks on hiring spree

Financial platform Revolut is ramping up marketing investment and has kicked off a hiring spree with two global senior marketing leadership appointments.

The brand has named Antoine Le Nel as vice-president of growth, responsible for increasing Revolut’s overall user base, which currently stands at 18 million customers globally. He joins the business after seven years at King Games, where he built the global presence for brands including Candy Crush Saga.

Revolut has also appointed Ankit Khemka as global general manager and head of marketing. Khemka, who joins from Hello Fresh in New York, has been tasked with scaling a regional marketing leadership team around the world and building Revolut’s global brand through advertising and media partnerships.

The brand is now recruiting to fill 45 marketing roles across all levels of seniority, including a global head of business marketing, global head of performance marketing, global lead for social media, global consumer communications lead and general managers across multiple regions.

Revolut pulled back on marketing at the start of the pandemic, but is now significantly increasing investment as it looks to build on the growth it has achieved over the past two years. The brand has grown its customer base by more than 50% since the beginning of 2020 and launched a series of TV spots in the UK at the end of last year.

The focus on marketing comes as the business continues to expand its product portfolio, which is being fuelled by a recent funding round, as well as raise awareness in international markets including the US, India and APAC.

Le Nel says: “There could be no more exciting time to get on board Revolut’s rocket ship as the world looks for better value, more control and more choice in how we manage our money. The last 18 months have seen millions of people looking for speed, convenience and security in how they spend, save, invest and budget every day.”

Khemka adds: “Revolut is a recognised brand across the world with a multimillion global customer base, essentially on the power of an extraordinary product and the organic world of mouth support of its consumer advocates.

“We are now scaling our brand to showcase the amazing Revolut product, delivering a campaign which is as innovative, disruptive and game-changing as Revolut. Our aim is to disrupt financial services across the globe with the most innovative creative platform and world-class machine learning and AI powered analytics”.

The brand has also appointed Wieden+Kennedy as its creative agency.

Le Nel and Khemka join Rory Miller-Cheevers, global head of growth operations, who leads growth and marketing operations globally across central, regional and creative teams.

Currys blames ‘uneven’ customer demand and supply disruption for ‘challenging’ Christmas

Currys has branded the technology market “challenging” after recording a 5% drop in peak like-for-like sales for the 10 weeks to 8 January. This is versus a 4% rise for the same period two years ago.

Looking at the UK and Ireland alone, peak like-for-like revenue fell 6% compared to last year and 2% on a two-year basis.

The brand says it has seen the strongest growth in gaming and “resilient” growth in large domestic appliances in the UK and Ireland.

Currys says full-year adjusted profit before tax is now expected to be around £155m if there is no more disruption caused by Covid.

Group chief executive Alex Baldock says: “The technology market was challenging this Christmas, with uneven customer demand and supply disruption. Against this backdrop, Currys’ colleagues showed their resilience and the stronger business we’ve built. We gained market share, improved customer satisfaction, traded profitably and can look ahead with confidence.”

Despite the challenges, he believes Currys “came through this market turbulence well”.

“We gained share in the UK, extending our market leadership. At the same time, we focused on profitable sales, with good discipline on margin, cost and stock,” he adds.

He describes 2021 as a “gamers’ Christmas”. “Customer demand for some tech was strong…[it was] the year that virtual reality broke into the mainstream, and when consoles flew off the shelves. Oculus Quest 2 and PS5 were stars. Appliances large and small also enjoyed strong sales, as consumers continued to kit out their homes. Still, the overall UK tech market was down 10% compared to last year’s peak period.”

Google buys London office for $1bn to ‘reinvigorate’ work

While many firms have been exploring options to downsize office space as hybrid working becomes the new normal, Google plans to buy one of its London offices for £730m ($1bn) and “reinvigorate” the work environment.

The tech giant is looking to expand its UK capacity from 6,400 to 10,000 with the purchase of Central Saint Giles, of which it is currently a tenant. The brand says it is “keen to see everybody come back” into the workplace again.

Ronan Harris, Google’s UK boss, says the investment reflects the company’s confidence in the office as a place of work.

“We want to reinvigorate the work environment. We’re making this commitment to rebuild. We’re buying these buildings and we’re keen to see everybody come back in and see a vibrant workspace again,” he told the BBC.

It plans to refurbish the offices to ensure they are of the same standard as its new King’s Cross development, which is currently being built.

READ MORE: Google will spend £730m to ‘reinvigorate’ its UK offices

Next calls cutting sick pay for unvaccinated staff an ’emotive topic’

Next has become the latest retailer to cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who are forced to isolate after being exposed to Covid.

If a worker has to self-isolate after coming into close contact with someone with the virus, they will now only receive statutory sick pay of £96.35 per week if they have not had the vaccine. Vaccinated staff will receive full pay if they have to isolate after a close contact.

Next told the BBC that it was an “emotive topic”, but it had to balance the needs of staff and shareholders.

Ocado has also confirmed it will be cutting sick pay for unvaccinated staff, while Ikea made the decision earlier this week.

Beth Hale, partner at employment law firm C M Murray, told the BBC that while claims of direct discrimination due to this kind of sick pay policy were unlikely to succeed, employers must be “careful that policies are communicated carefully and sensitively” to avoid employee relations issues.

READ MORE: Ocado and Next cut sick pay for unvaccinated isolating staff

Thursday, 13 January

Source: Tesco

Tesco credits value push for market share gains at Christmas

Tesco has credited “an unwavering commitment to value” for a strong performance over the Christmas period.

The supermarket group’s third quarter and Christmas trading statement shows sales up by 2.3% for the quarter compared to 2020, and by 8.2% compared to pre-pandemic 2019 figures. Christmas sales were up by 2.7% versus 2020 and 9.2% compared to the previous year.

Tesco says that it saw its highest market share for four years, with increased share of both in-store and online shopping, and improved brand index scores. It says 95% of promotional sales are now via its Clubcard Prices mechanism, with 8.5 million customers accessing this via its app. The Tesco Whoosh superfast home delivery is now available in more than 100 stores.

“We are delighted that we were able to help our customers have a great Christmas. Despite growing cost pressures and supply chain challenges in the industry, we continued to invest to protect availability, doubled down on our commitment to deliver great value and offered out strongest ever festive range,” says Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy.

“This put us in a strong position to meet customers’ needs as, once again, Covid-19 led to a greater focus on celebrating at home. As a result, we outperformed the market, growing market share and strengthening our value position.”

Asos prepares for stock market launch

AsosOnline fast fashion retailer Asos confirmed it is planning for a full Stock Exchange listing as it published its trading statement for the four months ending 31 December 2021. The brand has been listed on AIM for two decades.

The latter part of 2021 saw a “robust” performance from Asos despite challenging market conditions, the company says. The four-month period saw total UK sales of £645m, a 13% increase on 2020, for total revenues of £1.4bn, a 2% increase.

Asos increased its active customer base by 300,000 and saw a continued improvement in performance from its Topshop brands. These saw year-on-year growth of more than 200%.

“Asos has delivered a robust start to the year, in line with the guidance we set out at full-year results, despite challenging market conditions. This performance reflects the strength of our offer, excellent customer experience and the dedication and hard work of all Asos-ers,” says ” says Asos chief operating officer Mat Dunn.

“We continued to make progress against our objectives to improve the flexibility and speed of our retail model and accelerate the pace of delivery of our international growth strategy. Looking ahead, while mindful of the near-term uncertainty relating to the pandemic, our guidance for the full year remains unchanged”

Local push for Spar brand positioning

Symbol group retailer Spar has launched a new brand positioning that seeks to celebrate its unique characteristics with messages about ‘The Joy of Living Locally’. The new positioning is launching across all UK stores and digital channels.

“Since 2020, we have looked at our brand to understand what it really means to our customers. At the same time, we have been in the middle of a pandemic, where our stores have been valued for meeting the needs of consumers for local convenience, availability of products and friendly services, when it was needed most,” says Spar UK brand and marketing director Suzanne Dover.

She says the brand wanted to showcase what makes it “unique” and the meaning behind its strapline ‘There for you’.

“A unique characteristic of Spar is that no two stores are the same, but all are supported by a core commonality – national Spar own label products, marketing, communications, promotions and store formats,” she adds. “This allows our independent retailers to build on a core framework and proposition. It ensures they can exercise their individual entrepreneurial skill and meet the needs of local shoppers in their stores.”

Three pillars will be used to bring the positioning to life: ‘value on your doorstep’, ‘nurture our neighbourhoods’ and ‘passionate about local’. Each will have a distinctive visual appearance which will be incorporated into future store designs and marketing materials.

The pillars will be used to communicate how Spar supports local communities through employment, neighbourliness and buying from local suppliers.

“We have taken ‘The Joy Of Living Locally’ into research and consumers love the new positioning and creative expression, saying that it is modern, progressive and a significant step forward for Spar in the UK,” says Dover.

“Consumers have rapidly reassessed how they have used convenience stores over the past two years and they have told us that when we put the needs of the community at the heart of our offer, it is very motivating for them.”

New year health campaign from Benecol

Functional food brand Benecol, which helps to lower cholesterol levels, has launched a campaign encouraging consumers to start a new habit this year.

The four-week campaign will use TV and video-on-demand media, alongside shopper marketing, influencer activity and social amplification, to drive awareness of its ‘one-a-day’ product range of yogurt and yogurt drinks. The brand is seeking to reach 24 million consumers with its message that one serving a day is proven to lower cholesterol when consumed with a meal.

“We’re really excited about bringing our one-a-day campaign to life to drive awareness of the Benecol range. Our yogurts and yogurt drinks are ideal for consumers looking for a healthy, tasty and convenient solution from a trusted brand. Not only are they tasty but they contain stanols, scientifically proven to lower cholesterol, and can easily be enjoyed daily,” says Benecol brand and category activation manager Sneahmoyee Banerjee.

“With so many of us having busy, active lifestyles we hope our campaign will resonate with consumers who are maybe contemplating healthier options for the new year or may not be aware of the product’s benefits. Cholesterol affects six in 10 adults in the UK, but despite this, both awareness and knowledge is low, so there has never been a more important time to consider healthy cholesterol management.”

‘Look Away Now’ campaign from Dettol

Reckitt-owned disinfectant brand Dettol has launched a new campaign that calls on consumers to ‘Look Away Now’ to see germs in a new way. In place of side-by-side comparisons of microscopic organisms the treatment uses a ‘self-ironic’ lens to dramatise the fact that germs cannot be seen by the naked eye.

The campaign, by McCann London, delivers a message that while germs can spread in homes, there is a simple way to get rid of them. Warning signs pop up as a family lounges around their home, letting viewers know that graphic scenes are to follow – only to illustrate that there is nothing to see. A public service announcement-style commentary is provided by actor and impressionist Jon Culshaw.

“As a brand we are passionate about helping protect from germs and we believe that being able to relax at home with our loved ones is enhanced in a clean and hygienic house. Dettol disinfectant spray is our effective solution to disinfection as it works on both hard and soft surfaces, from door handles to sofas, with one simple spray,” says Dettol marketing director Luca Tamagni.

Stint appoints Harry Lang as first CMO

Student work app Stint, which connects hospitality operators with students who are seeking short, flexible shift work, has appointed former Buzz Bingo marketing director Harry Lang as its first CMO.

Lang has held roles with several betting and gaming brands and worked for agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi.

Lang’s appointment follows a year of growth at Stint, which has worked with more than 1,400 hospitality companies, including high street brands such as Chipotle ad Chilango. More than 115,000 students have signed up to the platform. The brand was founded by Sol and Sam Schlagman in 2018.

“Stint is a highly ambitious business changing hospitality for the better. Having watched its growth closely, Sol and Sam have given me an amazing opportunity to lead the marketing team as we grow the brand and expand both the client base and student workforce,” says Lang.

“Our aim from the beginning has been to help as many students as possible have the best university experience, never compromising between their studies, their social lives, or their finances. We’re thrilled to welcome Harry and his marketing expertise to Stint to help us with this mission and supercharge our growth,” says Stint co-founder Sam Schlagman.

Wednesday, 12 January

Rapid UK growth tips Just Eat orders over a billion

Just Eat Takeaway.com, the parent company of Just Eat, grew its total orders to 1.1 billion in 2021, an increase of 33%.

Of those orders, 474 million were for delivery. Gross transaction value hit €28.2bn (£23.5bn), with the business claiming to have “rapidly” improved profitability as well.

The UK and Ireland was the fastest growing segment for the business, with orders up 23% to 72.9 million over the fourth quarter and up 52% to 288.8 million over the year. Just Eat has promised to invest “heavily” in the region, particularly in its London network.

The business also identified a “massive opportunity” in convenience grocery and will be investing in building out its convenience proposition. Already Just Eat has several on-demand grocery delivery partnerships, including with Asda and One Stop in the UK.

In August last year, Just Eat reported more than tripling its marketing expenditure over the first half of 2021.

The food delivery business’s marketing expenditure over the first half totalled €295m (£252m), a 204% increase on the €97m (£83m) it spent during the same period in 2020. In the first half of 2019, before the onset of Covid-19, Just Eat spent €73m (£62m) on marketing.

The business claimed “superior growth” as a direct result, with online share gains and improvements in awareness, loyalty and order numbers.

Samsung appoints new UK&I marketing director amid team shakeup

Samsung Electronics has promoted Annika Bizon to marketing and omni-channel director for its UK and Ireland business, leading its new marketing and omni-channel team.

Samsung has merged its marketing and omni-channel teams into one function with responsibility for activity across all consumer touchpoints, including online retail, call centres and marketing.

Bizon joined the business in June 2021 as omni-channel strategy director of its ‘Mobile Experience’ (MX) division. Over her nearly 20-year career she has held senior commercial and marketing-related positions at companies including Three UK, Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Pictures.

“I am so proud to begin this new chapter. This is an opportunity to unite two great teams who will work to deliver on our plans and commercial priorities,” Bizon says.

“This structural change will help us reach the next level in performance while ensuring we are future-proofed and firmly remain innovators in our industry.”

Lego reviews Activision Blizzard partnership following ‘frat boy culture’ allegations

Lego has announced that it is pausing the release of an ‘Overwatch 2’-themed set as the company reviews its relationships with the game’s publisher, Activision Blizzard, following allegations of a toxic workplace culture.

In a statement to The Verge, Alice Carter, Lego’s senior manager of corporate brand communication, said: “We are currently reviewing our partnership with Activision Blizzard given concerns about the progress being made to address continuing allegations regarding workplace culture, especially the treatment of female colleagues, and creating a diverse and inclusive environment.”

She added: “While we complete the review we will pause the release of a Lego Overwatch 2 product which was due to go on sale on February 1, 2022.”

Allegations of sexual harassment, unequal pay and discrimination against female employees were first brought against Activision Blizzard in July last year by California’s state department of fair employment and housing (DFEH).

The company behind games including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush was accused of cultivating an internal “frat boy culture”, in which those female employees who complained of discriminatory or inappropriate behaviour were ignored and subject to retaliation.

Very Group credits fulfilment operation as sales jump

Online retailer Very has reported sales growth over the Christmas period of 21.9% on a two-year basis, with overall group revenue up 11.5%.

Sales did decline 2.6% compared with Christmas 2020, however, when sales were boosted by nationwide lockdowns.

Some 3 million items were processed at the retailer’s Skygate fulfilment centre in total, with 22,492 items processed on 2 December alone, marking a new daily record. According to Very, the fastest order was processed and despatched in 18 minutes and three seconds.

“Our performance was supported by our strong supplier and delivery partner relationships and our highly automated fulfilment centre Skygate, which enabled us to consistently deliver for our customers throughout the period,” said CEO Henry Birch.

“While the next 12 months will no doubt bring challenges as we all continue to navigate life around Covid-19, the last two years have shown that our model, which combines multi-category digital retail with our Very Pay platform, is both highly resilient and highly relevant.”

Very also highlighted the success of its Very Assistant chatbot, which has increased its weekly users by 23% year-on-year to 137,000 and reduced calls to the retailer’s contact centre by 17%.

Meanwhile, customer engagement with the Very app has increased, with app visits up 129.1% on a two year basis and app sales making up 40% of total sales in 2021, compared to 38.1% in 2020 and 32.2% in 2019.

However, Kunaal Shah, retail analyst at GlobalData, believes there is still “cause for concern” for Very when comparing its Christmas performance to that of rival Next. Next’s full price online sales over the period rose 45% compared to 2019.

In particular, Very must improve its fulfilment operation even further if it is to compete, Shah argues.

“While Very.co.uk’s standard delivery time is impressive at just one day, consumers can only order up until 8pm, while at Next consumers can order up to 11pm for next day delivery. Furthermore, Next’s Unlimited Delivery saver scheme appeals to consumers and encourages brand loyalty, for an annual fee of £20 with which most delivery options are then free, whereas Very.co.uk does not offer anything similar,” he explains.

“Very.co.uk must look to at least match – if not better – Next’s online fulfilment proposition if it is to truly compete. The Very Group’s significant investment in its warehouse operations – including its automated Skygate fulfilment centre – has given it the platform to be able to prepare and dispatch consumer orders much quicker than was previously possible. Very.co.uk must now introduce same day delivery on relevant items such as electricals, to compete with Argos and Amazon, and further boost its popularity with shoppers.”

Facebook rejects ads from 60 women’s health companies

The ads of 60 businesses serving the health of women and people of diverse genders have been rejected by Facebook and Instagram for violating their “adult products” policies, a new report has found.

A study by the US-based Center for Intimacy Justice, which surveyed the 60 businesses about their experience advertising on the platforms, found every one of them had experienced Facebook or Instagram rejecting an ad. All but one of the businesses were founded and led by women.

On top of that, 50% reported Facebook (now Meta) suspending their entire ad accounts.

The startups involved in the study had rejected ads covering menopause care, pelvic pain, pregnancy or postpartum care, menstrual health, fertility, sexual wellness and education.

Most commonly, Facebook classified these health ads as “adult products”. However, the study accuses the platform of applying this policy “unevenly”, noting that while three ads promoting educational content around consent, pain during intimacy and breastfeeding were rejected, ads for men’s sex products with suggestive imagery and wording were allowed.

Tuesday, 11 January

McDonald’s launches loyalty scheme

McDonald’s has unveiled a new loyalty programme called My McDonald’s Rewards, which is currently being trialled in selected locations in the UK before being rolled out across the country later this year.

Through the scheme customers can earn points from every order by opting in to the rewards offer via the My McDonald’s app.

Customers will earn 100 points for every £1 they spend and can unlock different prizes based on the number of points they accumulate.

For 1,500 points customers will be rewarded with items such as a free mini McFlurry, small fries or regular coffee, or they can save up points to unlock bigger prizes. For 2,500 points customers can claim items including a Double Cheeseburger or Vegetable Deluxe, while 4,000 points could earn them larger rewards such as a Big Mac or six Chicken McNuggets.

McDonald’s is also giving customers the option to donate their points to BBC’s Children in Need.

The fast-food chain enlisted TV personality Rylan Clark-Neal to introduce the scheme via a video on YouTube (see above).

Ovo Energy apologies for advising customers to cuddle a pet to keep bills down

Ovo Energy has apologised for advising customers to cuddle a pet or do star jumps to stay warm rather than turning on the heating in light of rising energy prices.

The advice was sent to customers of SSE, a brand it acquired in 2020, via a blog. But following a backlash Ovo Energy has removed the article and promised to update it with “more meaningful information for customers”.

The now-deleted page on SSE’s websites claimed to offer “10 simple and cost-effective ways” to stay warm without turning up the heating. The advice included “cleaning the house, challenging the kids to a hula-hoop contest, or doing a few star jumps” as well as eating porridge, leaving the oven door open and cuddling pets and loved ones.

In a statement to the BBC, the firm has admitted the blog was “poorly judged and unhelpful”, adding it was “embarrassed and sincerely apologises” for the move.

READ MORE: Ovo Energy sorry over advice to cuddle pets to stay warm

Google targets EU policymakers to influence incoming laws

GoogleGoogle has been trying to influence politicians and officials working on the EU’s incoming tech laws in Brussels in a last-ditch attempt to water down parts of the legislation.

The Silicon Valley firm has been targeting EU policymakers who are finalising the Digital Markets Act (DMA) with advertising, emails and social media posts as it fears the new rules will severely impact its business.

Dutch MEP Kim van Sparrentak told the Financial Times she had noticed a stark rise in lobbying in recent weeks, with messages that limiting Google would harm small businesses.

She was also invited by Google to discuss her views and was invited to an event organised by the tech giant on the benefits of digital marektign to small businesses. She was also lobbied by trade association Connected Commerce Council, of which Google is a partner, with a letter signed by small business owners saying “please don’t make it harder for my business”.

READ MORE: Google in last-ditch lobbying attempt to influence incoming EU tech rules (£)

Müller names Toby Bevans marketing director

Müller Yogurt & Desserts has appointed Toby Bevans as strategy and marketing director, tasked with strengthening its brands and core business while building scale in new categories.

He replaces Michael Inpong who departed the dairy products company at the end of 2021 after almost 10 years, to set up a consultancy firm that specialises in uniting sports with brands.

Bevans joins Müller from Jacobs Douwe Ebgerts where he spent six and a half years, most recently as marketing director for the UK and Ireland. Prior to that he was at Kraft Foods and Mondelez International, where he rose up the ranks to become marketing manager for TUC and Ritz biscuits.

Justin Cook, CEO of Müller says: “We intend to set the pace in the categories we serve, innovate to expand our reach and accelerate the development of our business, and I look forward to having [Bevans] onboard.”

Online share of grocery sales falls as shoppers return to store

Shoppers spent a total of £7.1bn at UK supermarkets in the two weeks to Christmas. This is up from £6.7bn in 2020 and ahead of the £6.8bn forecasted by NielsenIQ.

Total till grocery sales across the four weeks to 1 January 2022 increased by 1%, which the analyst firm describes as an “impressive” growth rate given it is being compared to the 8% boost seen last January as people prepared for another lockdown.

Online shopping visits dropped by 1.7% over the four-week period, while in-store visits increased by 6.3%. Given online slots for delivery had to be booked well in advance of Christmas many shoppers opted to do top-up shops for last minute essentials in-store.

As a result, the data shows there were 27 million more in-store visits during the run up to Christmas this year than in 2020.

It means the online share of grocery sales fell to 11.3% compared to 12.1% in December last year. It is also the lowest online share recorded since the beginning of the pandemic when 11.6% was recorded in April 2020.

M&S was the fastest growing food retailer in the 12 weeks to Christmas (up 9.4%), while both Aldi (up 8.5%) and Lidl (up 4.8%) both benefitted from new store openings.

Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK head of retailer and business insight, says: “All retailers had more shoppers than this time last year and most had more visits, even if spend per visit was a little lower at just over £21. British consumers are continuing to adopt an omnichannel approach and whilst online allows them to plan ahead, shoppers are increasingly heading in-store for a regular weekly shop as well as for last-minute purchases and we can expect this behaviour to continue.”

Monday, 10 January

Virgin Media O2Virgin Media O2 pledges to waive EU roaming charges

Customers of Virgin Media O2 will not face mobile data roaming charges while travelling in the EU, despite rivals Vodafone, EE and Three confirming they will reintroduce fees.

It means Virgin Media O2 customers travelling in Europe will be able to use their mobile data and make calls and texts on their UK mobile plan.

This was the case prior to Brexit, when UK consumers could use data and make calls on the terms of their UK mobile plan across the EU. However, December 2020’s post-Brexit EU trade deal gave telecoms companies the option to reintroduce charges.

Virgin Media O2’s chief commercial officer Gareth Turpin says the company wants to start the year by giving customers some certainty, adding: “With many Brits now looking to plan a trip abroad, we’ve got our customers covered and extra roaming charges will be one less thing to worry about.”

The telecoms group told the BBC this move would mean an average £100 saving for a family of four travelling abroad for two weeks, based on analysis of rates from other providers.

The move by Virgin Media O2 comes as holiday bookings surged last week on the announcement of relaxed testing rules, with Jet2 reporting demand returning to “around pre-Covid levels” and EasyJet seeing bookings rise by nearly 200%.

In contrast to Virgin Media O2, other mobile operators are poised to reinstate EU roaming charges. Vodafone is set to reintroduce fees at the end of the month, while EE will roll out charges in March and Three will do so in May. These operators are, however, offering deals for customers who upgrade or renew their contract, as well as the option to buy ‘roaming passes’.

READ MORE: Virgin and O2 users to not face EU roaming charges

Morrisons takes ‘bold step’ to remove ‘use by’ dates from own brand milk

MorrisonsMorrisons is removing ‘use by’ dates from its own brand milk in a bid to cut waste, a move the brand describes as a “bold step”.

From later this month the supermarket will put ‘best before’ on 90% of its own brand milk and encourage customers to use a sniff test to check quality, the BBC reports.

Morrisons is hopeful this move could save 7 million pints of its own-brand milk being poured away each year, following on from the decision to scrap ‘use by’ dates across some of its own-brand yogurt and hard cheeses.

The retailer explains that while the dates on the milk will stay the same, it is asking customers to change their behaviour, adding that well-kept milk should be used not “tipped down the sink”.

“We’re taking a bold step today and asking customers to decide whether their milk is still good to drink,” says Morrisons senior milk buyer Ian Goode. “Generations before us have always used the sniff test – and I believe we can too.”

Response from the wider industry has been positive, with Marcus Gover of food waste charity Wrap describing the move from Morrisons as a show of “real leadership”.

READ MORE: Morrisons scraps ‘use by’ date on milk in favour of sniff test

Virgin Active loses more than 200,000 customers amid Covid struggle

Virgin Active admits it will “take time” to rebuild its customer base from the impact of Covid-19, as the gym group saw membership worldwide fall from 1.16 million to 931,000 in 2020.

The company’s network of 40 UK gyms were closed for five months from March to July 2020, and then again during the second national lockdown in November 2020, causing memberships to fall by 31%, The Times reports. Virgin Active gyms were then closed in tier 4 locations in December 2020 and from January to April 2021.

The brand admits the closure of its gyms had an “immediate adverse financial impact”, as under lockdown customers ended their contracts and no new memberships were sold.

The business fell to a near £600m loss in 2020, with revenues down 59% year on year in the UK alone. The wider Virgin Active group, spanning 238 health clubs across Europe, Asia and South Africa, saw revenue fall 51% to £295.9m. The company registered a pre-tax loss of £583.7m in its full accounts to 31 December 2020.

In the latest accounts posted on Companies House, Virgin Active says it is focusing on “group exercise innovation” and upgrading the product proposition through an “extensive programme” of refurbishment, spanning new equipment, revamped cafes, upgraded studios and redesigned spaces to reflect “modern workout habits”.

Praising the benefits of its “global scale”, Virgin Active claims innovation is in its brand DNA and that the business has a “strong track record” of offering “unique products” for its members.

The gym group has been feeling the effects of the pandemic for well over a year. Back in March 2021, Virgin Active entered into talks regarding the £70m restructure of its UK gyms in the hope of averting administration.

READ MORE: Virgin Active floored by Covid pandemic (£)

BBC’s The Green Planet stages takeover of Green Park tube station

BBC Green PlanetTo mark the launch last night (9 January) of Sir David Attenborough’s new series The Green Planet, BBC Creative has taken over London’s Green Park tube station to bring commuters into the incredible world of plants.

BBC Creative, the BBC’s in-house creative agency, has rebranded part of the station ‘Green Planet’, with the aim of creating an immersive experience for passengers showcasing a wide spectrum of plant life.

The ‘Welcome to Their World’ campaign sees every poster space across the southbound Victoria line platform at Green Park station transformed with imagery of plants shown in the series, from carnivorous underwater life forms to humanoid desert cacti.

Taking inspiration from science fiction films, each poster focuses on a single plant species and is designed to look like portraits of strange creatures from another world, explains design director Johnny Ace, who describes the Green Park takeover as “one of the most ambitious projects BBC Creative has ever undertaken.”

The posters are accompanied by two digital screens, which show the trailer from the five-part series. The Green Park takeover also sees platform signage changed to ‘Green Planet’ to reflect that tube station’s temporary new name.

“Our goal for Welcome to Their World was to showcase the series’ most otherworldly plant-life in the most immersive way possible, so taking over a piece of London’s iconic Underground presented an unmissable opportunity to bring our audience into their world,” adds BBC Creative creative lead, Stuart Gittings.

The BBC Creative team has a track record of producing outdoor campaigns to promote major BBC programmes, such as the special build for series Dracula in 2020, which used shadow art to create a silhouette of the vampire’s face that appeared as darkness fell. The team also developed a design that appeared to show posters on ‘fire’ to promote David Attenborough’s natural history series A Perfect Planet and the BBC’s ‘Our Planet Now’ initiative.

Arsenal and Adidas team up on anti-knife crime campaign

Arsenal kicked off its FA Cup tie with Nottingham Forest last night (9 January) in an all-white kit designed to raise awareness of youth violence and knife crime.

The Premier League club has collaborated with Adidas on the kit, which sees Arsenal remove all elements of its trademark red team colour.

The one-off all-white strip forms part of the launch of the club’s ‘No More Red’ anti-knife crime initiative, building on Arsenal’s community outreach work to create safe spaces to play football.

Fans are unable to buy the kits, which will be awarded to people or organisations making a positive difference in the community. Once such organisation is the Don’t Stab Your Future initiative, which uses fashion to support people working to keep kids away from crime, Sky Sports reports.

The decision to wear the all-white strip follows news last week that London registered a record 30 teenage knife crime fatalities in 2021.

The campaign is being supported by actor Idris Elba and former Arsenal star Ian Wright.

“Keeping safe is just one part, No More Red also provides educational opportunities that help individuals make better, informed choices about their future,” says head of Arsenal in the community, Freddie Hudson.

“It also sends a wider message that by pursuing your talent and focusing on aspirations and positive influences, there are alternatives.”

READ MORE: Arsenal to remove red from shirt and play in all-white in FA Cup as part of Adidas anti-knife crime collaboration



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