Disney, Facebook, Lego: 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.


Disney and Pixar join forces with Explore Learning

Disney and Pixar Animation Studios have joined the UK education brand Explore Learning to launch a campaign centred around themes from the Pixar feature film ‘Soul’, including individuality, the path of possibility and realising dreams and aspirations.

The campaign, which runs until 31 January, includes a 30-second slot, social and point-of-sale marketing across Explore Learning’s network (including 42 key Sainsbury’s stores).

Explore Learning’s website will host a bespoke online workshop on self-reflection and mentoring, as well as hosting a range of competitions and downloadable activities for their members linked to the film.

“Within the creative of this campaign, we were looking to celebrate the key themes of Soul and we are proud that we’ve been able to celebrate both individuality and self-discovery, values we hold dear,” says Explore Learning’s CEO Bill Mills.

“By using key visuals and messaging seen in the film, the campaign is also able to showcase the synergies between both brands and how, as in Soul, Explore Learning can open the path of possibility to champion children to achieve their passions, no matter how big their dreams may seem. We truly believe that every child has the capacity to be the person they were born to be.”

Facebook to ban false vaccine claims

Social media giant Facebook says it will outlaw any misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic and the effectiveness of vaccines, but warns that it won’t be able to “start enforcing these policies overnight”.

The move comes amid growing criticism of Facebook’s reactions to the spread of false information during the pandemic, with questions asked in parliament earlier in the summer.

“Given the recent news that Covid-19 vaccines will soon be rolling out around the world, over the coming weeks we will also start removing false claims about these vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts on Facebook and Instagram,” the company says.

“We will also remove conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines that we know today are false: like specific populations are being used without their consent to test the vaccine’s safety.”

The statement came with a warning that the policy would be a gradual process, with no immediate ban coming into effect.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Facebook to start removing vaccine misinformation – but warns it won’t be able to do so ‘overnight’

Lego opens immersive experience in London’s Covent Garden

LegoRealCoolWorldInstallationThe Lego Group has launched an installation in London’s Covent Garden inspired by a recent festive ad campaign.

‘A Really Cool World’ invites families to explore a brick-built landscape, one that’s been created through the eyes of a child.

Features include a dragon-slaying princess and a Lego dots dancefloor and there’s an immersive walkthrough available online for those unable to experience the installation in person and a digital treasure hunt.

There are also a number of special Lego builds hidden at various spots around Covent Garden.

“When we start to rebuild the world through the eyes of children, things suddenly become infinitely more creative, colourful and playful,” explains The Lego Group’s head of marketing, UK and Ireland Marius Lang.

“It is our mission to continually encourage and develop that creativity and we’re so pleased that this year we get to bring our ‘A Really Cool World’ to life at such an iconic and festive location.”

YouTube campaign celebrates young British creativity

YouTube British Talent CampaignYouTube UK has launched ‘The Rise’, a showcase of the voices keeping Britain on the cutting edge of culture and creativity around the world.

The campaign features 10 of the platform’s established personalities selecting their own personal favourites among the next generation of rising YouTube stars, from music, fitness, science, sport, comedy, parenting and more, and introducing them to a wider audience.

Among those taking part are health and fitness celebrity Joe Wicks, who is nominating Gabriel Sey, aka ‘The Active Black Dad’, as his rising star, Coronavirus lockdown pub quizmaster Jay Flynn, who nominates Jack Edwards, the founder of The StudyTube Project, as his one to watch, and dancer Sherrie Silver, who picks out Afro-dance specialist A-Star as her big young talent.

“Looking at the line-up of creative entrepreneurs for The Rise takes my breath away,” says YouTube UK managing director Ben McOwen Wilson.

“Their voices, so bold and so brilliantly British, are shining examples of what’s possible on the platform. I’m incredibly proud that YouTube continues to be a platform for such wonderfully creative talent from across the UK, and is a great reflection of diverse, modern Britain.”

Premiership Rugby to support Rainbow Laces campaign

Premiership Rugby has teamed up with sponsor partner Gallagher and broadcaster BT Sport in support for ‘Rainbow Laces’, the campaign run by Stonewall to promote LGBT inclusion in sport.

As part of rugby’s commitment to the campaign, match officials will wear a Gallagher Premiership Rugby rainbow logo on their shirts this weekend, while players have been invited to wear rainbow-coloured shoelaces and all Premiership Rugby branding at matches and on social platforms will carry the rainbow colours.

“We strive every day to be the most welcoming league in the world, like Stonewall we want rugby to be everyone’s game and we are prepared to play our part to make this happen,” says Premiership Rugby community and CSR director Wayne Morris.

“One of Premiership Rugby’s key objectives along with our clubs is to celebrate diversity, and we strive to make our competitions and activities available and enjoyable to as many people as possible in whatever capacity they wish.”

Thursday, 3 December


Morrisons and Sainsbury’s follow Tesco in repaying business rates

Supermarket chains Morrisons and Sainsbury’s are to follow Tesco’s lead in repaying business rates for the period of the Covid-19 outbreak. Morrisons says it plans to pay back £274m while Sainsbury’s will pay back around £450m.

Morrisons says it had planned to make a decision on the issue once the full costs and duration of the pandemic were clear but has brought its timing forward. It says that pandemic-related costs, including the second lockdown and tier restrictions, amount to around £270m, £40m more than its estimates at its interim results, and more than the £230m it received in business rates relief during the year.

“Throughout this difficult period Morrisons has done its best work to look after our colleagues, our customers and key workers, to feed the nation, to protect both the vulnerable and our smaller suppliers and to play a full and leading role in meeting the enormous challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic brought. I’m exceptionally proud of the way that the whole business has responded,” says Morrisons chief executive David Potts.

Sainsbury’s says while it too has accrued significant costs sales, particularly during the second lockdown, have been stronger than originally expected.

CEO Simon Roberts says: “While we have incurred significant costs in keeping colleagues and customers safe, food and other essential retailers have benefited from being able to open throughout. With regional restrictions likely to remain in place for some time, we believe it is now fair and right to forgo the business rates relief that we have been given on all Sainsbury’s stores.

“We are very mindful that non-essential retailers and many other businesses have been forced to close again in the second lockdown and we hope that this goes some way towards helping them.”

Lockdown spread out Black Friday online sales growth

Black Friday online retail sales saw strong growth this year, according to figures from IMRG. It reports that Black Friday saw sales rise by 38%, with the full Black Friday week (23-20 November) benefitting from a 30% boost.

The growth was below the IMRG’s original estimate of growth between 35% and 40%, but this may be due to the Covid-19 lockdown pulling some sales volumes forwards, suggests the group. The first three weeks of November each saw growth rates of between 56% and 61%.

“With all that additional traffic to sites, we might have expected them to buckle under the strain a bit more but actually they seemed to hold up quite well,” says IMRG strategy and insight director Andy Mulcahy.

“Now the operational focus is very much on delivery – the carriers have had to deal with huge volumes for most of the year, but the week following the Black Friday weekend is when it reaches a peak… if they get through the next few weeks without significant disruption to customer deliveries it will be a testament to their planning and execution.”

Other figures show that physical retail footfall saw a lower fall than expected during the UK’s second lockdown. According to Springboard, footfall for the four weeks starting 1 November fell by 51.2%, compared with declines of 31.5% in October and 28.2% in September. The first lockdown, in April, saw footfall plunge by 76.7%.

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle says the weaker response from consumers may suggest a degree of ‘lockdown fatigue’ and a pent-up demand for physical shopping, especially as many hospitality venues are still closed.

“While destinations and stores will need to woo shoppers back with the prospect of a safe shopping experience, we are anticipating a sudden and pronounced bounce back in footfall following the reopening of non-essential stores in England this week,” says Wehrle.

Marketers like homeworking and support diversity finds CIM

Most marketers want to maintain an element of flexible and remote working following changes introduced to cope with Covid-19, according to new research from the CIM and recruitment company Hays.

The study finds that marketers enjoy working remotely and 55% will request they continue to do so even when they can return to the office. Just 14% will not request remote working, or say it is not possible in their role.

Marketers under the age of 25 are least likely to request flexible working, while those over 55 are most likely to. And while enjoying the benefits of home working, around half of marketers are worried about employee isolation and the blurring of work and home life.

CIM chief executive Chris Daly says: “One important watch-out is young people, many of whom appreciate the sociability of office life and don’t always have the comfortable home working set-ups enjoyed by their older colleagues. Employers will need to carefully balance the need for a positive office environment for young people with a desire among older workers to spend less time in the office.”

The research has also highlighted concern over diversity and inclusion in marketing. Around 60% of those who took part felt that factors other than ability had limited their chance of getting roles. The most commonly cited reasons were age (62%), gender (33%) and ethnicity (33%). More than two-thirds of respondents say they would only consider working for a company with a public commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Small businesses saw Black Friday boom as Facebook boycott hit ad spend

Consumers listened to pleas to support local businesses over the Black Friday weekend, according to data from ecommerce investor Clearbanc. It says that small operators saw a 106% boost in online sales compared to the comparable period in 2019.

Clearbanc’s report shows that large retailers grew sales by 8% compared to last year, while midmarket players got a 56% boost.

“It’s been a tough year for everyone, but ecommerce has been a standout of 2020 where the revenues of companies on Clearbanc’s platform grew 55% on average and small businesses saw a 150% spike in business over Black Friday alone,” said Clearbanc president Michele Romanow.

“We’ll go back to a more normal life soon, but consumer behaviour has changed forever and we’ll look back on the COVID pandemic as a pivotal moment for the retail industry and a life changing year for founders riding the e-commerce wave.”

New stable of models for Hurlingham Polo campaign

British lifestyle brand Hurlingham Polo has launched a brand campaign for Winter 2020 featuring a stable of equine ‘supermodels’ portrayed in portrait form.

Each of the polo ponies featured is one of Hurlingham Polo’s brand ambassadors. They include Basil, the favoured mount of Nina Clarkin, the world’s top female polo player.

“We wanted to fully embrace all that makes Hurlingham Polo original and unique. We wanted a visual execution that encompassed the fusion of polo, art and fashion that is inherent in our brand, as well as the pioneering spirit of our heritage,” says Hurlingham Polo CEO Simon Hakwins.

“The challenge was to create something relevant, exciting and authentic, but that also showcased the new Winter 20 Collection, and that could be created in the midst of the Covid-19 induced restrictions. And that also turned heads and was a little bit of fun, hinting at British eccentricity and humour.

“The solution was to use Polo ponies and traditional artistic techniques, to create a series of portraits as if we had just visited the National Portrait Gallery or a British stately home.”

The Hurlingham Polo label was created by the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA), the sport’s governing body.

Wednesday, 2 December

Tesco social distancingTesco to repay business rates relief as risks of Covid recede

Tesco is to repay the £585m it received in business rates relief due to the Covid-19 pandemic to the UK government, saying the business has proved more resilient than it expected and that the worst of the crisis appears to be behind it.

The retailer says it is “immensely grateful” for the financial and policy support provided by the government as it faced the impact of the pandemic, including panic buying, pressure on supply chains, safety concerns and mass absence from work. It says it used “every penny” of the relief to respond to the pandemic, with its impact costing Tesco around £725m this year, in excess of the relief it received.

However, Tesco and other retailers that were able to stay open during the crisis have been criticised for taking the rates relief and faced calls to pay it back. Tesco is the first retailer to do so.

Tesco CEO Ken Murphy says: “Our colleagues have done an exceptional job in responding to the challenges of the pandemic. We have invested more than £725m in supporting our colleagues, putting safety first, more than doubling our online capacity to support the most vulnerable customers in our communities, and hiring thousands of additional colleagues at a time of need. While business rates relief was a critical support at a time of significant uncertainty, some of the potential risks we faced are now behind us.

“Every decision we’ve taken through the crisis has been guided by our values and a commitment to playing our part. In that same spirit, giving this money back to the public is absolutely the right thing to do by our customers, colleagues and all of our stakeholders.”

Debenhams brand could disappear as retailer falls into administration

The department store chain Debenhams as fallen into administration with the potential loss of 12,000 jobs. The move came after JD Sports ended discussions over a rescue deal, with administrators saying the sale process had “not resulted in a deliverable proposal”.

Administrators will continue to look for a buyer, and stores will remain open to sell of stock. One stock is sold stores will shut, with closures likely from the start of next year. That would mean Debenhams, which can trace its beginnings back to 1778, disappearing from the high street after more than two centuries.

Debenhams’ collapse comes just a day after Arcadia Group, which owns TopShop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins, also fell into administration. Arcadia Group was one of Debenhams’ biggest suppliers and its collapse in part led to JD Sports pulling out of the deal.

Kantar UK chief growth officer Jane Bloomfield says: “If any brand needed proof of the need to think fast and be quick on their feet, they have had it in 2020. For Debenhams the pandemic was the nail in the coffin.

“The global pandemic has turned upside-down accepted norms about the way people work, learn, exercise, socialise, shop, plan and generally live their lives. In the eye of the storm, agile brands were ready to redirect resources, make sacrifices and do whatever was necessary to help. What’s important for British brands to remember once this is over is that there will one day be another crisis. Businesses need to be prepared – not with a prescriptive action plan, but with the flexibility to adapt to pressures that can seemingly come from nowhere.”

Airbnb could be valued at $30bn in IPO

Airbnb is aiming to raise as much as $2.5bn in its initial public offering as it moves ahead with plans to go public before Christmas.

The business is pricing its float at between $44 and $50 per share and could sell as many as 55 million shares. If it sells at the top range, that would give Airbnb a market value of $30bn despite a year in which it has struggled amid the Covid pandemic that caused bookings to slump.

Airbnb posted a loss of nearly $700m on revenues of $2.5bn in the first nine months of this year, up from a loss of $323m a year ago. However, it actually made a profit in the third quarter as people took domestic holidays in the summer and some remote workers relocated.

The possible price shows the value investors are putting in successful brands and high-growth technology companies. Other companies set to go public before the end of the year include delivery company DoorDash, video game platform Roblox and ecommerce company Wish.

Ad spend forecast improve as marketing proves ‘relatively resilient’

The UK ad market is predicted to decline by 4.4% this year, well ahead of the expected 12.5% decline forecast in June, according to media buying agency GroupM.

Much of this improvement is down to digital, which it predicts will see growth of 4.9% this year. In particular, ecommerce growth has accelerated by 53%.

Elsewhere TV ad spend is estimated to decline by 10% – the worst rate since 2009 although better than previously anticipated. Print is forecast to decline by 23%, outdoor by 45% and cinema by 80%.

Looking to 2021, GroupM expects “normal” activity to resume in the second half of the year under the assumption that Brexit will not cause ongoing problems and that there will be an effective vaccine for Covid-19 in wide circulation.

100 businesses join scheme to tackle disability employment crisis

More than 100 business employing around 170,000 people in the UK have committed to becoming more inclusive employers of disabled people having joined a campaign from Virgin Media and disability charity Scope.

The ‘Work With Me’ forum aims to help businesses transform their policies and practices so they can support disabled people in their workplace. It asks businesses to take accountability for how they employ disabled people, and offers practical advice on improving the workplace and culture for disabled people.

The take-up comes amid data that shows the UK’s disability employment gap has remained static for more than a decade, with disabled people’s employment rate stuck 30 percentage points behind. Covid-19 has served to compound the problem, with disabled people more likely to sell the health effects of the disease.

Companies to have signed up include Unilever, Ford, American Express, Innocent Drinks and Deloitte.

Virgin Media COO Jeff Dodds says: “It is an uncomfortable truth that huge numbers of disabled people continue to be left out of the workplace, with the Covid-19 crisis forcing even more disabled people out of work. Therefore our #WorkWithMe community has never been more important or timely; helping employers – no matter their size – to become more inclusive and supportive employers of disabled people.

“As a business leader I have seen first-hand the benefits of employing disabled people and how they have enriched our company with sought-after skills, from diversity of thought to problem solving and creativity. I am urging other employers to do what they can to support disabled people during these difficult times and to join #WorkWithMe.”

Tuesday, 1 December


Arcadia collapses into administration

Arcadia Group has fallen into administration, putting 13,000 jobs at risk.

The struggling owner of brands including Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins has appointed administrators from Deloitte following an “immensely challenging time”.

The group’s stores and websites will continue to trade and no immediate redundancies will be made. Arcadia’s management will also retain day-to-day control while a buyer is sought for all parts of the business. Sir Philip Green is not expected to bid for any part of the group.

Arcadia chief executive Ian Grabiner says: “The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the forced closure of our stores for prolonged periods, has severely impacted on trading across all of our brands.

“Throughout this immensely challenging time, our priority has been to protect jobs and preserve the financial stability of the group in the hope that we could ride out the pandemic and come out fighting on the other side. Ultimately, however, in the face of the most difficult trading conditions we have ever experienced, the obstacles we encountered were far too severe.”

READ MORE: Philip Green’s Arcadia Group collapses into administration

Unilever completes unification plans and tests four-day working week

Unilever has completed the unification of its UK and Dutch arms, as well as moving its legal base to London, as it looks to increase flexibility and remove complexity.

It means for the first time in its history Unilever will now trade as one business while still maintaining its listings on the Amsterdam, London and New York stock exchanges.

The business says operations, locations, activities and staffing levels in the Netherlands and the UK will not be impacted as a result of the move. Unilever’s food and refreshment business will continue to be based in Rotterdam, while its home care and beauty, and personal care divisions will be headquartered in the UK.

Unilever chairman Nils Andersen says: “This is an important day for Unilever and we would like to thank our shareholders for their strong support of our Unification proposals, which give us greater flexibility for strategic portfolio change, remove complexity and further improve governance.”

Meanwhile, the consumer goods giant is also testing out a four-day working week in New Zealand that if successful could be rolled out “on a broader scale in future”.

It will give staff the chance to cut their hours by 20% without affecting their pay, allowing the firm to measure performance on output rather than time.

The move comes as the pandemic has shaken up work practices, with Unilever New Zealand’s managing director Nick Bangs stating “the old ways of working are outdated”.

“Essentially, this is about a holistic understanding of how work and life fit together, and improving mental and physical wellbeing,” he said.

“We look forward to sharing the lessons from this trial with other Kiwi businesses, in the hopes of influencing others to reflect on their own ways of working.”

READ MORE: Unilever explores four-day working week

African cocoa farmers clash with Mars and Hershey

MarsGhana and the Ivory Coast have accused several big chocolate companies, including Mars and Hershey, of trying to avoid poverty-fighting measures.

In a letter seen by the Financial Times, the two countries accuse seven chocolate producers of trying to circumvent a $400-a-tonne ‘living income differential’ (LID) that is added to the price of cocoa bought from Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Hershey is also called out in a separate letter banning it from operating chocolate sustainability programmes in the two countries.

Mars has denied the allegations, highlighting the fact it was “the first major manufacturer to support LID” and that it has invested more in sustainability programmes in the two countries this year.

Meanwhile, Hershey has called the letters “unfortunate” and “misleading”. It says it is participating in the LID for the current crop year and will continue to do so.

Olam was also called out in the letter alongside four smaller producers.

£ READ MORE: Africa’s cocoa farmers and Big Chocolate clash over poverty fighting measures

Caffè Nero rejects takeover bid from Asda’s new owner

Caffè Nero has rejected a takeover bid from EG Group, the petrol forecourt business owned by the billionaire Issa brothers who are also buying Asda.

The coffee shop chain, which owns 650 own-brand stores and 150 Harris & Hoole shops, has struggled to keep sales up during lockdown as footfall in city centres dropped.

This has forced it to seek a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that could see rent for some stores cut while others will be closed. It has dismissed the bid as “opportunistic”.

EG Group runs 6,000 petrol forecourts in Europe, the US and Australia and has brand partnerships with Starbucks and KFC, among others.

READ MORE: Caffè Nero rejects bid from billionaire Asda brothers

Belinda Moore takes marketing director role at Birketts

Former E.ON marketer Belinda Moore has been appointed business development and marketing director at law firm Birketts.

She joins following Birketts’ recent merger with London-based firm EC3 Legal.

Birketts CEO Jonathan Agar says Moore joins at a “pivotal moment” for the company and it will benefit from the “influence and experience of a director who has a track record of delivering revenue growth”.

Moore was named one of Marketing Week’s Top 100 marketers for her work at E.ON. During her time at the energy firm she looked to change the perceptions of the brand and reposition it as an innovative, environmentally conscious business different to traditional utility companies.

She has also held senior roles at Britvic, Whitbread and TUI, as well as BMI Healthcare and Care UK.

Monday, 30 November

Mike Ashley to bid for Arcadia

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group could snatch up Arcadia as Philip Green’s Topshop empire faces collapse.

The group says it would be interested in participating in the sale process should it occur and wrote to Arcadia on Sunday (29 November) saying it would offer an emergency loan of up to £50m to help with the group’s short-term cash-flow problems.

Arcadia was struggling from weak sales before the pandemic and underwent an emergency restructuring last year.

A spokesperson for the Arcadia group, which has more than 500 sites, previously rebuffed reports of potential insolvency as “speculation”.

They said: “The forced closure of our stores for sustained periods as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has had a material impact on trading across our businesses.”

Some 13,000 jobs are at risk across the Arcadia empire but if the administration goes ahead, stores are expected to stay open over Christmas. While some stores could permanently close, the brands that are household names are thought likely to survive in some form.

Any collapse would see Ashley and other retailers and hedge funds begin to circle Arcaia’s brands, which also include Dorothy Perkins and Topman, in a bid to secure a knockdown price from administrators.

READ MORE: Mike Ashley among bidders if Green rejects £50m loan to avert Arcadia collapse

Pernod Ricard launches virtual shows

Pernod Ricard is partnering with Boiler Room for a series of virtual shows across the world.

Performances for the System Restart series will take place in venues across London, Bristol, Cape Town and Chengdu with each event paired with a drink from the Pernod Ricard brand portfolio.

With many festivals and events cancelled this year, the project has been designed to support music artists and venues through the production of the broadcasts. The eight events will be available to view digitally on boilerroom.tv and 15% of Boiler Room merchandise revenue sold during the UK broadcasts will go to the charity musicvenuetrust.com.

Global brand director for Beefeater, Murielle Dessenis, says: “This series of events will provide experiences, performances and moments that fans have missed out on and are part of our brands’ deep affection for music and bringing communities together.”

John Lewis outlines plans for reopening stores in England

John Lewis has outlined plans on how to reopen shops in England with new steps to deliver fuss-free shopping to customers this Christmas.

The department store chain will offer bookable shopping slots and virtual queuing from 2 December, once the lockdown ends.

In addition to more than 900 click-and-collect locations available across the UK, customers can also collect their orders from 15 Waitrose and 16 John Lewis car parks where they can stay in their car while staff bring their purchases to them.

John Lewis executive director, Pippa Wicks, says: “We’re excited to reopen our shops in England and we’re looking forward to welcoming back our customers to help them make this Christmas extra special.”

Government bans new Huawei equipment

New Huawei equipment will be banned from Britain’s 5G network from next September in a toughening of the government’s line against the Chinese company.

The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, will set telecoms companies the legal deadline today (30 November) saying it is essential to protect national security.

Dowden says he is pushing for the “complete removal of high-risk vendors” from 5G networks.

The new deadline falls earlier than expected, although maintaining old equipment will still be allowed. Attempts to rid Huawei from the network have been ongoing for more than a year.

READ MORE: Huawei ban from UK 5G network brought forward

Qantas cuts further 2,000 jobs

Qantas is cutting 2,000 more jobs and outsourcing baggage handling in a bid to save £75m a year in costs.

The airline, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, has already made 8,500 staff redundant since March with the latest cutbacks taking the job losses to 10,500 in just eight months.

It says its plans will save £60m over five years by no longer having to spend on aircraft tags and baggage loaders.

Qantas domestic and international chief executive, Andrew David, says: “Unfortunately, Covid has turned aviation upside down. Airlines around the world are having to make dramatic decisions in order to survive and the damage will take years to repair.”

Qantas announced a £1bn loss in August due to Covid-19 and border restrictions.

READ MORE:Coronavirus: Qantas adds to job cuts by outsourcing 2,000 roles



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