John Lewis, Iceland, Olympic sponsors: 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.

John Lewis Unexpected Guest

John Lewis accused of ripping off arrangement of Electric Dreams

John Lewis has been accused of copying the arrangement for the song used in its Christmas ad.

The ‘Unexpected Guest’ ad features a slowed down version of Philip Oakey and Georgio Moroder’s 1985 electro-pop hit Together in Electric Dreams sung by artist Lola Young.

But alt-folk duo the Portraits say the retailer has lifted its arrangement of the song. The husband and wife group released a similar version of the song last Christmas as a charity single “supporting bereavement and mental health organisations” amid the pandemic, with the vocals sung by their teenage daughter.

The Portrait’s version was featured on BBC radio and ITV’s This Morning last year, and the duo say they contacted John Lewis in March to see if the retailer would like to feature it in its 2021 Christmas ad, but received no response.

John Lewis has denied all allegations.

The version used in the John Lewis ad is in the race to become Christmas number one, with William Hill putting its odds at 20:1.

READ MORE: John Lewis accused of copying arrangement of Electric Dreams for Christmas ad

Iceland takes swipe at Facebook’s Meta with ‘Icelandverse’ spoof

Source: Visit Iceland

Iceland (the country not the supermarket) is inviting people to enter the Icelandverse, “an entirely immersive open-world experience” millions of years in the making.

In the spoof video, which parodies Mark Zuckerberg’s unveiling of Meta, a man named Zack Mossbergsson tells people he wants to share his “revolutionary approach on how to connect our world without being super weird”.

The video by Visit Iceland then talks about the virtues of travelling to the country where people can enjoy “enhanced actual reality without silly looking headsets”.

The Zuckerberg lookalike goes on to say “in our open world experience everything is real and has been for millions of years”. He adds that the Icelandverse is “completely immersive, with water that’s wet. With humans to connect with”.

After watching the film, Zuckerberg said on the Inspired by Iceland Facebook page: “Amazing. I need to make a trip to the Icelandverse soon.”

Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, head of Visit Iceland says: “Icelandverse’s doors have been open a while and we are looking forward to welcoming more people into our reality, to come and explore the beauty of Iceland. Icelandverse has been built with experts in government, industry, nature and academia, plus a few volcanoes. With vast open spaces and enchanting nature, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

“We’re proud of what has been built so far, and we’re excited about what comes next — as we move beyond what’s possible today, beyond the constraints of screens, and create new opportunities and experience new things in reality. It is a future that involves getting out in the real world.”

Olympics sponsors accused of ‘squandering’ opportunity to address China’s human rights record

The major sponsors of the Beijing Winter Olympics, including Coca-Cola, Visa, Airbnb and Omega, are being targeted by human rights campaigners to use their influence to tackle human rights issues in China.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch says sponsors are “squandering” their opportunity to show their commitment to improving human rights and that they risk being connected to an event that is “tainted by censorship and repression”.

The US-based campaign group says it sent letters to all top-tier sponsors in May questioning their involvement in the Beijing Games given China’s “appalling human rights record” but received no response.

Human rights groups and some western Politicians have been using the fact China is hosting the games as an opportunity to highlight human rights abuses and repression in the country. But there is debate over whether a widespread boycott of the event would be effective, according to the Financial Times.

READ MORE: Olympics sponsors pressured over China’s ‘appalling human rights record’ (£)

China’s Single Day sales growth slows

Singles Day, which is operated by Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, is the biggest online shopping event in the world, but sales growth has slowed for the first time in its 12-year history.

Sales for the 11-day event increased by 8.5% compared to last year, making it the first time it has failed to achieve double-digit year-on-year growth since it was launched in 2009.

However, customer spending for the day known as the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival still hit a record high of 540.3bn yuan (£63.2bn).

The rate of growth is thought to have been impacted by Beijing’s crack down on businesses. In the past few months the Chinese government has started imposing stricter rules for the country’s digital giants to ensure the tech industry competes fairly and contributes more to society.

Alibaba has fallen foul of the new regulation and was forced to pay a fine of $2.8bn after it was found to have abused its market position.

READ MORE: Singles Day: Alibaba’s annual event sees slowest ever sales growth

Brits think charities have become too corporate, study finds

Half of people in the UK (53%) think charities have become too corporate, which is impacting their ability to raise funds, according to a study by Good Agency.

While one in two respondents agree charities are unique in that they put people before profit, the rise of purpose-driven brands is muddying the water.

It has also led to 43% of Brits no longer thinking charities are in the best position to solve social problems.

Young people have the highest ‘belief’ in charities, with nearly half of millennials saying that donating to charity gives them the power to drive change.

Young people say ‘supporting a movement’ is the main reason they donate to charity. This compares to over-55s who are more likely to give when they ‘have a personal connection to the cause’.

However, 45% of millennials report no ‘charity interaction’ compared to 27% of the over-60s.

Thursday, 11 November

Unilever

Unilever led the way in boosting TV spend during lockdown

Many brands increased their TV advertising spend during the pandemic lockdown of 2020 and have maintained that investment this year, according to data from Nielsen.

While overall UK ad spend was down by 7.2% in 2020, with many companies forced to cut budgets, 619 advertisers increased their TV spend. Of these, 142 increased their UK TV spend by more than £1m and nearly nine in 10 (89%) of these have big spenders have continued to increase TV spend in 2021.

Unilever, eBay, EE, Samsung and Tesco were among the high-spending advertisers. In total, advertisers which increased TV spend in 2020 invested an extra £590m compared to their 2019 spend.

The biggest increase was by Unilever, which raised spend by 131% to £116m. Online marketplace eBay increased spend by 117% to £22m, while EE upped its spend by 67% to £23m.

“In 2020, when the price of TV dropped due to lower demand overall, the easy thing for advertisers to do would have been to maintain their usual level of TV exposure, but at a much lower level of investment. Some advertisers did this, understandably,” says Matt Hill, research and planning director at commercial TV marketing body Thinkbox.

“Some had to stop advertising altogether. But what these figures show is that a large number of advertisers – especially big brands that were already significant TV investors – took advantage of the moment and the incredible value on offer to increase their TV exposure. And it looks like it paid off, as they have continued to increase their TV investment in 2021.”

ITV and Virgin Media O2 agree new deal

ITV and Virgin Media O2 have signed a new long-term agreement to deliver a deeper integration of programming, support for IPTV (Internet Protocol TV), enhanced advertising capabilities and continued access to channels and on-demand services for Virgin TV customers.

The five-year deal signals a new relationship between the companies. It will see full integration of the ITV Hub platform onto Virgin TV set-top boxes. Planet V, ITV’s programmatic advertising platform will also be integrated. ITV Hub currently has 34.8 million registered users.

ITV’s live channels and ITV Hub will be available via Virgin TV’s upcoming IPTV service when it launches next year. This promises a seamless app and streaming viewing.

“This extended and enhanced commercial agreement brings benefits to both ITV’s viewers and advertisers and the work that Virgin Media O2 is doing to develop its IP proposition advantages both those groups,” says ITV CEO Carolyn McCall.

“As Planet V continues to grow at scale, we’re able to deliver addressable advertising via the fully integrated ITV Hub on the great platform that Virgin Media O2 continues to evolve via both on-demand and linear viewing. Plus our viewers are able to access ITV’s fantastic range of programming more easily than ever before with an enhanced viewing experience.”

Virgin Media O2 CEO Lutz Schüler adds: “We have been a longstanding partner of ITV for many years and this new agreement further cements our relationship. It paves the way for future product innovation and delivers more for our customers and our business, as well as enhancing the toolkit available to advertisers.

“Our focus in TV is all about providing incredible entertainment to our customers in a seamless way underpinned by the very best connectivity. As we continue to invest and innovate, having ITV’s vast selection of must-watch programming fully integrated and easily accessible plays a huge part in giving our customers a fantastic experience both now and in the future.”

Reduce omissions to tackle emissions says Volvo

Car brand Volvo has acknowledged the role that it and other automotive manufacturers have played in creating the climate crisis, and the complexities in tackling the issue, with a new campaign that has launched during COP26.

Called #ZeroOmissions, the campaign forms part of a drive by Volvo towards a more sustainable future. Running on Twitter and digital OOH sites, the creative is designed to spark a conversation about how much further the automotive industry needs to go beyond simply making electric vehicles.

Statements such as ‘Our industry has an omissions problem’ and ‘Electric is not enough’ are designed to act as a rallying call for action by the wider industry. The campaign was created by agency Grey London.

“Sustainability has been an area that we have championed over the past years at Volvo Cars UK, and with Cop26 happening in Glasgow, it was a bold but obvious decision to open a conversation with the public now, to drive transparency around car industry emissions,” says Terissa Wingfield, marketing communications manager at the brand.

Carbon-offset ad for new EV from MG

Automotive brand MG Motor has used a more climate-friendly online ad campaign to promote its new all-electric SUV, becoming the first car company to use the Green Ad Tag from ad-tech platform Good-Loop. The platform measures the carbon cost of online campaigns and offset it by planting trees.

A tracking pixel is used to detect views of the ad, combining this with data on local electricity grids to calculate emissions. For every thousand impressions of the ad Good-Loop plants a tree.

“Very early into planning for the launch of our new MG ZS EV the idea of a carbon neutral campaign was mentioned, and it’s something we immediately got on board with. As a brand we’re passionate about doing our bit for a more sustainable future and we’re keen to do that across all aspects of our business, advertising included. So we’re thrilled to partner with an innovative platform like Good-Loop to work towards offsetting the carbon footprint of our advertising activities,” says MG Motor marketing and PR.

Good-Loop calculates that more than 43,000 trees with be planted as a result of the campaign.

Small business focus for Vodafone campaign

Vodafone has launched its second Shout Out for Small Businesses competition. The scheme celebrates businesses which are using digital technology to develop in new ways.

Entrants will be judged by a panel including Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones CBE, Vodafone head of small business Andrew Stevens, and Social Chain founder Steven Bartlett, the newest addition to BBC programme Dragons’ Den and a Vodafone ambassador.

The winning company will receive a bespoke mentoring session with Bartlett, along with a social media marketing boost worth more than £3,000. Ten runners-up will also receive the social media help, along with a digital business strategy session with a Vodafone V-Hub adviser.

“It’s obviously a tough environment for small businesses right now, but it’s also inspiring to see the skill and tenacity of so many people shine through as they navigate the ongoing impact of the pandemic,” says Bartlett. “Digital is one of the most important tools available to small businesses to compete and succeed in challenging circumstances. It’s one of the reasons why I set up Social Chain – to help businesses connect with their communities and reach customers in more meaningful and creative ways. I know we’re going to see plenty of creativity on display from the Shout Out for Small Businesses entrants, and I’m really looking forward to sharing my insights and guidance with the overall winner.”

“After the huge success of our Shout Out for Small Businesses campaign back in February, we’ve launched a new competition to help even more companies across the country. The shift to digital during the pandemic created huge new opportunities for small businesses, and we want to hear the amazing stories of tenacity, bravery and innovation through these very tough times. We’re excited to be able to use our own online presence and experience to give them a boost,” adds Andrew Stevens.

Wednesday, 10 November

Gopuff enters rapid delivery fray

US-based rapid delivery brand Gopuff has expanded internationally for the first time by launching its services in the UK, after acquiring Fancy and Dija earlier this year.

The brand is now operational in 10 cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. It is aiming to expand to 33 UK cities by 2022.

Similar to other brands in the sector, it offers groceries, home products, baby and pet essentials, and over the counter medicine. The business claims to operate “a differentiated business model” by having control of the “full customer experience”.

Gopuff prices its own inventory in a bid to offer competitive prices and localised products from brands such as ice cream maker Little Moons. The company, which charges customers a flat fee of £1.79, states that the “instant need sector” has accelerated on a domestic and international scale over the last several months.

The launch marks the transitioning of Fancy and Dija to the Gopuff app, described as a “significant milestone” for the brand’s long-term commitment to the UK market. The company chose the UK for expansion due to the number of densely populated cities and increased market demand for rapid delivery services.

Gopuff states the rapid delivery service market is one with huge growth potential, forecasting it could tap into $10tn of revenue opportunity globally, driven by further expansions and category growth.

“Over the last eight years we have continued to define the instant needs category and shown significant and sustainable growth across the US,” says Gopuff co-founder and co-CEO Yakir Gola.

“Our goal was always to be the world’s go-to solution for everyday needs, and making Gopuff available in the UK is just the start of our international expansion.”

Gopuff is currently valued at $15bn (£11bn) and secured $1bn (£737m) in funding earlier this year from investors to fuel its international expansion plans. Rival Gorillas announced a pilot partnership to deliver products for Tesco customers in October, while Turkey-based Getir is the first rapid delivery brand in the UK to launch a TV advert.

High amounts of sugar found in baby snacks

Specialist group Action on Sugar is calling for misleading on-pack marketing claims to be removed, after discovering “alarming amounts” of sugar in baby and toddler snacks.

Action on Sugar conducted a product survey based at Queen Mary University, finding some baby snacks contained as much as two large teaspoons of sugar per serving.

It found ‘no added sugar/refined sugar’ products are replacing sugar with fruit concentrates, which are still a type of sugars. Babies and toddlers are not meant to consume sugar at all and snacks such as rusks, biscuits and oat bars are being advertised as weaning food.

Children aged between the ages of one and a half and three years are exceeding 27.9g (the equivalent of seven teaspoons) of sugars per day, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.

The survey tested 73 sweet snacks in stores, finding Heinz Farley’s Mini Rusks Original to be the “worst offender” with 8.7g of sugars per serve – equivalent to two teaspoons of sugar. This was followed by Organix Banana Soft Oaty Bars at 8.1g of sugars per serve, which are sweetened with apple juice concentrate.

When it comes to sugar per 100g 27 out of 73 snacks tested would receive a red label for sugars if baby and toddler foods carried traffic light labelling on the front of packs.

Five products from the Kiddylicious brand scored the worst for sugars per 100g, while only six products would gain a green label or score for low sugars.

A public opinion poll on 1,000 parents with young children, found eight out of 10 parents buy ‘healthy’ baby and toddler sweet snacks for their children. Six out of 10 say a ‘no added sugar’ claim would be the reason for choosing a particular product, while 92% said they were more inclined to buy products containing ‘natural sources’ of sugars.

Action on Sugar campaign lead and Queen Mary University of London research fellow Dr Kawther Hashem, says: “It’s ludicrous that certain food companies are being allowed to promote their high sugar sweet snacks to parents with very young children, despite them being aware that babies and toddlers shouldn’t be having any free sugars.”

Rolls-Royce to build mini nuclear reactors

Rolls-Royce has gained a cash injection totalling £405m for the development of small nuclear reactors to generate clean energy.

A consortium of private investors gave the firm £195m, with the government providing a grant of £210m for the project.

The Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR) business could create 40,000 jobs for the UK economy by 2050. Rolls-Royce’s SMR design will be taken through regulatory processes to assess suitability in the UK. Manufacturing sites will be mainly in the north of the UK where nuclear specialism exists. Currently, around 6% of electricity generated in the UK is from nuclear power.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng says Rolls-Royce is offering an opportunity to “cut costs and build more quickly, ensuring we can bring clean electricity to people’s homes and cut our already-dwindling use of volatile fossil fuels even further”.

Airbnb upgrades services with host insurance and Wifi verification

airbnbAirbnb is upgrading its service with features to support hosts to accommodate guests who are using the platform for longer stays, as the pandemic ramps up hybrid and remote working models.

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky says the brand is delivering over 150 upgrades for hosts and guests this year.

“For the first time ever, millions of people can now travel anytime, anywhere, for any length, and even live anywhere on Airbnb. This is a travel revolution,” says Chesky.

One of Airbnb’s upgrades for hosts is a free insurance policy AirCover with $1m (£737,000) in damage protection and $1m in liability coverage. It covers income loss protection, pet damage protection and deep cleaning protection.

There is also a new translation engine that can translate over 60 languages of listing descriptions and reviews. Airbnb will employ more manual reviewing of pictures from hosts that claim accessibility features for disabled guests, meanwhile Wifi speeds can now be verified through the Airbnb app instead of based on host claims.

Flight Centre unveils fashion digital experience

Travel agency brand Flight Centre has launched digital experience ‘Travel Runway’ to showcase its holiday destinations.

Runway categories include beach, nature, food and wine, and adventure. For each runway, viewers will be encouraged to ‘shop the look’ to choose their dream trips, while clicking through products, tips and valuable insights. The Travel Runway was developed by taking inspiration from high-fashion runways.

Flight Centre UK general manager Liz Mathews says: “We encourage everyone to join us for Travel Runway and rediscover the world of travel from must-see destinations to one-of-a-kind personalised experiences.

“We’ve mined the collective travel brain of Flight Centre’s holiday designers and our thousands of travel experts for Travel Runway to share an array of experiences from food and wine to luxury island indulgence, adventure and nature safaris. It’s a first for any travel retailer and is a true showcase of the amazing expertise and experience offered by Flight Centre.”

Tuesday, 9 November

Reckitt RebrandReckitt admits it could ‘go further’ to inspire sustainable behavioural change

Reckitt has promised to use its brands to inspire people to change their behaviour, after finding that washing hands with cold water could save one million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

According to a report by the company, which is behind brands including Dettol, Vanish and Gaviscon, exposing Britons to facts about the damage caused by climate change meant twice as many were likely to wash in cold water, which is as hygienic as warm water.

If everyone made the switch, the country could reduce annual carbon emissions on a par with taking 285,000 cars off the road.

The study of 6,000 people in the UK, Australia and India exposed different groups to different messaging, and found that prior to seeing messaging, only one in five people thought soap and cold water was effective for washing hands.

In the UK, the message emphasising damage caused by climate change as well as individual values and responsibility for protecting the planet more than doubled the proportion of people who said they would wash their hands in cold water, from 22% to 51%. This was more effective than messages about saving energy, the business claims.

“At Reckitt, we are taking big steps to combat climate change – starting by reducing emissions across our business and supply chain, and innovating to ensure our products are more sustainable. But this study shows we can go further by using the power of our brands to inspire people to change their behaviour,” says Reckitt’s president of hygiene, Volker Kuhn.

“This is another step on our long-term journey to engage 2 billion people in our partnerships, programmes and campaigns to drive positive social and environmental change by 2030.”

Grocery shopping habits ‘settle at new baseline’

British shopping habits appear to finally be settling into a normal after the behavioural upheaval instigated by the pandemic, with bigger and less frequent trips to the supermarket set to stay.

Households visited the supermarket 15.7 times in the past month on average, a slight increase on the 15.3 trips seen at this time in 2020, according to the latest figures from Kantar. But consumers are still making 40 million fewer trips per month than they were in 2019.

At this rate of change, it would take three years for consumers to return to their old shopping habits, says head of retail and consumer insight Fraser McKevitt.

Meanwhile, take home grocery sales fell by 1.9% over the 12 weeks to 31 October, though sales are still 7.3% higher than the same period in 2019. Digital sales accounted for 12.4% of the total grocery market for the second month in a row, with a fifth of households consistently ordering groceries online each month.

Shoppers are also demonstrating early demand for festive products this year, with 4.7 million households having bought mince pies this month. Some 1.6 million households bought their Christmas pudding this month as well, up 400,000 on last year.

Compared with the equivalent period in 2019, all retailers boosted their sales in the latest 12 weeks. Ocado achieved the strongest increase in sales compared with two years ago, growing by 35.7%, while its market share stayed flat at 1.7%.

But Tesco was the only retailer to achieve growth this period compared to 2020, with sales up by 0.3%. Almost three quarters of the population made a trip to a Tesco store in the past three months, driving an increase in market share for the tenth month in a row. This time, the grocer’s share grew by 0.6 percentage points to 27.6%.

The next largest shares belong to Sainsbury’s (15.2%), Asda (14.3%) and Morrisons (10%), followed by Aldi at 7.9%. Rival discounter Lidl nudged its share up by 0.1 percentage points to 6.2%.

Co-op and Waitrose now claim market shares of 6.3% and 5%, while Iceland remained steady at 2.3%.

Primark to invest in stores and technology despite sales decline

Trading restrictions and store closures as a result of Covid-19 took their toll on Primark over the last 12 months, with the retailer recording a decline in like-for-like sales of 12% on pre-pandemic levels.

However, in its financial results for the year to 18 September, Primark managed to grow its adjusted operating profit by 15% to £415m.

Overall, the retailer’s parent company Associated British Foods (ABF) saw group adjusted operating profit remain steady at £1bn, after recording a 10% growth in profit for its food business to £760m.

A lower proportion of the group’s profit was generated in the UK and Ireland for a second year because of the lower profitability of Primark, the business says.

Nevertheless, ABF chief executive George Weston says Primark delivered a “good performance in the face of continued disruption to trading caused by the pandemic”.

He adds: “Although the possibility of further trading restrictions cannot be ruled out, we expect Primark to deliver a much improved margin and profit next year. We are now intent on expanding our new store pipeline and investing in technology and digital capabilities to continue improving the performance of the business.”

Most new stores will be added in two of the business’ key markets, Italy and Spain.

Chairman Michael McLintock adds that customers have returned to Primark “in large numbers” following the roll-out of Covid vaccinations. The business therefore expects trading to continue to improve and sales to increased by at least the estimated £2bn of sales lost due to store closures over the last financial year.

Costa Coffee partners with Channel 4 on bespoke TV campaign

Coffee shop chain Costa Coffee has launched its first exclusive partnership with Channel 4 on a new campaign, ‘Overheard at Costa’.

The campaign enlists a number of Channel 4 stars for a series of 30 second ads, including Sandi Toksvig, Omari Douglas from It’s a Sin, and Joe Thomas from The Inbetweeners.

The spots eavesdrop on the stars catching up over a Costa coffee, offering viewers a sneak peek into what the broadcaster’s top names talk about when they are off work.

The idea was developed through 4Sales creative arm PL4Y, with the partnership brokered together with media agency MediaCom UK.

Costa Coffee’s senior brand and strategy manager for the UK and Ireland, Matt Flint, says: “We love the thought that the secret ingredient that powers the Channel 4 machine is regular catch-ups over a cup of Costa coffee. We are delighted to share this content with viewers and show the joy that can come from taking a little time out of your busy day to enjoy chatting to a friend over a great cup of perfectly crafted coffee.”

THG boss regrets IPO and hints at taking company private

The founder and CEO of health and beauty group THG has said he regrets listing the company on the London Stock Exchange a little over a year ago, claiming the process “sucked from start to finish”.

Formerly The Hut Group, the business behind brands including Lookfantastic, MyProtein, GlossyBox and Illamasqua floated on the stock market in September last year with a valuation of £5.4bn. It was the UK’s largest IPO since 2015, raising £1.88bn.

However, according to the BBC shares have tumbled 70% this year. After peaking at nearly 800p in January this year, they are now trading at 213p each. The business has faced a series of challenges over its structure and corporate governance.

Speaking to men’s magazine GQ, Matthew Moulding said: “I should have IPO’d in America. That’s obvious. I didn’t do it because I wanted to do everything in Britain.”

He added: “There aren’t any examples, I don’t believe, where an individual brings a big company to a public market and it can go well, certainly as you get to a certain scale anyway.”

The stress of undergoing the IPO has made the last year Moulding’s “worst period ever”, he admitted, hinting that as a major shareholder in the company, he would keep an “open mind” over its future – an apparent hint he might take the firm private once again.

In late October, THG announced that group revenues had increased by 38% to £507.8m in the three months to September on the same quarter last year.

READ MORE: THG boss Matt Moulding: ‘The obvious lesson is: don’t IPO in the UK’

Monday, 8 November

The Co-opCo-op and Unilever join forces on refill store trials

The Co-op and Unilever are teaming up to launch two refill packaging store trials aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of consumer attitudes towards refillable and reusable packaging in a convenience environment.

The trial, Unilever’s first within a convenience store, will test two refill models – ‘Refill on the go’ and ‘Return on the go’ – meaning brands such as Persil, Simple, Radox and Alberto Balsam will be available in reusable stainless-steel bottles.

The ‘Return on the go’ scheme, being trialled near Wolverhampton, allows customers to pick up pre-filled stainless-steel bottles and return in-store once used. The ‘Refill on the go’ approach being trialled in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire allows customers to purchase and refill reuseable stainless-steel bottles using a standalone refill machine in-store.

According to Unilever UK and Ireland general manager and executive vice-president, Sebastian Munden, the trials of the refill and return concept in a smaller convenience store setting is helping the FMCG giant to understand how refills work across different store sizes, locations and “shopping missions”.

“There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for reuse and refill. Offering a range of our trusted brands and products in refillable stainless steels bottles, we continue to test different models, store formats and locations across the UK to see how shoppers respond, what works best, and what we need to adapt and change,” he adds.

“Working closely with partners like Co-op, we can help people to make more sustainable choices every day and reduce the single use of virgin plastic with the speed and urgency needed.”

The Co-op’s head of format development, Ian McCutcheon, describes the refillable packaging trials as a means to test and learn from consumer behaviour, while providing easy and quick ways for shoppers to cut their plastic consumption.

Earlier this year, the Co-op announced its 10-point climate change action plan, whereby the retailer pledged to reduce the carbon that comes from its products and operations to become a Net Zero business by 2040, and committed to sell fully carbon neutral own-brand food and drink by 2025.

The Co-op sources 100% renewable electricity to run its stores and has price-matched its plant-based vegan range GRO to meat and dairy equivalents in store. The supermarket also allows consumers to recycle soft plastic packaging, meaning all Co-op own brand food packaging is now recyclable.

LADBible doubles profits as demand for display ads surges

LADBible has doubled profits to £4.1m amid surging demand for content marketing and sales of display ads.

The digital publisher, which spans nine different brands including LADBible, UniLad and female-focused site Tyla, has achieved record sales of £30.2m, the Sunday Times reports, encouraging speculation of a possible £400m stock market flotation. In June the company explored the prospect of going public, but speculation has since cooled.

The LADBible group boasts 69 million monthly users, 40% of whom are female. The strength of its audience amongst the under 30s has led to LADBible securing deals with the likes of Netflix, Unilever and Disney+.

The company has made strides over recent years to stand for more than funny content, launching UOKM8? in 2016, a campaign to drive conversations around mental health amongst young people.

An employer of 225 staff, in May LADBible introduced a suite of family friendly policies for its global workforce including fertility treatment leave and pregnancy loss support. The rollout of the new policies comes as the media business is growing globally, with new offices opening in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. During the first few months of 2021 alone, the company recruited 70 new employees and has increased its headcount by 30% over the past year.

READ MORE: LadBible doubles profits with digital ad growth

Walkers forced to slow production of ‘niche’ flavours amid IT crisis

walkersWalkers has been hit by an IT glitch which has disrupted its supply chain, forcing the crisp giant to slow production of “more niche” varieties in a bid to prevent shortages.

Issues with an IT system upgrade mean the company is making crisps and snacks “at a reduced scale”, which could lead to shortages until the end of the month. Walkers is now prioritising the production of its most popular flavours, such as cheese and onion and ready salted, as well as ranges including Quavers and Wotsits.

A spokesperson told the Guardian that the business is doing everything it can to increase production and “get people’s favourites back on shelves”.

The news of production issues at Walkers comes as accountancy firm BDO reports that the supply chain crisis, rising energy prices and worker shortages will continue to take a toll on UK business output.

The output of British businesses has now fallen for the sixth month in a row, according to BDO, which predicts 2022 could be a “difficult year” for companies forced to “prioritise short-term problems over long-term growth”.

The accountancy firm also points out that consumers, faced with product shortages and the rising cost of fuel and energy, may well cut back on discretionary spending to make it through the winter.

READ MORE: Walkers crisps shortage could last until end of month after IT glitch

Gambling brands among ‘heaviest radio advertisers’ during school run

Gambling brands are among the “heaviest advertisers” on radio during the school run, accounting for 5% of all radio spend, or 1,200 hours of ads, aired during that timeframe over the past 12 months.

Data from the Guardian and Nielsen shows gambling came second in a list of industries that spend the most to appear on commercial radio between 7am and 8am and from 3pm to 4pm, the times when millions of children are travelling by car to or from school.

The amount the gambling industry spent on ads was exceeded only by government communications and motor supplies, according to the analysis. The research found that while many of the ads broadcast during the school run period were for the National Lottery, others included betting and online casino brands, such as Gala Casino.

The Guardian contacted Gala Casino’s owner Entain, after which it is understood the company added a stipulation to its media-buying arrangements to prevent broadcast during the weekday school run period.

A spokesperson for the National Lottery operator Camelot told the Guardian that while it needs to advertise “at all times of the day to reach as many people as possible”, it follows strict guidelines to ensure its ads don’t appeal to children. The statement added that it is “widely recognised” that the inherent risk of unhealthy play associated with National Lottery games is “extremely low”.

In response to the research, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) says its members adhere to the rules set out by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and that 20% of their TV and radio ads contain safer gambling messages.

READ MORE: Gambling firms among heaviest radio advertisers during school run

Expedia amends animal welfare policy to stop sale of captive dolphin shows

Travel brand Expedia has announced that it will no longer sell holidays that include performances by dolphins and whales in captivity.

In a statement on Twitter, the company explained it had recently adjusted its animal welfare policy, adding that “attractions and activities that involve performances by or interactions with dolphins and other cetaceans will no longer be available” on its sites.

Expedia clarified that “seaside sanctuaries that provide captive animals with a permanent seaside living environment are allowed if they are accredited and do not feature interactions or performances”.

The move comes after sustained pressure from animal rights campaigners in recent years, including following the 2013 documentary film Blackfish, which focused on the living conditions of killer whales in captivity. SeaWorld parks in San Diego and Florida are among those that will be affected by Expedia’s new policy.

Virgin Holidays made a similar change in 2019 when it announced it would end the sales and promotion of tourism attractions that involve captive cetaceans. SeaWorld said in its response at the time: “No company does more to protect marine mammals and advance cetacean research, rescue and conservation.”

Animal rights group PETA welcomed Expedia’s decision, stating that it had come about after the organisation encouraged its supporters to flood Expedia Brands’ president, Jon Gieselman, with calls and messages.

“PETA congratulates Expedia for officially rejecting cruel ‘swim with dolphins’ encounters and SeaWorld prisons,” says PETA executive vice-president Tracy Reiman. “PETA urges people to take note and do their part by refusing to support such animal-exploiting operations.”

READ MORE: Expedia stops selling holidays that include experiences with captive dolphins and whales

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