Everything that matters this morning

Waitrose to revamp loyalty offer as it scraps free newspaper

Waitrose is set to overhaul its MyWaitrose loyalty scheme, with plans to make it “more personal” and targeted to users’ shopping behaviour.

The supermarket shared the upcoming revamp in an email to customers, which also let them know it would be scrapping its free newspaper offer. At present, loyalty card holders are eligible to a free newspaper when they spend more than £10, but this incentive is coming to an end on 22 February.

Waitrose confirmed it would be introducing “something new” in the coming weeks to replace the offer.

“We’re updating myWaitrose to make it even more personal, with savings tailored to the way you shop and the things you love.

“As part of these changes, the myWaitrose newspaper offer will be ending on 22 February 2022. But we’re replacing it with something even better – personalised offers, chosen just for you.”

READ MORE: Waitrose scraps free newspapers for loyal customers

Samsung on lookout for marketing apprentice as pilot scheme launches

Samsung has launched an apprenticeship scheme in the UK to help provide an “alternative way” for young people to enter the world of work.

As part of the pilot initiative, the tech giant is on the lookout for a marketing apprentice to join its 2022 Emerging Talent Programme, offering hands-on experience in digital, campaigns and PR.

During the year-long placement, the new recruit will work on projects that determine how Samsung communicates and engages consumers across its product range. Describing marketing as playing a key role in ensuring customers love the brand and recognise its products, Samsung hopes to give the apprentice “unrivalled exposure” to the business.

Applications close on 17 March, with assessments running until April. The successful applicant will start their placement in September, working from Samsung’s hub in Chertsey, Surrey. The apprentice is being offered a “competitive salary” and performance related bi-annual bonus.

The aspiring marketer will join fellow apprentices on placements in sales, product management, finance, customer experience, CSR, people and technical.

Tamas Csejtei, people team director for the UK, Ireland & Europe at Samsung Electronics, says: “With many school leavers across the UK keen to start their working lives, we want to provide an alternative way for more young people to find new and exciting career paths through our apprenticeship scheme.

“We know that not everyone wants or has the means to go to university so we’re looking to offer both an entry point into the industry with invaluable on-the-job experience as well as formal qualifications.”

Snap records first quarter of profit in 10-year history

Snap has made a profit for the first time in its 10-year history, recording a net income of $22.5m in the fourth quarter of 2021 versus a $113.1m loss it made in the same period last year.

Revenue increased by 42% to $1.3bn during the three months to 31 December 2021 compared to 2020, with EBITDA rising 97% to $327m.

However, across the full year Snap still made a loss of $488m. This is a 48% improvement on 2020, though, when it made a net loss of $944.9m.

Snap added 54 million daily active users in Q4, a 20% increase compared to the previous year, taking its total up to 319 million. The social messaging company has now recorded an increase of at least 20% in users for five consecutive quarters.

It puts this growth down to innovations and increased investment in areas such as augmented reality. Its New Year’s Eve lenses generated more than 7 billion impressions, for example, while it has also rolled out new features such as Food Scan that uses visual recognition to identify different ingredients and provide recipe information.

Content has also been high on the agenda. On Snap’s Spotlight feature, which is similar to TikTok, viewers subscribing to more than one creator more than doubled compared to the previous year. More than 20 Spotlight creators also now have shows on its Discover feature, including beauty entrepreneur Patrick Starrr and crafting expert Lauren Riihimäki, who each reached 5 million Snapchatters with their shows.

Snap also renewed partnerships with ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal and Disney, which run shows on Discover, including The Rundown, MTV Presents and ESPN GameDay.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says: “2021 was an exciting year for Snap and we made significant progress growing our business and serving our global community. The strength of our core business has enabled us to accelerate our investments in augmented reality, transforming the way that the Snapchat community experiences the world through our camera.”

Boohoo launches own-brand beauty range

Source: Boohoo

Boohoo has expanded into cosmetics, with the launch of its own beauty range, including more than 50 make-up products and beauty accessories.

Prices for the vegan and cruelty-free range starts from £2 for a cosmetics sponge or eyebrow shaper and goes up to £25 for The Bronzed Glow kits, which include a bronzer, body glow and setting spray.

The range also includes lip glosses, liners and lipsticks, liquid blusher and eye palettes, with all packaging recyclable.

The brand hopes the launch of Boohoo Beauty will make it a “one stop shop” for all things fashion, beauty and lifestyle.

KP Snacks cyber attack impacts crisp supplies

KP Snacks, the maker of McCoy’s, Butterkist and Hula Hoops, has been hit by a cyber attack that could impact deliveries of its nuts and crisps.

In a letter to retailers first reported by Better Retailing, the snack brand explained it “cannot safely process orders or dispatch goods” as its systems have been “compromised by ransomware”.

KP Snacks has apologised for the disruption, which it says could go on until March.

BBC News found personal documents from staff on company letterhead posted on the dark web, with a countdown timer on the page warning more will be published unless a ransom is paid.

KP Snacks says: “On Friday, 28 January, we became aware that we were unfortunately victims of a ransomware incident.

“As soon as we became aware of the incident, we enacted our cyber-security response plan and engaged a leading forensic information technology firm and legal counsel to assist us in our investigation.

“We have been continuing to keep our colleagues, customers, and suppliers informed of any developments and apologise for any disruption this may have caused.”

READ MORE: KP Snacks hack prompts crisp and nut supplies warning

Meta blames Apple for potential $10bn hit to ad revenue

Facebook owner Meta claims Apple’s iOS 14.5 update to app tracking could cost the business $10bn (£7.4bn) in ad revenue in 2022.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg blames the software update launched in April 2021, which allows users to opt-out of app tracking, for contributing to less data being available to deliver personalised adverts, which is forcing Meta to rebuild much of its ad infrastructure.

Meta CFO Dave Wehner describes the impact of iOS 14.5 as a “pretty significant headwind” to the business in 2022 that could cost around $10bn. He notes the “meaningful slowdown in growth” in ecommerce during the fourth quarter and the hit to areas of the business such as gaming.

The company generated total revenue of $33.67bn (£24.84bn) during the fourth quarter, up 20% on 2020. Some $32.64bn (£24.1bn) of this figure came from advertising revenue, up from $27.19bn (£20.1bn) during the same period in 2020. On a full year basis, total revenue rose 37% to $117.93bn (£87bn), with ad revenue making up $114.93bn (£84.8bn) of that figure.

Wehner says the Apple restrictions have been designed in a way that “carves out browsers” from the tracking prompts required for apps, meaning search ads could have access to far more third-party data for measurement and optimisation than app-based ad platforms like Facebook.

“We believe Google’s search ads business could have benefited relative to services like ours that face a different set of restrictions from Apple. And given that Apple continues to take billions of dollars a year from Google Search ads, the incentive clearly exists for this policy discrepancy to continue,” Wehner states.

As a result of the iOS changes, COO Sheryl Sandberg admits the accuracy of Meta’s ad targeting has decreased, which “increased the cost of driving outcomes”, while measurement has also become more difficult. While the company is working on “closing the underreporting gap for iOS web conversions”, Sandberg acknowledges advertisers now “worry they’re not getting the ROI they’re actually getting.”

“I do want to caution that it’s easier to address this with large campaigns and harder with small campaigns, which means that part will take longer, and it also means that Apple’s changes continue to hurt small businesses more,” she says.

Sandberg highlighted “data delays” as a result of the iOS changes, which means Meta receives less granular conversion data and real-time decision-making is becoming harder for advertisers.

The Meta COO also called out macro trends impacting advertisers during the fourth quarter, including global supply chain disruption, labour shortages and inflation. In line with consumers shopping earlier for Christmas to avoid supply chain issues, Sandberg says many advertisers “frontloaded their spend earlier than usual”.

Crucially, the business is also being hit by fierce competition. For the first time in the company’s 18-year history daily active users declined, falling to 1.929 billion in the fourth quarter versus 1.930 billion during Q3.

Zuckerberg called out the rapid growth of TikTok and its popularity among young consumers, which is why the business believes its focus on short-form video app Reels is “so important over the long term”. News of the slowing growth saw Meta’s shares fell by more than 20%, wiping $200bn (£147.5bn) off the company’s share price.

READ MORE: Facebook: Daily active users fall for first time in 18-year history

Discovery and BT Sport announce joint venture

Discovery is in “exclusive discussions” with the BT Group to form a joint venture bringing together Eurosport UK and BT Sport. The aim, subject to regulatory approval, is for the 50:50 joint venture to be operational later this year.

The new service will unite sports rights spanning the Olympic Games, Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, cycling Grand Tours, tennis Grand Slams, the winter sport World Cup season and Premiership Rugby.

Should the deal be approved, BT Sport customers would gain access to Discovery’s sport and entertainment content, including the Discovery+ app.

CEO of BT Consumer, Marc Allera, describes the proposed joint venture as an “exciting new sports broadcasting entity for the UK”, adding that it would act as the “perfect home” for the BT Sport business. Allera says the deal is the culmination of a “detailed process” to identify the best way to generate investment and strengthen the sports business.

“With a shared ambition for growth, as well as the combination of our world class sports assets along with Discovery’s premium sports and entertainment content, our customers will benefit from even more content in more places,” says Allera.

Discovery acquired Eurosport in 2014 and today the Discovery Sports division produces and distributes content to 130 million unique monthly users across more than 200 markets. Sports site Eurosport.com has a combined monthly audience in excess of 50 million.

President and CEO of Discovery Streaming and International, JB Perrette, says the business wants to offer consumers a “stronger and simplified combined sport offering” in the UK and Ireland.

“We are aligned with BT Group on a shared vision to maximise the value and appeal of our respective UK sport assets, and we look forward to concluding a deal in the coming weeks,” he adds.

The BT Group generated revenue of £15.68bn during the nine months to 31 December, down 2% on the same period in 2020, in results reported this morning. The company’s pre-tax profit fell 3% to £1.54bn.

The revenue figure was partially offset by continued growth in the BT broadband base and stronger BT Sport revenue following the cancellation of sporting fixtures last year due to Covid. BT has also reached an agreement in principle with Sky for a new longer-term reciprocal channel supply deal to stretch beyond 2030.

Pret ups coffee subscription price by 25% amid inflation pressure

PretCoffeePret A Manger is blaming the cost of inflation for its decision to increase the price of its coffee subscription service by 25%.

The coffee chain claimed the rising cost of milk and coffee beans, coupled with a planned increase in VAT to 20% from 1 April, was to blame for the price increase. Effective today for new customers and 16 March for existing subscribers, the monthly fee for five barista-made drinks is rising from £20 to £25.

The Guardian reports VAT will add £2 to the Pret subscription, with £1.50 going towards staff pay and £1.50 to cover inflation. Pret is facing higher staffing costs after announcing in January it was increasing pay for the second time in four months to £9.80, as part of a £9.2m investment in wages.

In an email communicating the price rise to customers, Pret said it believes its coffee subscription “continues to offer great value”.

The chain’s subscription service, launched in September 2020, has come in for flack in recent months, with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling in December Pret needed to rethink the advertising of the service. At the time the BBC reported the business had received around 5,000 complaints citing issues around getting drinks such as smoothies included in the deal, with some Pret outlets claiming they were unable to make them.

READ MORE: Pret a Manger raises price of coffee subscription by 25%

UK radio reports biggest ever audience

A combined audience of 49.5 million people are tuning into UK radio, equalling the highest total audience ever recorded in the previous quarter and representing 89% of the UK adult population, according to RAJAR figures.

Commercial radio increased its share of listening time to 48%, up from 47.1% during the third quarter, while the BBC’s share fell to 49.9% from 50.9%. The total commercial radio audience is now 36.77 million, just shy of its biggest ever audience of 36.8 million last quarter.

Total digital listening now represents 64.4% of all radio listening. This is mainly accounted for by DAB radio (42.5%), while online (including smart speakers) now represents 16.9% of all listening time. The remaining 5.1% is listening on digital TV.

According to the RAJAR stats, Global increased the audience across its network to 25.8 million weekly listeners, growing the broadcaster’s share of the commercial radio market to 24%.

Global-owned radio brand Heart notched up its highest ever listening figures during the period – hitting 10.3 million – up 250,000 over the three-month period. Meanwhile, talk radio brand LBC reached 3.2 million weekly listeners, the biggest listening base in the channel’s history.

The data shows Bauer Media reached 20.6 million listeners across its stations, boasting more than 75% of listening via a digital device ahead of an industry average of 65%.

Government outlines £3.8bn skills push as part of ‘Levelling Up’ agenda

The government is planning to invest £3.8bn in skills by 2024 to 2025, one of a series of measures laid out yesterday (2 February) as part of the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda.

The state claims to have created a “21st century recipe for a new Industrial Revolution” which it promises will boost productivity, pay, jobs and living standards.

One part of this agenda is the ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’, which will enable 11 million adults in England to gain an A Level or equivalent qualification for free. The intention is to get 200,000 people in England into high-quality skills training annually by 2030. This push will run alongside a UK-wide adult numeracy programme and skills bootcamps.

The government is also planning to create a free digital education service called the UK National Academy, which it claims will support pupils from all backgrounds and areas of the UK to “succeed at the very highest levels”.

The intention is also to “overhaul” the funding of courses and governance of colleges in line with employers’ needs, while nine new Institutes of Technology – with strong employer links – are proposed for England, aimed at boosting technical skills in STEM subjects.

From an infrastructure perspective, the government is earmarking £5bn for Project Gigabit, an initiative to bring gigabit-capable broadband to 85% of the UK by 2025. In addition, the £1bn Shared Rural Network deal with mobile operators aims to deliver 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by the end of 2025.

The government has also reiterated its intention to move some departments outside London: HM Treasury to Darlington, the Cabinet Office to Glasgow, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to East Kilbride and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to Wolverhampton.

Describing ‘Levelling Up’ as a “long-term endeavour”, the government says it is hoping for a fundamental shift in how central and local government, the private sector and civil society operate, with the white paper acting as a “catalyst” for creating jobs and driving productivity.

One third of Vodafone sales now via digital channels

Digital channels accounted for a third of Vodafone’s UK sales in its third quarter, according to the brand’s latest trading update.

Vodafone added 152,000 new contract customers during the period, with strong iPhone sales and a successful Black Friday marketing campaign. The brand reported UK growth of 6.3% for the three months ending 31 December 2021, with total revenues worldwide up by 4.3% to £11.7bn.

“Our team has delivered another solid quarter, demonstrating the sustainability of our online growth strategy and medium-term ambition. This performance keeps us firmly on track to deliver FY22 results in line with the higher guidance we set out in November,” says Vodafone group chief executive Nick Read.

The company says it has made further progress on its purpose-based growth strategy during the quarter, which includes becoming a company with a workforce that better reflects its consumers.

Colin the Caterpillar cake war ended by truce

Marks & Spencer has reached a confidential deal with Aldi that resolves an ongoing legal dispute over a claimed intellectual property infringement.

While no details of the agreement have been released it is understood that Aldi’s Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake – which M&S said was based on its Colin the Caterpillar – will not appear again in the same form, reports The Guardian.

M&S has issued a statement saying, “The objective of the claim was to protect the IP [intellectual property] in our Colin the Caterpillar cake and we are very pleased with the outcome.”

Meanwhile Aldi has suggested that Cuthbert will return in some form, tweeting under #freecuthbert, “Getting out early on good behaviour, keep an eye out for Cuthy B this Spring.”

The discounter has issued a statement that “Cuthbert is free and looking forward to seeing all his fans again very soon!”

Colin the Caterpillar is a key M&S food brand, accounting for more than 15m sales. The range has achieved extensive social media mentions during the Downing Street ‘Partygate’ furore this year.

READ MORE: Marks & Spencer and Aldi call truce in Colin the Caterpillar cake war

Decathlon launches sports rental service

Decathlon, the world’s largest retailer of sporting goods, has launched its first UK rental collection. Consisting of ski wear and outerwear items, the collection has been curated to appeal to UK consumers who are returning to the ski slopes after an enforced absence caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The range is accessible via the Hirestreet website. Rental prices start from £15 per day for a four day period and are expected to appeal to those who do not ski often.

“Renting our textile products is a new venture for us, and one that we’re excited to be sharing with Hirestreet. It is another way in which we are making sport more accessible – through convenience, price point and flexibility, all while reducing our impact on the planet. Renting ski wear was an obvious starting point, but we expect to expand our offer in the future to make getting active even easier and more sustainable,” says Decathlon rental manager Sharon Poulter.

“Demand for rental fashion boomed in 2021 and customers are now looking to hire items for more than just formal occasions. For many of us, who ski infrequently, renting ski-wear makes a lot of sense: it’s high in price, bulky to store and rarely used,” says Hirestreet founder and CEO Isabella West.

Rebel Kitchen calls for customers to join rebellion

Plant-based milk and snack brand Rebel Kitchen is to use ‘Februdairy’ – the month when the dairy industry and anti-vegan campaigners seek to fight back against the growth in plant-based diets – to launch a new crowd-funding campaign.

The brand, owned by Nurture Brands, is to launch its campaign today with mobile digital billboard vans throughout London and a takeover of high profile city centre billboard sites including Leicester Square and Canary Wharf, and on social channels. The fundraising push launches tomorrow (3 February) and will run throughout the month.

The campaign will use provocative messages and real footage of cows being milked. The messages will encourage the brand’s 50,000 social followers to “join the rebellion” and invest in the brand via the Seedrs platform.

“It’s an exciting time for our business, as we are rapidly expanding across the UK and globally. Rebel Kitchen is a brilliant, sustainable, plant-based brand and it has a very rebellious voice, so we are confident this campaign will catch the eye of investors who believe in what we are building at Nurture Brands,” says company owner and founder, Ben Arbib.

Bear Island encourages sense of discovery

Beer brand Bear Island, owned by Kent brewer Shepherd Neame, is encouraging drinkers to discover their wild side with its latest promotion.

Bear Island marries native British hops with imported US ones to create a contemporary-tasting range of beers. It is seeking to reflect its adventurous nature by teaming up with British explorers The Turner Twins to inspire the discovery of new places.

Twins Ross and Hugo Turner have staged a number of expeditions, using technology to help fans learn more about the planet. The new Born to Roam campaign sees the duo offer top adventuring tips and advice, along with behind-the-scenes footage of their adventures, via a series of films, stories and events. The content will be shared via Bear Island’s Instagram channel.

Bear Island will give its followers the chance to win a variety of limited edition prizes through its social media channels, with one winner receiving a one night glamping holiday in Bear Lodge at Kent safari destination Port Lympne.

“We are really looking forward to launching our new partnership with The Turner Twins, which we hope will bring out the adventurous personality of Bear Island. We want to inspire our audience to discover the exciting flavours of our Bear Island range and enjoy new experiences,” says Bear Island marketing manager Louise Buet.

Guinness

Diageo invests £73m in Guinness microbrewery in London

Diageo is investing £73m in a London-based Guinness microbrewery in Covent Garden.

Guinness at Old Brewer’s Yard is the third venue the drinks giant will open in recent years, and follows the launch of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin and Johnnie Walker Princes Street in Edinburgh in 2021.

The microbrewery will produce limited edition beers and provide tours led by Guinness beer specialists as it looks to become a go-to destination for tourists.

The space will also be used to host events and there will be a Guinness store selling rare items via collaborations bespoke to the London venture.

Up to 150 jobs will be created at the venue and it will also become the southern hub for Diageo’s Learning for Life Bartending and Hospitality programme, which is designed to provide skills and improve employment.

Diageo expects 100 people to graduate from the programme at Guinness at Old Brewer’s Yard each year.

Guinness sales in Great Britain have grown by more than 30% in the past six months, it says, and one in every 10 pints sold in London is now a Guinness, according to the brewer.

GSK confirms marketing leadership of new business

GSK Consumer Healthcare has confirmed Tamara Rogers will remain as CMO when GSK splits into two separate businesses later this year.

Rogers, who has been CMO at GSK since 2019, will head up marketing for the new entity and will also join the executive committee.

Prior to joining GSK in 2018 as a region head for EMEA, she led Unilever’s personal care portfolio in North America.

Elsewhere, Lisa Jennings has joined the GSK Consumer Healthcare global marketing team as head of OTC category.

She joins from Procter & Gamble where she has worked over the past 25 years across a number of marketing and general management roles, most recently as senior vice-president responsible for beauty and corporate citizenship.

Last month GSK Consumer Healthcare promoted Monica Michalopoulou to marketing director of its Great Britain and Ireland (GBI) business, one of a number of new senior leadership appointments.

Michalopoulou was promoted from her previous role as GBI marketing lead for GSK’s oral care category, a position she had held since March 2020.

Meanwhile, former GBI marketing lead for expert and healthcare professionals (HCPs) Onyeka Anugwom was promoted to the senior leadership team, taking on the role of GBI commercial excellence director.

Hit game Wordle acquired by the New York Times

Source: Shutterstock

The New York Times has bought word game Wordle for an undisclosed seven-figure sum.

The simple game, which releases one word a day, was created by software engineer Josh Wardle who described its success as “a little overwhelming” when he shared news of the acquisition on Twitter.

He says New York Times games played a “big part” in the origins of Wordle, so the sale feels like a “very natural step”. He hopes the deal will provide the resources needed to help Wordle grow.

“After all, I am just one person and it is important to me that as Wordle grows it continues to provide a great experience to everyone,” he added.

The game will remain free when it is taken over by the New York Times and Wardle is working to ensure players’ scores will be preserved.

Behavioural scientists Richard Shotton and Will Hanmer-Lloyd believe part of Wordle’s success is down to the fact just one puzzle is released each day, which leaves players wanting more.

“Was scarcity really the secret sauce that drove the games success? Well, there’s certainly supporting evidence from behavioural science. Psychologists have long argued that we value things more when they’re scarce,” they said in a column published on Marketing Week yesterday.

Shoppers return to pre-pandemic routines as focus on price rises

Supermarket sales dropped by 3.8% over the 12 weeks to 23 January 2022, compared to the same period a year earlier when the UK was in lockdown. Spend does remain 8% higher than pre-pandemic times, though, according to the latest data from Kantar.

Like-for-like grocery inflation stands at 3.8% for the past four weeks, a 0.3 percentage point increase on December. Taken over the course of a 12-month period, this rise in prices could add an extra £180 to the average household’s annual grocery bill, according to Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

“We’re now likely to see shoppers striving to keep costs down by searching for cheaper products and promotions. Supermarkets that can offer the best value stand to win the biggest slice of spend,” he adds.

Only three grocers recorded growth over the 12-week period compared to 2021, with Aldi and Lidl recording 1.1% and 1.2%, respectively, while Ocado grew by 2.3%. All retailers increased sales on a two-year basis.

Tesco and Waitrose performed ahead of the market over the past 12 weeks and increased share. Tesco’s share increased from 27.3% last year to 27.9%, marking a full year of market share gains for the retailer.

Waitrose saw the greatest footfall increase of any supermarket, helping its share increase by 0.1 percentage points to 5.1%.

Sainsbury’s now holds 15.6% of the market, Asda 14.4%, Morrisons 9.9%, Co-op’s share stands at 5.7% and Iceland at 2.4%.

Online orders accounted for 12.5% of all grocery spend, which is down by 15% year on year when the UK was in lockdown. It is almost double the pre-pandemic level, though.

“Increasing confidence about heading out and about, combined with the return to the office, means we’re starting to see pre-pandemic shopping patterns once again. Since the first lockdown in March 2020, shoppers have been buying in bulk and visiting the supermarket less often. But basket sizes are now 10% smaller than this time last year, hitting their lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic, while footfall increased by 5% as every major retailer was busier in their stores,” says McKevitt.

“Changing habits were most marked in London, where take-home sales of food and drink decreased by 11%. This suggests that people in the capital were the quickest to embrace eating out in cafés, pubs, and restaurants as many of us returned to city centres.”

Gender diversity: Just 30% of seats on UK boards held by women

Women hold just 30% of board seats in the UK, putting it behind several other European countries on gender diversity.

While 30.1% of UK board seats are female, this rises to 43.2% in France, 42.4% in Norway and 36.6% in Italy, according to a global report by Deloitte.

The UK now comes 9th on gender diversity globally, up from 13th when the report was last published in 2019, but this still puts it behind six European countries as well as New Zealand and South Africa.

The average tenure for women on boards in the UK has also fallen from 4.1 years in 2019 to 3.6 years today.

Jackie Henry, a managing partner at Deloitte UK, says: “While the number of board seats held by those identifying as women in the UK is moving in the right direction, we’re still a long way behind our European neighbours with leaders France only 6.8pc short of gender parity.

“UK businesses need to be even more proactive in taking diversity targets seriously, improving disclosure and more transparent reporting.”

READ MORE: Women hold just 30pc of seats on UK boards

Octopus Energy’s revenues surge alongside 46% customer increase

Green energy company Octopus Energy is now the UK’s fifth largest energy retailer, after taking on around 700,000 customers last year.

Revenues for the entire group, including its software licensing business for its proprietary technology Kraken, were up 62% over 2021, while operating losses halved from £63m to £31m.

Revenue for the UK retail business alone were up 57% to £1.9bn, as its customer base surged 46% from 1.4 million to 2.1 million households.

Octopus Energy took on Avro Energy’s 580,000 customers in September when the latter went bust due to rising wholesale energy prices. The firm netted a further 70,000 customers from ENGIE when the company exited the UK market.

While the UK retail business posted a headline loss of £85m, after stripping out customer acquisition costs and exceptionals, the business claims to have delivered a loss of £1m.

The firm has also put aside £2.5m in additional funding to help customers struggling to pay their bills this year, and is expecting to incur around £100m of losses as it absorbs the impact of the energy crisis on behalf of customers.

“Octopus continues to put customers first. Our UK energy business charged loyal and new customers well below the price cap, whilst delivering close to breakeven operations and undented service throughout the pandemic,” says Octopus Energy Group’s CEO and founder, Greg Jackson.

“2022 will be tough in energy, but we will fight for customer interests and work with government and industry to find solutions which may mitigate the issues for customers whilst doubling down on the investments in technology, growth and renewables which will help avoid such crises in future.”

In September, data from Brand Finance and YouGov’s brand health tracker BrandIndex suggested Octopus Energy and British Gas were the brands in the strongest position to take advantage of the turmoil in the energy sector, as around 30 energy companies were forced to cease trading.

Speaking to Marketing Week the following month, marketing director Rebecca Dibb-Simkin said the brand’s power lies in being “incredibly close to customers” and its agile use of technology to deliver the best customer service.

Aviva CEO says return to the office must not ‘jeopardise’ women’s careers

The CEO of insurance company Aviva has warned businesses to ensure a return to working from the office does not harm career opportunities and progression for female staff.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Amanda Blanc said firms must consider how they create the “right environment” for both men and women to “flourish” now working from home restrictions have eased, particularly if fewer women than men choose to work from the office full time.

“If what you see is that all the men come back into the office and the women don’t, then obviously the women are not around when some of the conversations are being had and they could miss out on opportunities,” she said.

Aviva’s staff of around 20,000 employees are likely to be in the office around three days a week, but with “big flexibility around that”, Blanc added.

Blanc, who is also the government’s Champion for Women in Finance, said the progression of women in the financial services sector was “not good enough”.

“It’s my role as the government’s women and finance champion, but also as a woman leading an organisation, to make sure we create the right environment for everyone to flourish and for women to be given the same opportunity as men,” she said.

“We just need to make sure that in the way that we work we don’t jeopardise women’s opportunities.”

Research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has suggested that even before the pandemic, mothers were interrupted more than their partners in order to meet childcare demands even when they were the primary earners.

Moreover, LinkedIn data revealed exclusively to Marketing Week in March last year showed female marketers had seen their careers dealt a body blow by the impact of Covid-19. Nearly two-thirds of women (60%) in marketing have either left the industry or seriously thought about doing so – either permanently or temporarily – during the pandemic.

The findings, based on a wider sample of more than 20,000 responses across various industries and roles worldwide, also saw 42% of female marketers say Covid had caused their career to be set back or put on hold.

READ MORE: Return to the office must not harm women’s careers, says Aviva boss

M&S launches live shopping series online for ‘seamless’ experience

Marks & Spencer has launched ‘Live Shopping’ on its ecommerce website, a shoppable live broadcast series in which customers can hear about a product range, pose questions to an M&S expert, and buy products as they watch.

Facilitated by software partner LiSA, the series kicks off with a focus on M&S’s activewear brand Goodmove. Following three successful trial events, the first broadcast took place on Friday, 28 January.

Live shopping is expected to account for 10-20% of global ecommerce by 2026, according to McKinsey research. In China, 17% of all online shopping comes via livestreams.

According to M&S, live shopping is the latest example of the retailer “investing to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience however, wherever and whenever they choose to shop”. The technology will open a “new channel of communication” with customers, M&S said, providing the opportunity to drive brand awareness and style perceptions, as well as gather customer feedback.

Other initiatives to have demonstrated this commitment in the last 18 months include the launch of the retailer’s new digital click & collect format, and the introduction of online video consultations for customers browsing furniture, menswear and lingerie.

“Live shopping on M&S.com is the latest in a wave of new initiatives we’ve introduced to improve our customer experience,” says director of M&S.com Stephen Langford.

“It’s a global trend that responds to how customers are using social media – we all know how much more we’re scrolling and engaging with video content – at home, or on the go. Live shopping puts our experts front and centre and gives them the ideal platform to share the M&S point of difference – in terms of both quality, design and innovation features.”

Last year, Facebook and Instagram began partnering with brands like Bobbi Brown, Clinique and Sephora on live shopping though their platforms, allowing influencers to promote and sell products through live video.

The testing and development of new ways to bring shopability into the advertising and retail experience was therefore identified by Marketing Week as one of five key media trends to watch out for this year.

Dreams extends partnership with Team GB ahead of Beijing 2022 Olympics

Bed retailer Dreams is retaining its title as ‘Official Sleep Partner’ of both Team GB and ParalympicsGB ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The brand is kicking off a TV campaign to support the partnership today (31 January), featuring three Olympian and Paralympics ambassadors

The ad is a winter edition of the ‘Sleep Matters’ creative launched for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, showing the importance of sleep to athlete’s preparation. The campaign will also see Dreams sponsor the Eurosport broadcast coverage of the Olympic Games.

Overall the campaign will reach 72% of all adults in the UK at least four times, which the business hopes will generate awareness and brand affinity. The renewal comes following the results of the Tokyo Games partnership, which saw a quarter of all UK adults associating the brand with Team GB and ParalympicsGB.

The business also claims the partnership has been a commercial success so far, with the ‘Dream Team’ range accounting for 37% of Dreams’ mattress sales volumes since it launched in 2019. One in two bed buyers in the UK now consider Dreams as their first-choice, the brand says.

“We’re delighted to continue our role as Team GB and ParalympicsGB’s official sleep partner,” says Dreams CEO Jonathan Hirst.

“We know just how seriously Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes take their sleep, and so we’re very proud to continue supporting their rest and recovery throughout the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.”

GambleAware launches first harms prevention campaign aimed at women

Independent charity GambleAware has unveiled its first broadcast campaign aiming to raise awareness of the risks of gambling among women, as data shows 1 million women may be at risk of experiencing gambling harms.

Created in partnership with M&C Saatchi London, the TV spot depicts a female protagonist losing track of the world around her as she gambles on her phone during a Saturday night with her family, even as her family begin to perform incredible tricks and stunts around her.

The ‘Losing Track of the World Around You’ campaign aims to target low to medium risk female gamblers, and will run until March with supporting activity across broadcaster on-demand platforms, social and digital channels. Media planning and buying was executed by Goodstuff.

It’s the first push focused on a female audience from GambleAware, which has traditionally focused on male gamblers with is broadcast campaigns. Research by the charity shows spending more time and money on gambling are both early warning signs of risk and harm for female gamblers.

New analysis also highlights that the popularity of gambling websites with the peak for women happening in the winter months, with total average traffic between December and March up by 29% compared to the rest of the year.

A film starring Angellica Bell has also been created by PR firm Freuds, in which she speaks to gambling and health experts while highlighting the help and support available.

“We know that women are more likely than men to say their gambling has caused them mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. Women experiencing high levels of gambling harm are also more likely than men to say that stigma and shame prevent them from coming forward for support,” explains GambleAware’s chief communications officer, Alexia Clifford.

“So I’m delighted that GambleAware is launching our first harms prevention campaign specifically aimed at women. The campaign will encourage women to look out for the early warning signs of harmful gambling and direct them to the BeGambleAware website for free advice and support to help keep their gambling under control.”

Candice Cearley

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