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Spark Foundry’s latest insights report shows that over half of the UK will disengage with unrepresentative media

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Spark Foundry has outlined the latest consumer search trends around Sustainability, Tech & Gaming, and Diversity in advertising for Q3 2023 in its latest ‘Insights Accelerated’ report

Key findings from this report are that:

  • Over half (57%) of the UK will disengage with media & advertising they feel is unrepresentative
  • Food and Drink is the most inclusive category, closely followed by Travel
  • Demand for sustainability was down in Q3 2023 when comparing YoY (13%)
  • Land Rover and Ovo Energy search interest grew in Q3 2023
  • Handheld gaming devices like Nintendo Switch 2 and Sony’s PlayStation Portable have seen a resurgence this quarter
  • Content drives conversation and passion for gaming
  • Gaming giants like Xbox and PlayStation are focusing more on inclusivity by announcing accessible controllers

Using proprietary tools; Social Sparks (social listening), Intent-Based Planning (semantic analysis) and The Street (external panel), Spark Foundry’s ‘Insights Accelerated’ report looks at the trends in consumer spending and search habits on a quarterly basis. This sixth iteration looks at trends from Q3: July – September 2023.

  1. Diversity

Diversity in advertising has never been more important but are brands doing enough to address diversity in their campaigns and is this getting through to consumers? We surveyed diverse groups within the UK – including People of Colour, LGBTQ+, and Neurodivergent individuals – to understand how well represented they feel in advertising and what they expect from brands.

Our research showed that over half (57%) of UK adults said they’ve stopped engaging with a media channel due to inadequate diversity or representation. This percentage dramatically rises for diverse communities with BAME (79%), Neurodiverse (76%), and LGBTQ+ (62%) being likely to disengage with a media channel

Other key diversity findings are:

  • The primary reason for this disengagement is either a lack of representation or negative portrayal. The second most common reason to disengage was inauthentic representation.
  • Fortunately, only 11% of people were offended by something they saw but that number climbs to 17% for 16-34s and 16% for BAME communities, so there’s still a lot of room to improve.
  • Only 40% of individuals aged 55 and above feel represented on social media, implying that focusing solely on these channels might limit campaign efficacy.
  • Food and Drink emerged as the most inclusive sector (70%), closely trailed by Travel (69%).
  • This was true for all audiences with the exception of LGBTQ+ respondents who felt that Food and Drink isn’t representative and ranked it as the fifth most representative category after technology.
  • LGBTQ+ respondents felt the least well represented of any audience across almost every category.
  • Fashion, Beauty, and Finance were considered to be the least inclusive categories, on average, particularly by 18-34s, neurodivergent and BAME individuals. 

Marcos Angelides, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer at Spark Foundry UK comments: “Brands must consider their stance on representation or risk alienating large groups of consumers. Representation cannot be inauthentic or tokenistic or brands could risk a negative reaction from consumers. Brands should continue to work to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion at every level of their businesses to reap the best rewards for their marketing efforts. While Beauty, Finance, and Fashion have some way to go, there are exemplary brands in these sectors that prioritise inclusivity. Brands championing representation have a unique opportunity to distinguish themselves, especially within categories where consumers felt representation was lacking.

  1. Sustainability 

Findings in Q3 2023 showed that overall demand for sustainability is down. When comparing year on year (YOY) searches for Q3, we see that total volumes have shrunk by 13%

Other key sustainability findings include:

  • Land Rover came out of nowhere in Q3 2023 to bag the largest growth in search interest (63%).
  • That is a phenomenal number for a category that rarely sees changes above or below 25%.
  • The spike in interest is likely down to the announcement of Land Rover’s first fully electric car, which also promises to be “the world’s first electric luxury SUV”.
  • Until now Land Rover has primarily offered hybrid models, so the news has captured a lot of interest from car enthusiasts.
  • Ovo saw the greatest YOY increase in search, 42%, helping them reinforce their position as the second most searched for energy brand in the sustainability space.
  • Top spot continues to go to British Gas, who grew by 16% YOY, but Ovo is the brand with the greatest momentum. This proves that even when interest for the category hits a bump, savvy brands can still grow, by stealing a disproportionate volume of search from their nearest competitors.

Marcos Angelides comments: “As much as people care about sustainability, they will always have to prioritise their families first, and right now it seems difficult to be able to afford to do both.  This proves that even when interest for the category hits a bump, savvy brands can still grow, by stealing a disproportionate volume of search from their nearest competitors.

“Searches for sustainable energy are primarily focused on brand exploration (i.e. the mid funnel). This means that users are already aware of the category products, and are evaluating specific brands that may best suit their needs. This is when it’s critical to optimise your content for SEO and paid search. Making it easier for users to find your content ensures that your good efforts aren’t going to waste. All it takes is one unfruitful Google search for a potential customer to deprioritise you and turn to one of your competitors.”

  1. Gaming and Tech 

The key findings around the gaming and tech conversation showed that big-ticket launches in the video gaming industry are progressively embracing the live service model (where developers continuously update a game after its initial release).

Other key findings are:

  • Nintendo electrified the market by announcing the Switch 2 at Gamescom this year.
  • We witnessed a 15% spike in engagement when the announcement came through.
  • This move coming hot on the heels of Sony who unveiled the cutting-edge PlayStation Portable back in May.
  • The success of the Nintendo Switch, now ranked as the third most sold handheld console of all time (second to PlayStation 2 and Nintendo DS), serves as a compelling backdrop to these announcements.
  • Our analysis reveals a remarkable surge in market interest for gaming, related mentions have skyrocketed by 51% in recent posts, accompanied by a staggering 44% increase in impressions quarter on quarter.
  • During the last quarter alone, discussions around gaming amassed a whopping 58,320 billion potential impressions.
  • This fervent interest is driven, in no small part, by the resounding success of major game releases like Baldur’s Gate 3, Life of P and Starfield, which have garnered exceptional reviews.
  • The emergence of accessible controllers by gaming giants like Xbox and PlayStation signifies a pivotal shift towards inclusivity in the gaming world.
  • We saw a 20% uplift in engagement in May when Sony announced theirs.
  • These devices are ‘game’-changers for players with disabilities, opening up a world of possibilities.

Marcos Angelides comments: “Amidst the extensive landscape of advertising opportunities in mobile games and esports, it’s essential to approach partnerships with gaming titles strategically. Gaming, as a media channel, offers a diverse array of content akin to what we find in television and cinema. Therefore, the titles we choose to associate with and support to bolster our brands must be selected with careful consideration. As our recent findings indicate, the gaming community’s discussions and enthusiasm can be galvanised by a select few titles that capture gamers’ hearts. Aligning our brands with these titles and devising a robust content calendar for the year can yield optimal results. 

“For brands within gaming, embracing accessibility isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s a strategic necessity. With Xbox and PS5 leading the way, accessibility has become a competitive advantage. By prioritising inclusive design, brands can tap into a wider audience, reaching players with disabilities who were previously underserved.”