The Future of Marketing is in Gaming Hands

The Future of Marketing is in Gaming Hands

In the consumerist world that we live in, we’ve come to expect ads in a lot of places. Whether on billboards, newspapers, or cinema screens, we witness advertising on a daily basis. But in the future of promotion, there’s one channel that’s set to boom in popularity – video game marketing.

Gaming in a Global Pandemic

Video gaming is already known as a popular activity; however in 2020 as we spent more time at home than ever before, more of us began playing video games. This created a surge in gaming during lock down, with some games soaring to become world sensations.

For instance, when game developer Nintendo launched ‘Animal Crossing New Horizons’ for the Nintendo Switch at the beginning of the first global lock down, it became a talking point on line and subsequently a a runaway success. It has already sold over 33 million copies with an additional 24.10 million Nintendo Switch units sold. 

It’s not solely gaming consoles that are getting our attention. Mobile Gaming (playing games on a smartphone) saw a surge in users in recent years. According to WARC, an overwhelming 71% of internet users play games on their smartphones, making mobiles the most popular gaming devices to-date. 

Who is playing video games? Generation Profiles 

Unsurprisingly video game adoption rates are highest among Gen Z with over 90% of these internet users attesting to playing video games. Older age groups are seen to be adopting video gaming at the fastest rate across all generations. In 2020/21 more than two-thirds of internet users aged 55 to 64 around the world play them

Now that the popularity of gaming have been discussed, we can dive into it’s significance in relation to marketing. 

Marketing on an Interactive Landscape 

The video gaming marketing industry is currently estimated to be worth $4.1 Billion in 2021. One of the most useful features of video game marketing is the medium they’re played on – phones. As of 2018, Mobile games contribute 51% to the global revenue generated by the gaming industry. It’s also the fastest growing category of consumer behavior activity on mobile devices. With such a large frequently interactive audience, mobile gaming offers a channel to target them directly. 

How Can We Market Effectively Through Gaming? 

If you’re searching for a great example of marketing on mobile gaming apps, look no further than media sovereign Disney. In 2017, in order to promote the film studios newest ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ film, an immersive video ad campaign was launched. The ad would appear to users playing mobile games and instruct them to tap their phone screen during the video to ‘collect treasures’. By participating in the ad, users unlocked exclusive content (mostly trailers for the film). The ad was successful for a number of reasons; it blurred the line between game and ad, avoiding interruption of the ‘gaming experience’ and encouraging interaction. Likewise by rewarding users for interacting with the content, it offered a great incentive for longer periods of ad engagement. The campaign achieved raised brand awareness of the ‘Pirates’ film franchise and increased hype for it’s upcoming release.

Final Advice

Digital marketing institute notes that marketing your brand in the video gaming landscape isn’t a challenge in finding new ways to engage target audiences, but how to maximize effectiveness with resources already available. With an open field of options for creative advertising and diverse audiences to target, video games may become the best way to deliver future marketing campaigns.

Lottie Kelly is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She is currently on her placement year at AV Browne, an integrated communications agency in Belfast. Lottie was a student member of the CIPR Northern Ireland committee on 2019-20. She can be found at: LinkedIn and Twitter. Lottie’s personal blog is here.

Cryptocurrency, Social media influencers and contactless payments. No questions needed digital is the future, is our finances the same?

Cryptocurrency, Social media influencers and contactless payments. No questions needed digital is the future, is our finances the same?

The last decade has seen digital advancements in all aspects of the word, from Elon Musk trying to get to Mars or the unhackable internet. With every company and business having an online presence, and Covid causing everyone to go contactless, it makes me wonder, about the future of our finances? With Bitcoin taking over the news headlines and crypto becoming part of daily conversation, what does this mean for cash? And what does this mean for the future of currency.

Before even beginning a conversation about cryptocurrency, firstly, we need to talk about the importance of social media and its effects on the stock market. Long gone are the days when Fortune 500 companies ruled the top spots of the stock market; social media and its multiple outlets have introduced a number of changes. Social media influencers and social media outlets have the power to create stock bubbles and manipulate the popularity of stocks. Take GameStop as a recent example. GameStop, a struggling video games retailer that was hit hard by the pandemic, was able to become a million dollar stock on the American stock market. This happened as users on a Reddit forum called “WallStreetBets” decided to buy into GameStop shares, initially because they thought it was undervalued, then to send a message to the short-sellers. For anyone who’s not sure of the jargon, I got you! Short-sellers work as a way of profiting when the price of an asset/stock falls, a short seller pays a small fee to borrow shares from someone, the short seller then sells the stock, and then buys the stock back to return it to the lender. Short sellers are betting that the stock they sell will drop in price, the difference between the sell price and the buy price is the profit.

What happened is that GameStop’s shares hit a low of $2.57 last year before rising to $18.84 by 31 December after a notable hedge fund decided to back the company. A hedge fund is a pool of money contributed by investors and run by a fund manager whose goal is to maximize returns and eliminate risk. The price was rising steadily but other funds were betting against GameStop by short-selling large numbers of shares. At this point, the users of WallStreetBets Reddit called for people to invest into GameStop shares, pushing up the price to put pressure on the short-sellers. Many Reddit posts argued that this was a way to punish hedge funds that were seeking to profit from a company’s troubles. GameStop’s share price rose to $350. This meant that any short seller who had borrowed GameStop shares at the start of the year and sold them in the market for $18.84 had to find another $301.16 per share to buy them back again and return them to their owner. As some hedge funds had borrowed and sold millions of GameStop’s shares, they were facing huge losses and had to buy the shares back to stop those losses rising further. Buying the shares back created additional demand, pushing the price up even higher. This is the perfect example of a tumultuous stock market journey that demonstrates the power that co-ordinating via social media and the stock market.

Social media has significantly changed the game of finance, and shown how influential it can be. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla is living proof. He tweeted about the Dogecoin cryptocurrency and afterwards its shares skyrocketed by 50%. Peter Gloor, a researcher for MIT stated that “influencers’ comments about stocks are key metrics in predicting market activity with Twitter”. He believes that echo chambers on Twitter were a contributing factor in the GameStop stock phenomenon, whether or not echo chambers or influencers are fuelling changes in financial markets, it seems that social media can affect market activity. Taking what we know now into consideration, it easy to see the ways that the stock market has changed, people interested in buying, selling and investing in stocks will have to change their approaches to ensure their investments pay off. The question still remains, what is the future for our currency? According to Deutsche Bank the current money system is fragile. The bank recently published an “Imagine 2030” report, in which the Bank sees that by 2030 digital currencies will rise to over 200 million users and that one day digital currency could eventually replace cash. With a number of businesses no longer accepting cash, the future of crypto could be sooner than we think.

Alicia Fox is a third year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at Linkedin and Twitter.

COLIN THE SHOTS: A PUBLIC DISASTER FOR M & S

COLIN THE SHOTS: A PUBLIC DISASTER FOR M & S

Colin or Cuthbert?

Like many others, I have been closely following the Colin & Cuthbert the Caterpillar Twitter gate. The biggest showdown since McGregor v Mayweather. It was quite refreshing to see these two heavyweights go caterpillar to caterpillar rather than the usual COVID-19 debates.

M & S and Colin aren’t very happy with Aldi and Cuthbert because of the similarities of the two products and so M & S are threatening to sue Aldi; despite other major UK retailers also selling their own caterpillars: Curly, Clyde, Cecil, Charlie, Morris and Wiggles.

Are M & S fighting a losing battle?

Has Aldi just proved there is no such thing as bad publicity?

Well, let’s find out.

On Thursday 15th April, news that shook the world of children’s parties, office birthdays, and millennials, Colin the Caterpillar laced up his six boots and went to war. M&S has filed an intellectual property claim with the High Court against Aldi, in an effort to protect their chocolate-covered swiss roll celebration cake, and demanded that Aldi stop selling their copy cat-erpillar, Cuthbert.

Like Prince, Madonna and Boris, in birthday party circles, Colin needs no second name, with over 15 million sales under his belt during his 30 year life.

Such is the cult of Colin that M&S created a female version – Connie the Caterpillar – who sports a pink bow. You can also buy Colin in mini-roll form, as gummy sweets and sour sweets, and, hauntingly, stand-alone Colin faces. The Colin canon is broad and terrifying.

The first imitator was Wiggles from Sainsbury’s in 2011, who was shortly followed by the rest of the army. (An army is what you call a group of Caterpillars by the way) For the most part, the caterpillars are extremely similar: all are chocolate Swiss roll sponge with chocolate buttercream, and chocolate covering, decorated with sweets. All the caterpillars have shoes extending down the length of their bodies, and a cartoon face that could generously be described as sort-of reminiscent of a caterpillar, or maybe a train that has come to life. The packaging is also near-identical: long, rectangular green boxes with cellophane windows showing off the cute little caterpillar.

So why now? Why Aldi? Why Cuthbert?

Perhaps, some cynical sorts have suggested, this is not, in fact, the landmark case of intellectual property law it purports to be, but in fact, a PR stunt confected by the rival supermarkets. Certainly, Aldi’s social media over the weekend hasn’t suggested that they’re quaking in their Caterpillar boots.

Marks and Spencer is quoted as saying:

“Love and care go into every product on our shelves. So we want to protect Colin, Connie and our reputation for freshness, quality, innovation and value”.

But has this all the signs of a publicity disaster for Marks and Spencer?

There is no doubt that Colin the Caterpillar is valuable to Marks and Spencer but have Aldi’s tweets proved the company should have thought about it more before bringing the action? 

You definitely came across the brilliantly funny social media campaign from Aldi’s Twitter account #freecuthbert, you couldn’t miss it, it was everywhere! The newspapers, online, Colin even got an interview on This Morning with Philip Schofield.

Let’s make sense of it all;

Marks and Spencer bit the bullet and lodged a claim with the High Court against Aldi for infringing on the Colin-related trademarks that Marks & Spencer owns.

Naturally, Marks and Spencer want Aldi to remove the Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake from their stores and to refrain from selling anything similar in the future.

Aldi’s witty and punful tweets stole the limelight of Marks & Spencer’s sue claims but when the fun dried out, Aldi suggested that they all put this nonsense behind them and that they “raise money for Charity, not lawyers.”

However, M & S completely missed the mark with some Twitter users calling the retailer “pathetic”. M & S suggested that Aldi just use their own character and threw Kevin the Carrot Cake into the mix. Poor carrot probably already has enough on his plate.

So was this all worthwhile for M & S? A PR Stunt or Stint?

According to the stats, Aldi’s news sentiment increased by +8.5%, purchase consideration +6.08% and Social Engagement 460,629 while M&S seen a decrease of 134.1% in their news sentiment, a 2.72% decrease in purchase consideration and only managed to get half of Aldi’s social engagement with 253,581.

I feel that answers the question… perhaps they should have left Cuthbert alone?

Courtney McGoldrick is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn, Instagram & Twitter.

Will Influencing Last Forever?

Will Influencing Last Forever?

This is a question that has been bouncing around in my head for a couple of weeks now, after I was ‘influenced’ to buy a mascara and guess what? That’s right…two days later the same influencer was promoting a DIFFERENT mascara on her story. What about the one I had just ordered? It was supposed to be the best mascara ever created.

This influencer completely lost my trust, I felt tricked and gullible.

Is it really all about money for influencers? Will they say anything if they are paid? It does prove one thing though, influencing works and it is not the first time I have bought a product due to a recommendation from an influencer, but it could be the last.

How can influencing go wrong?

Terrie McEvoy and Tower Jewellers

Irish influencer and blogger Terrie McEvoy partnered with the company Tower Jewellers; she rigged a sponsored contest so that friends of hers won the prizes — two bracelets from Tower. After the backlash on social media, McEvoy and Tower Jewellers apologized, and McEvoy deleted her Facebook account.

Scott Disick and Bootea

Scott Disick’s first Instagram post on behalf of Bootea products was a huge flop. He accidentally copied and pasted the campaign instructions from the PR firm he was working with as part of the post. The post read: “Here you go, at 4pm est, write the below Caption: Keeping up with the summer workout routine with my morning @booteauk protein shake!”

Opps Scott, amateur move!

I simply, cannot leave out Fyre Festival, the fraudulent luxury music festival founded by Billy McFarland, CEO of Fyre Media Inc, and rapper Ja Rule. The event was promoted on Instagram by social media influencers including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin and Emily Ratajkowski, many of whom did not initially disclose they had been paid to do so. Tickets cost up to $100,000 (£75,000) and guests who booked were promised luxury accommodation and “the best in food, art, music and adventure” in the Bahamas. Instead they turned up to mattresses on rain-soaked floors, meals of cheese slices on bread and their luggage thrown into an unlit car park. Hit up the Netflix documentary if you have not already.

The influencer marketing industry is on track to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022, up from as much as $8 billion in 2019, according to Business Insider. The industry has become so monetized, it’s possible there is an anti-influencer sentiment on the rise, many people are becoming less trusting of influencers and more careful of who they choose to follow due to the increase of dishonest practises. Instagram influencer engagement is nearing an all-time low as social media allows for more people to achieve fame and influencer status, meaning social media quickly has become oversaturated with influencers.

Tips for working with influencers

  • Influencers need to display authenticity, likability, and authority to create trust with followers. Brands need to be careful who they choose to represent them, the best practice would be partnering with influencers who have used and liked a product or service before even entering an endorsement deal, but at the very least, marketers should make sure they partner with influencers who have authentic connections to their brand.  
  • Some influencers have inflated followings, with very little engagement which is why it is great (and cheaper) for brands to work with micro influencers. The authenticity of common interests between a micro-influencer and their followers evokes a credibility that a large influencer cannot replicate.
  • Tik Tok made me buy it… Following in the footsteps of Instagram, Tik Tok is set to become a major player in the influencer space with 41% of users aged 16-24.

Will influencing last forever? I cannot see it slowing down anytime soon. But I can see it changing at a rapid pace, brands will have to choose meticulously each influencer they work with ensuring they are ethical, honest and create authentic content in order to be successful working with influencers.

Will I be influenced again? Probably…

Cliodhna Donnelly is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram

What Will A Career In Communications Look Like Post Covid-19?

What Will A Career In Communications Look Like Post Covid-19?

As a student at the School of Communication, I would naturally love to further my career in this field. The past 13-months have taken a turn no one could have ever predicted. With the new virus taking over the world, people have gone into panic and are scared for their lives and the lives of others. People have had an unprecedented amount of new stress to deal with, and it seems the virus has touched every family in some way or someone who knows someone. It is no surprise that this pandemic has had a massive effect on recruitment and redundancy in negative ways. I’m sure there are other final year students out there who are also worried about the current job market and how difficult it may be to find a job, graduate scheme, or start a business. Which leads me to think, how will the virus affect our industry?

I said before that the virus had touched many families – mine was most certainly one of them. I contracted the virus in September, and it wasn’t an easy road. During this time, we were allowed to meet members of our family and friends outside. My boyfriend had gone for dinner with his friends, one of which unknowingly had the virus at the time and spread it to him and then him to me. It took a few days for it to come to light, as no one from the dinner started to show symptoms for around three days. Once the news came out after everyone had been tested because of their symptoms, I started my isolation period. I began to develop symptoms around day 5. I lost my sense of taste and smell and experienced extreme fatigue; luckily, I did not have any severe symptoms. Even luckier, I did not pass it to anyone who I came into contact with before isolation. I had a test sent to my house, and sure enough, it was positive. I was very fortunate that I had already started to work from home and was still able to attend Zoom meetings and complete work. However, the mental toll it takes can be severe. I was lucky enough to have family around me that would bring me food and leave it at my door, and I used an upstairs bathroom that no one else used to minimise any chance of my family contracting the virus. If I didn’t have the support of my family during those 14 days, just like a lot of people don’t, I know it could’ve been a completely different experience.

For a career in any field, it’s essential to network and link with others in your industry to make valuable connections and broaden your contacts. The virus has made this more difficult, with events now being limited and seminars having moved online, which takes away from the face to face interaction we all love. LinkedIn has become as powerful as ever. I have found myself getting more submerged in my news feed and looking through potential connections. This has proved valuable to many people as it can be a great way to find new connections, and as everyone is in the same boat, it will be much less daunting!

Thinking about how to navigate your career during this time will be tough. I think it’s comforting to believe that everyone is in the same boat. I have even seen a few changes on LinkedIn. I notice many professionals are changing their profile pictures to less formal ones to reflect their current reality of working from home. I think this is a great way to humanise the platform and show others that they’re not alone in this situation.

I believe post-Covid-19 will undoubtedly have its challenges for everyone. I think it’s essential for us to stay as resilient and look to the future positively because everything will go back to normal someday. To me, a career in Communications is a career of communicating effectively. I think this should spill into our personal lives, whereby we check on each other and ensure no one feels alone or lost. The effects of this second lockdown could be catastrophic to people’s mental health. The impacts of self-isolation on top of that are also hard to deal with.

There are many mental health websites and blogs that advise on how you can best keep your mind healthy.

Lauren Simmons is a final year student studying BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn

COVID19 and Public Relations: 4 Reasons Why PR is Vital for Business during a Pandemic

COVID19 and Public Relations: 4 Reasons Why PR is Vital for Business during a Pandemic

2020 will forever be remembered as the year of the pandemic. Effects from the year will undoubtedly have a lasting impact for years to come as every business has to adapt to the “new normal”. There is no business that has escaped unaffected. Therefore, businesses of every size globally have been forced to adapt, innovate and overcome the challenges this year has thrown at them. For many, this has been made possible thanks to the help of PR.

Here is just 4 reasons why PR is invaluable to businesses at the time of a crisis such as COVID19: 

  1. To Produce a Crisis Management Plan

Let’s face it, no one could have ever predicted a global pandemic and international lockdown. Coronavirus has brought new issues no one could have ever imagined having to face. However, a crisis management plan in place may have outlined the ways in which to overcome challenges in the event of the business having to temporarily close or reduce output for whatever reason. 

Now, more than ever, businesses need to put in place a plan or evaluate their current one to reduce crisis impact in future. With lives and livelihoods at stake, a crisis management plan simply cannot be overlooked. 

2. To Establish Trust and Integrity 

Inevitably, the global pandemic has created mass distrust. A good PR strategy can instil a  reputation of trustworthiness and credibility for a brand so that gradually consumers will trust the brand without question. 

One way of doing this is through a macro/micro-influencer. An influencer is a powerful tool to gain credibility. However important it is for the blogger to be admired and trusted, most of all the brand and influencer relationship must be genuine, otherwise it will have the opposite effect if consumers sense a false association or a feeling that the influencer doesn’t even use the businesses products/services. 

3. To Maintain a Positive Online Relationship

During the coronavirus pandemic it has been more important than ever before to maintain a relationship with consumers at home. Pre-pandemic business-consumer relationships have diminished especially for businesses that had no online presence or did not fully engage with consumers. 

As society becomes more physically isolated, engaging online with consumers will make them feel more unified in an online community. It provides a safe space where they can maintain a personal relationship to the brand in a time of so much tragedy and negativity. 

Many brands are using their online platform to spread messages of hope and the recurring theme of “stay safe” or “stay at home” which consumers engage well with when brands show they are connected and they care. 

4. To Promote Success

After time it can be extremely beneficial to promote how well you’ve responded to issues caused by COVID19. For example, according to Deloitte (2020), 39% of consumers say they will purchase more in the future from brands that responded well to the crisis.

Brands who highlight their success with steps they have taken on their part to control the virus or simply their role in “doing the right thing” are seen as more genuinely caring by consumers. For example, advertising store closures, social distancing measures, hand sanitising stations and new business practices not only provide information but show they are committed to the protection of the community.

Aveen Moore is a final year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter

The Brand Putting Sustainability First

The Brand Putting Sustainability First
The diverse models featured in a Tala campaign

The athleisure wear industry is estimated to be worth £2.5 billion in the UK alone; and is only expected to increase throughout the next five years. This rise could be attributed to the increase in social media influencers who make their living sharing exercise related content; and have generated buzz around exercise, especially for their younger audiences.  

In recent years, well-known high-street brands have reacted to this surge in interest for fitness by releasing their own range of sportswear. With most fast fashion brands, including Missguided and Pretty Little Thing, creating their own range of gym wear. But how could new brands establish themselves in an already saturated market?

Introducing Tala

Pictured is founder Grace Beverley

This challenge has been accepted by Grace Beverley, a 23-year-old social media influencer, turned entrepreneur, who has already sent shockwaves through the industry. Storming straight to the top of Forbes 30 under 30 list, Grace has founded two successful fitness businesses in just a few years; with Tala launching in May 2019 and selling more than 60,000 products within the first few months. But what sets her apart from her competitors?

Sustainability

One of the models featured on the website

Described as “the brand you knew you wanted but could never quite find”, Tala is a fitness brand, creating ethical products with sustainability at the core of the brand. While sustainability within brands is not necessarily a new concept, Tala has promised to deliver ethical products that “wont break the planet, or the bank”, something consumers can smile about. Companies striving for sustainability have notoriously sold clothes with a hefty price point upwards of £100, which is simply impossible for most customers, making it difficult for the everyday consumer to shop sustainably.

Tala has made sure to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of the business – from using recyclable materials to create the clothing, to selling Fibre Filer Bags, which cleverly catch the tiny microfibres released every time clothing is washed. The Fibre Filer Bag prevents the microfibres from contributing to pollution of our oceans as they can be disposed of from the Fibre Bags into the bin. The package is also made from 100% recycled material to ensure there is no waste ending up in landfill. Is there anything they haven’t thought of?

The models featured in one of the campaigns

Operating Ethically

While fast fashion allows its consumers to purchase clothing at discounted rates, it has become known that exploitation is a serious issue in this industry. Brands selling their clothing at lesser rates than their competitors, are often known to take advantage of their workers in the factories who may be working extended hours but seeing very little return in the rate they are paid. Tala has made sure to provide clothing at an affordable rate, but customers can rest easy knowing they are wearing clothing that has been ethnically created. Not only do they pride themselves on operating sustainably, but they also ensure the products are created with suppliers who align with their beliefs by ensuring their factories are operating ethnically.

The tag contains seeds, ready to be planted

If you’re looking for a brand who has put thought into every aspect of their business, look no further! The tag on each item of clothing is filled with seasonal seeds. This means you can cut off the tag and grow a different plant with every tag you get. All you need to do is put the tag in some soil, sprinkle it with a drop of water and watch your very own plant grow. Talk about going the extra mile!

Putting diversity first

The models show the diversity of the brand

Within recent years, consumers have not been reserved in calling brands out for not including diversity within their marketing campaigns, as well as holding fashion brands accountable for not featuring models of different sizes on their websites. While we can acknowledge that brands have been showing more diversity within their campaigns, there is still work to be done. In 2020, inclusive marketing is an obvious choice to reflect real people and remove the unrealistic ideals put forward by “perfect” models. This is not an issue for those browsing the Tala website, as women of all shapes and sizes are featured. The diversity is carried through throughout the brands marketing and is sure to attract the attention of a diverse range of women.

While this brand is certainly one of the first paving the way for inclusive, sustainable, and ethical approaches to creating and marketing clothing; hopefully, it won’t be the last!

Cheyenne Doyle is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Linkedin and Twitter

From wind-ups to lucky pants, are Paddy Power the kings of PR?

From wind-ups to lucky pants, are Paddy Power the kings of PR?

Paddy Power, if you haven’t heard of them before, are an Irish bookmaker who operate in the UK and Ireland. Paddy Power are a very established name in the betting industry, with shops in over 600 locations. However, many people will mostly be familiar with Paddy Power through their social media accounts. With over 1.5 million likes on Facebook, and over 650,000 followers on Twitter, it is very unlikely that you will not have come across one of their witty posts on your timeline.

Paddy Power use their social media accounts for a mix of betting information and poking fun at others, with the latter being their main point of focus. There is no doubt that if your favourite football team lose a game at the weekend, Paddy Power will pull no punches and be quick to have a laugh at their expense. The bookmaker is also very famous for their PR stunts, which usually come with plenty of talking points and sometimes some controversy. These stunts often get a lot of attention, some good some not so good, but certainly play a part in Paddy Power’s brand image.

One of Paddy Power’s biggest PR stunts was in the lead up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup which was taking place in Brazil. The Irish betting firm posted a message of support for the England national team in preparation for the tournament:

No sooner had this message of support been tweeted until the backlash started. Had Paddy Power really chopped down trees in the Amazon rainforest just as a publicity stunt? Not exactly, however they did let people have their say on social media before revealing the truth.

One user tweeted “@paddypower did you really commission that rainforest stunt? Disgusting! I hope you all go to jail or a long time!”

Another said “Jesus, @paddypower actually did wreck a portion of the rainforest as a publicity stunt? What a clusterf*ck.”

In typical Paddy Power style they replied to one of these tweets stating “we haven’t cut down that much!”

This was quickly picked up by the press and many articles were published, criticising the organisation for this seemingly lack of awareness of a massive global issue, all to raise publicity.

The reality was, Paddy Power had not cut down parts of the Amazon rain forest. In fact, they hadn’t stepped foot in Brazil at all. This was all a 3D model that was created by the guys at Paddy Power in order to create this publicity stunt. After letting the lie go on throughout the weekend, they eventually came clean, and it turned out that they were in fact attempting to raise awareness of the issue of deforestation in this area.

Their campaign to #SaveTheRainforest rather than #ShaveTheRainforest was a welcome relief to many on social media who had first of all slammed Paddy Power for the initial tweet. This in the end was a fantastic PR move by the organisation as they created lots of conversation around the initial post that in turn raised awareness for this wider issue, and presented the organisation as one who cares, rather than one out to destroy the Amazon rainforest for a few retweets.

This of course is not the only stunt Paddy Power has done prior to a World Cup tournament. The latest edition of the competition was held in 2018 in Russia and again the organisation opted for a shocking approach to get people talking about a wider issue. This time, the issue was polar bears and the stunt was not as straightforward as the previous one.

Again, the image and footage of Paddy Power “spray-painting” the St. George’s Cross onto a Polar Bear was leaked to the press causing outrage about this lack of respect for an endangered species. However, as it always goes with Paddy Power, not all was as it initially seemed. This again was completed with the aid of technology and the help of Polar Bear Agee and owner Mark Dumas. The stunt was again an attempt to raise awareness of Polar Bears in Russia and was fairly successful yet again in causing a stir on social media.

The stunts don’t stop there, Paddy Power also enjoy taking advantage of showing the brand on the biggest stages when the whole world are watching. They don’t do this in regular ways such as advertising hoardings at these events, instead they showcase their Paddy Power lucky pants!

In the group stages of the European Championships in 2012, Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner scored against Portugal and proceeded to lower his shorts slightly and raise his jersey to show off his ‘lucky pants’ which were covered in the Paddy Power logo.

The stunt was accepted as funny by the large majority. Unfortunately, in the minority of those who found it not so funny, were the tournament organisers UEFA. They fined the footballer €100,000, which Paddy Power coughed up for, however this was a ludicrous punishment in comparison to the fine handed to the Croatian FA for racist chanting in the same week which was €80,000.

Bendtner was not the only sportsperson to don these infamous pants. In 2017, one of the biggest boxing fights in history took place between Floyd Mayweather and UFC star Conor McGregor. Paddy Power took advantage of this opportunity to show-off their pants with the world watching by getting Floyd to wear them at the weigh in for the bout. The logo on this occasion accompanied a pinstripe print that read ‘always bet on black’ and cost around £3,000 to manufacture, again showing that the betting firm don’t do things by half measures.

It’s fair to say Paddy Power are not afraid of the limelight, whether it be for the right or wrong reasons, and this brazen approach tends to work and hit its mark in majority of cases. There has been times where this close to the wire approach goes too far, such as running betting odds on the first species to be driven to extinction as a result of the BP oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010. However, I would personally say that their approach is very effective as regardless of whether the conversation happening is good or bad, at least the conversation is happening. Making change involves making noise, and Paddy Power certainly attempt to do that with stunts like the #SaveTheRainforest. Crowning them the ‘Kings of PR’ may be a bit premature, but it is impossible to ignore them when it comes to high profile PR stunts. Their ability to go as close to the line as they possibly can without crossing must be commended and if they keep this approach, I look forward to what they come up with next.

Phelim Sweeney is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn

Covid-19- Revealing the true values of mega business owners, sports stars and political parties 

Covid-19- Revealing the true values of mega business owners, sports stars and political parties 

2020 will always be a year that will be etched in every single one of our minds forever. A year that has tested every single individual and as the saying goes “it’s in time of adversity that we meet the real person”. That is a saying that we can truly relate to this year, in the extreme challenges that Covid-19 has brought us. We have seen in the actions of our supposed ‘leaders’ and ‘role-models’ the real person and morals of the person and in terms of politics, the parties and people that are supposed to be leading our country. 

We have seen this in our own country, that a deadly virus that put the health and future of our constituents in danger, the political leaders could still not abolish the infamous tags of ‘us’ and ‘them’. This came in the most direct way of Sinn Fein following the actions of our Counterparts in Dublin, whilst the DUP following the actions of just across the water.  Either way many could argue that they have failed to lead with any sense of logic or integrity, coming with the latest inability to reach a decisive decision over the recent ‘circuit breaker’. 

The PR of the political parties in this country has taken a dent, as would have been an invaluable opportunity to portray a level of togetherness and solidarity and to show how much we have moved on. Instead, the pandemic has shown the same old attitudes of old with Jim Allister’s “Dungannon park” comments, Edwin Poots comments about “Covid-19 being prominent in Nationalist areas” and Sinn Fein accusing the DUP of “wasting time”. 

Although, the actions of our own political leaders have been detrimental to the PR to political parties, we have not been on our own which may of some comfort.  Just over the water, Boris Johnsons chief advisor Dominic Cummings travelled 260 miles to self-isolate with his family throwing into disarray all the Governments previous efforts and all self-sacrifice that people had made. This was an action that damaged the reliability of the British government  

It wasn’t just the integrity and morals of our political parties that we learned about during this pandemic, major business owners and worldwide companies also made error of judgements giving us all an insight into their true values.  Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin) was branded one of the villains of the Covid-19 pandemic after he laid some of his staff off unpaid.  It was a highly unpopular move and one that was branded an “avoidable PR disaster”.  Richard Fuller, the Tory when describing the Richard Branson sage and when talking about business owners at this time in general stated “Big or small—in a small village, a leader of a church or a leader of a large business—when it comes to looking at the protection of your workers, the time is now, and we will judge you all by your actions.”  This is a very powerful message that demonstrates that actions taken at this time will go a long way on how a company is seen and something that could build or devalue their reputation.  Although, Bransons actions were largely criticised, many Virgin employees leapt to his defence with Jenny Hall declaring “At least this is better than having to make redundancies. The unpaid leave will be spread out over the yearly salary. I personally would take this option over losing my job. 

Mike Ashley (owner of Sports Direct chain) came under enormous scrutiny and was later forced to apologised after his chain sent an email to the Prime Minister insisting that his shop should be allowed to open on the basis that it is an essential service. An action that Ashley described as “ill-judged and badly timed”, and later he wrote a letter explaining that his communication to his staff and the public was poor and stated “”I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future”. This was a disastrous PR stunt for Mr Ashley who was later described as valuing profit over the safety of human life. 

It wasn’t just business owners that came under fire for decisions made through this pandemic, the two finalists from the 2019 European cup final and two of the richest football clubs in the world came under huge scrutiny. The two clubs revealed that they were placing staff on the furlough scheme, taking government money. Both clubs didn’t just come under pressure from immediate public but from their supporters.  Former Liverpool FC player Stan Collymore revealed “I don’t know of any Liverpool fan of any standing that won’t be anything other than disgusted at the club for furloughing staff. Fellow football fans, furlough is for small business staff to keep those small businesses from going bump”. As a Liverpool supporter myself, I was simply embarrassed and disgusted by this action, and action that Liverpool FC later apologised for and backtracked.  A club that has always held itself with such dignity, had now shown itself in a light that previous members of the club ensured that it would be something that they would never be known for.  

On a lighter note, someone that has portrayed himself in the most positive of lights is the 21-year-old Marcus Rashford. The young Manchester United and England player received huge plaudits from all over the country for his tireless work in campaigning for free school meals for kids. The award saw Rashford receive an MBE and the City of Manchester award. Lord Mayor of Manchester Tommy Judge said it was “remarkable” to see him “give a voice to the powerless”. 

These previous examples we have seen just how these trying times have really revealed some people character and tested their character to the core. 

Ciaran Robinson is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn.

Influencers or Brainwashers

Influencers or Brainwashers

The debate continues if social media influencers can be classified as positive influences on younger generations, or are they brainwashing them? 

The emergence of social media in the last 20 years has drastically changed people’s prospect on what they believe to be true, due to what they read online. A study conducted by the New York Times Consumer Insight Group investigated the motivations for individuals sharing content on social media platforms. They revealed that people desire to share valuable and entertaining content to others as it helps define them, enables them to grow and nourish relationships as well as emphasises the brands and causes they like to support.

The job role of a ‘social media influencer’ involves possessing a sizeable following on public platforms which is retained through regular publication and interaction with their followers. Social media influencers are frequently approached to market companies’ offerings such as a recent product launch or a new service available. I mean who doesn’t love a freebee?

Social media plays a key acquisitions in shaping our lives as it is current in every-day life. The average amount of time spent a day on social media by 16-43-year-olds was proven to be three hours a day. Many of these hours are spent scrolling through and watching their favourite social media influencers promoting what they believe to be the best products and services available.

A local social media influencer well known in Northern Ireland and beyond in countries like Australia and Dubai is Louise McDonnell, better known as ‘LMD’. LMD is a make-up artist by trade but also is a beauty influencer with a giant following of 115K on Instagram and 70K on Facebook. LMD shares all her beauty tips and tricks on a regular basis on her social media platforms, keeping her followers up to date by uploading content to her stories as well as posting pictures and videos to her social media grid.

But is LMD a positive influence on young people you ask? LMD can be seen as a role model as she built her dream job as a youngster into a successful business career and has now opened a salon in Magherafelt, launched her own beauty products range and collaborated with businesses such as BPerfect and Oh My Glam.

However, LMD acting as a public figure may not always be a positive influence on younger generations, some argue that she frames this fantasy world about how we should live, what luxuries we should have, creating false hope and expectations about reality. Young people will desire the things that she claims that are ‘must have items’ and this reflects negatively, brainwashing the younger generation that if LMD has it, they have to as well.

It has been proven that 70% of teens would trust social media influencers more than traditional celebrities. Teens are more likely to follow advice from influencers over conventional TV and sport celebrities, evidently indicating how influential these influencers can be on younger generations.

Joe Wicks better known as ‘The Body Coach’ is another social media influencer, he is renowned for his virtual PE classes that he held during the first lockdown back in March.  Joe is a massive public figure in the UK and has a following of nearly four million on Instagram. That many followers for just recording exercise classes in your living room? Where do I sign up?

Joe has been trying to keep the nation fit and active as well as keep spirits high during lockdown through his fitness videos posted on social media as well as on his Youtube channel. His work has not gone unnoticed as he recently obtained an OBE from the queen. In November 2020, Joe also raised a phenomenal £2 million for Children in Need.

Joe as a social media influencer is impacting young people in a positive way as he is encouraging behaviour that improves their overall mental and physical well-being. Thus, the debate that all social media influencers brainwash younger generations and promote negative messages is not totally correct. Joe Wicks is a prime example of an influencer who is using his social media platforms to promote a healthy and promising lifestyle to the wider public and therefore lessens the idea that all influencers are brainwashing young people with the messages they broadcast on their social media.

Despite what is viewed online by young people cannot always be monitored, influencers can determine what they upload, share, and promote on their social media platforms. Therefore, they must try and establish a balance between what they publicise is realistic to younger generations in comparison to what is ‘brainwashing’ and reflecting negative towards them.

Emily McCann is a final year BSc in Communication, Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn