Faking it!

Spot the difference: A recent study reveals that 50% of consumers can spot AI-generated copy. Can you?

Brief to ChatGPT and professional copywriter: write 100 words about future trends in retail marketing.

Submission 1

In the future, marketing will continue its evolution towards hyper-personalization, leveraging AI and big data for precise targeting. Virtual and augmented reality will redefine customer experiences, allowing immersive interactions with products and brands. Influencer marketing will become even more prevalent, with nano and micro-influencers gaining traction for their authenticity. Sustainability and ethical practices will be paramount, shaping consumer preferences and driving brands to adopt eco-friendly strategies. Interactive content, such as quizzes and polls, will engage audiences and foster community-building. Additionally, voice search optimisation will rise as voice assistants become ubiquitous, altering SEO strategies to accommodate natural language queries.

Submission 2

Picture this imaginary world. Personalised ads that know you better than your best friend! Shopping trips where AR glasses transform every aisle into your perfect pantry or walk-in wardrobe designed just for you – and where you can virtually try on from the comfort of your sofa. Imagine a plastic-less world of eco-conscious consumers that have turned their back on Temu to pay with their conscience not pounds. 

Move over social media influencers. Nano-influencers will be taking the spotlight. Your dog or gerbil could be the next big brand ambassador earning more than you! Get ready for quizzes and polls galore, making marketing feel more like an exciting game you can win rather than a dull sales pitch. And who needs fingers to type? Voice search will have us all chatting to our devices to buy cars and book holidays like old friends.

Soon you won’t have to imagine. This AI world is weaving its way surely but not slowly.

AI attack

An AI apocalypse is taking over the UK. Almost 8 million UK jobs could be lost to artificial intelligence according to a recent report by the IPPR. It warns that women, younger workers and those on lower wages are at most risk from the AI and automation take-over.

Entry level, part-time and administrative jobs are at most risk in this first AI vanguard. So, if you work in database management, scheduling, secretarial work, administration or customer services, it may be time to retrain?

But don’t get complacent all you account managers, creative directors, content creators and copywriters out there. Rapid advances in AI means the rapid extinction of more human jobs in a second wave. According to the IPPR, 59% of tasks in the creative, advertising and marketing world including the creation of databases, copywriting and graphic design could be ousted by faceless robots, codes and algorithms.

But we’ll fight back. We won’t go quietly.

According to research by digital asset management firm Bynder, 26% of consumers find brands using AI for their website copy impersonal. Hoorah.

20% would feel that the brand is lazy if the copy doesn’t feel like it has been written by the human hand. Hear hear.

When it comes to AI-generated social media content, 25% of consumers would feel the brand is impersonal, 20% untrustworthy, 20% lazy and 19% would think they are uncreative. We couldn’t agree more.

When quizzed about reading copy that they suspect is AI-generated, 52% of consumers cited that they would become less engaged. Take that on the chin ChatGPT.

The human touch

In the creative agency world, we are well versed in moving with the times. We’ve ditched marker pens and scamp books and replaced them with Macs. We’ve thrown away our scalpels and Foamex boards and invested in digital presentation platforms.

We are happy to work with AI. We understand what you are bringing to the party. We welcome you. We embrace your ability to make our workflow and scheduling more efficient. We applaud your speedy delivery of exceptional content experiences. We value your robotic, invisible input.

But please don’t step on our creative toes.

Outstanding creativity, engaging copy and captivating design needs the human touch. Brands need people who care. Businesses need creative mavericks that will win them awards. And more loyal customers.

And which client wants a status meeting, a campaign planning brainstorm or a night out with an algorithmic robotic chatbot? Thought not.

P.S. I wrote number 2.

COVID confusion syndrome

I admit it. I have it. I’m a sufferer. So much so, I no longer know if I should be eating in or drinking out to keep helping out or abandoning food altogether and dosing myself up on the nutrient loaded, virus busting, immunity boosting food supplements that are flooding my social media. Talk about jumping on the bandwagon and capitalising on people’s insecurities. I can’t work out if this is genius or sly, unethical marketing.

I also have no idea if I can visit my mum, the pub, the zoo, the cinema or if I’m allowed to get my legs waxed but not my eyebrows.  And I’m totally baffled why one of my children is in 2-week isolation (deep joy – working and home schooling again said no parent ever!) while the other can still go. Surely I’m not the only one who needs a Pandemic PA to give me a daily bulletin – a do’s and don’ts list.  A concise summary of should nots and must nots.

A tuned-in content creator could flood my social media with this useful list? And savyy marketeers could use outdoor media to promote it on bus shelters, train stations, bus rears, streetliners, taxi sides and ablaze it across every 48 sheet or digital billboard available. Then we’d all be in the know.

We’d all get the rule of six. We’d get if it applied to indoors or outdoors or both. We’d understand if outdoors means our garden or the local park. We’d all feel confident booking a table for six from two households without the fear of being inadvertently ‘caught out’. We could all happily plan our half term staycation or arrange to visit family from a different region or go to the pub with a friend from a bubble, safe in the knowledge that we were being good, law abiding citizens. Simple pleasures which we once took for granted now need planning with military precision. And hours of research.

Someone needs to sort out the comms so that COVID confusion syndrome, if not COVID itself can be cured.

Communication let me down

And I’m left here. Like Spandau Ballet, I’m confused and a bit bewildered. In the world of PR and Marketing, informed and accurate communication is key. And loyalty is everything.

That’s why I find the lack of COVID clarity so frustrating. And the mixed messages so annoying. I’m a planner. I’m a wife. I’m a mum.  So being organised, forward-planning, spinning plates, multi-tasking and juggling information overload is in my DNA. I can handle my four-year olds tantrums about why she can’t keep a pet snail in her bedroom.  I can manage my husband’s inability to remember what time staggered school time starts and ends.

But COVID comms have defeated me.

Keep your COVID cohort converts

Consumers have become more confident switching brands and trying new products and services during this pandemic.

As COVID-19 feels like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable, brands and business will have to up their game in their comms strategy and content generation if they are to keep their new COVID cohorts happy and their old customers loyal.

As lockdown forced many consumers online, they shopped with shops that shouted loudest about what they wanted to hear. They used brands that made themselves addictive, available and accessible. They switched to businesses that communicated with sincerity and empathy to our new-found situation.

Being forced to work from home forced the absence of habit. From making us more creative in the kitchen, trying out new sports or tapping into wellbeing apps to being more attentive to our homes, becoming more inventive with kids entertainment and being hugely appreciative of our gardens, neighbours, local shops and open spaces. And a new-found appreciation for businesses that made our lockdown lives that little bit easier.

While many businesses have been forced into long-term hibernation or extinction as a result of lockdown, others have welcomed a swell of new customers.

With many ‘autopilot choices’ no longer available, consumers have been forced to buy substitute brands, try new services or introduce new products into their brand repertoire. I’m guilty of being enticed into the world of Hello Fresh and Gousto home meal deliveries – driven by the lack of inspiration and motivation to prepare 3 meals a day, 7 days a week when the pubs, cafes and restaurants were shut. Will I continue to use their services when a COVID cure is found? That remains to be seen. That will depend on the power of their persuasive PR and compelling ‘come back’ comms.

Working from home also means that communicating with colleagues and clients via Zoom and Teams has replaced coffee machine chats, boardroom brainstorms and business lunches. Dynamic storyboards delivered by conf-call have replaced the theatre of face-to-face creative presentations. And work do’s have become a virtual wine tasting or an online quiz. Who would have believed that would be a thing a year ago? Expect the unexpected is the new norm.

While we continue to suffer from COVID and COVID confusion syndrome, baffling and blindsiding brand communications won’t cut it.

Consumer and B2B PR and Marketing campaigns need to be more authentic, trustworthy and timely than ever before. Content needs to be accurate, honest and empathetic.

We don’t work in politics after all.

Five of the most inspirational marketing campaigns by tech companies

With the right skillset, anyone can develop technology. But not everyone has the creative inspiration to develop technology solutions that people really love and want to use.

MarComms professionals face a similar challenge. Devising marketing campaigns that really succeed calls not only for sound strategy, but for the summoning of creative juices to trigger that ‘big idea’.

Here we bring you a selection of some of the best campaigns executed by tech companies to help fuel your marketing inspiration – and to encourage us all to continue pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved.

Braintree: ‘Speaking in code’

Mobile payments service Braintree, owned by PayPal, saw sign-ups increase by 92 per cent after embarking on an ingenious campaign targeting software developers.

Developers can be notoriously difficult to market to, and so Braintree decided that they needed to speak their language.

The company embedded hidden messages within the source code of popular tech sites, such as TechCrunch, and followed this up with cleverly designed billboards painted in black and white code, strategically located in areas such as San Francisco’s South of Market, to attract the attention of developers.

And Braintree didn’t stop there. It then offered to pay for their lunches by using computer code on Twitter and on signs outside coffee shops frequented by programmers.

This inspirational campaign took pride of place on BuzzFeed’s ‘23 Things That Could Only Happen in San Francisco’.

Cisco: ‘There’s never been a better time’

Demonstration – not proclamation – sits at the very heart of effective marketing.

B2B networking giant Cisco recognised this and launched a multi-channel campaign back in 2016 to demonstrate how digitisation and connected technology can be a great catalyst for positive change.

Rolled out almost simultaneously in 42 countries and 86 languages, ‘There’s never been a better time’ became Cisco’s tagline, supported by real life stories to explain what it is that there’s never been a better time to do.

Ambitious efforts were made to engage storytellers from Cisco’s global teams and channel partners, and a wealth of stories were generated from across this ‘ecosystem’ to demonstrate the social impact of Cisco technology.

People learned how it was helping to transform entire industries and countries. It was helping bring water to those who don’t have it, for example, making jobs safer, cities smarter and even saving the lives of people and animals.

One particularly powerful storyline – ‘there’s never been a better time to save the rhino’ – told of the company’s achievement with partner Dimension Data in helping create a haven for rhinos against would-be attackers. Rhinos were brought to a reserve in South Africa and electronically tagged, while rangers in the region connected to a digital network. In the three years that followed, not a single rhino was lost to poachers.

MailChimp: Did you mean MailChimp?

Email marketing platform MailChimp has a history, it seems, of people mispronouncing its name. This was highlighted back in 2014 when it was mistakenly pronounced ‘MailKimp’ in one of its audio ads, run as part of a sponsorship of crime podcast ‘Serial’.

The mistake inspired the company to create a series of fake brands that sounded very similar to MailChimp. MailShrimp, for example, was a short film about seafood sandwiches, NailChamp was an online nail art competition, SnailPrimp was an anti-aging beauty treatment, while WhaleSynth was a musical app for creating compositions from whale song.

Promo videos and websites were created for the fake brands, and all were actively promoted through printed ads, billboards and social media.

When anyone searched for them on Google, however, the search engine would ask if they meant ‘MailChimp’. All the while, the fake brand websites subtly redirected visitors to the official MailChimp site.

The multifaceted campaign led to 988 million earned media impressions and 67 million organic searches.

Lockheed Martin: ‘Generation beyond’

Because B2B marketing is invariably focused on targeting the work personas of business customers, it can be considered dry and serious in some quarters.

However, this needn’t be the case – campaigns for B2B companies can be as fun and inspirational as their B2C counterparts

Global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin proved this when it put immersive virtual reality (VR) at the heart of ‘Generation beyond’ – a campaign devised to inspire the next generation of engineers, innovators and explorers.

The idea stemmed from the belief that today’s young students could very well be among the first to reach Mars. 

A ‘Mars experience’ school bus used VR to make it feel, when you looked out of the windows, as though the bus was driving on the planet’s surface.

This awe-inspiring, experiential educational campaign also included a ‘Hello Mars’ app and an interactive microsite with a variety of additional content, including everything from hands-on learning tools and a curriculum for educators, to videos and fact sheets about Mars and Lockheed Martin.

Mobile billboards and Snapchat advertising helped promote the campaign, while social media engagement saw it trend on Facebook and reach audiences across more than 50 countries.

Jennifer Whitlow, Senior Vice President Communications of Lockheed Martin, has spoken of how the campaign successfully merged the company’s brand marketing with its STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education outreach strategy.

Inmarsat: Connected Air

Inmarsat Aviation, a UK satellite communications provider of mobile and data services to airlines, also tapped into the virtual world to promote the commercial version of its GX Aviation in-flight wi-fi solution.

Time was of the essence, with market intelligence highlighting a 24-month window during which airlines would be looking to invest in passenger connectivity.

Trade shows were identified as the best opportunity to reach and demonstrate GX Aviation to a small, hard-to-reach audience of industry decision-makers and influencers. Using augmented reality and interactive videos, the company created the ‘Connected Air’ exhibition to allow event attendees to ‘board’ a virtual cabin or cockpit and experience the connected airline of the future.

Supported by a press and social media campaign, Inmarsat managed to arrange vital face-to-face meetings, secure contracts with leading airlines and saw a significant uplift in its share price.

Dominic Walters, senior director marketing communications and strategy, Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Instead of customers and prospects asking us “who are you?”, they’re now looking to us for thought-leadership and partnership.

“We’re now regarded as true industry innovators.” 

Social media winners and losers during COVID-19

The social media platforms that have performed best – and admirably – during the coronavirus pandemic

When lockdown rules were imposed, we retreated in our droves, mentally and physically preparing ourselves for months of social isolation, away from family and friends.

One thing we could be thankful for during these turbulent times was the fact that we are now living in a technological age, where interaction is just a click away. 

Social media has proved a godsend during the pandemic, with millions of us turning to our smartphones, laptops and tablets to stay in touch with our loved ones, seek solace and distract ourselves from the uncertain world outside. 

Indeed, engagement on social apps has soared during the pandemic, with users logging in to consume news, share content, live stream, video call and mobilise communities. 

Here, we look at how the social app giants reacted and adapted to the ‘new normal’ created by the coronavirus pandemic. 


The undisputed winner in lockdown has to be TikTok, with everyone from teens to baby boomers now acquainted with the video-sharing app. 

The 15-second clip videos first gained popularity amongst teenagers, showing off their latest dance routines or pulling pranks, but TikTok came into its own during the pandemic, offering much-needed escapism to all the generations during a period of doom and gloom.

Although a relatively newcomer to the social space, in Q1 2020, TikTok generated the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter, accumulating more than 315 million installs, according to Sensor Tower.

TikTok is estimated to have now surpassed two billion lifetime downloads – a meteoric rise by any standard. 

Rather than emulating the primped and preened content of Instagram, TikTok is about finding humour in the darkness and giving some light relief to both the creator and the viewer through absurd jokes, quirky dance moves and funny skits.

Unlike Instagram, with its emphasis on glamourous, envy-inducing luxe-living, TikTok can easily be filmed in a bedroom or in the garden – making it accessible and perfect for lockdown living.

Keen to take advantage of this video sharing trend, the UK government has jumped on the TikTok bandwagon, with health secretary Matt Hancock uploading TikTok videos urging people to stay at home and the leadership running health ads on the app. 

There was also the #stayathomechallenge, where NHS workers and TikTok creators urged users to stay indoors and shared exercise routines or cooking tips to pass the time.

Although not primarily a source of news, the app has introduced a range of in-app features, notifications and safety measures specifically designed to elevate credible and accurate information from trusted sources. This demonstrates that although light humour sits at the core of the app, its creators take their responsibilities seriously and understand the impact of their influence. 


It has been a bit of a mixed bag for Twitter

According to Twitter’s Q1 2020 results, the platform saw a strong start to the year, with global monetizable Daily Active Users (mDAU) up 24 per cent from 134 million in the first quarter of 2019, to 166 million in Q1 2020. Total ad engagements increased by 25 per cent year-on-year.

However, coronavirus has hit Twitter’s ad revenues, with advertisers pulling back their spending as they brace for the pandemic’s financial fallout.

Twitter is famous for its ‘stream of consciousness’-style musings, which is arguably less relevant during this time of crisis and not in keeping with the public’s growing need for a sense of community. 

The platform is also known for being a breeding ground for fake news and misinformation, and, with the sheer volume of real-time conversations being had, this can be hard to vet. 

Twitter is taking action, however, and recently announced it would begin adding labels to some tweets to combat misinformation, beginning with tweets about the coronavirus pandemic but eventually about other topics. 

Although tweets would not necessarily be taken down, users would be presented with verified information from the World Health Organization or other medical experts.


With its video functionality, Facebook was poised to do well during lockdown, with the brand holding its own against newer apps, such as Zoom and Houseparty

At the beginning of lockdown, total messaging on Facebook and sister app Whatsapp increased by 50 per cent in some of the hardest hit regions, and video calling doubled in some markets.

However, as these services are not monetised, this uplift in engagement did not translate into increased revenue, and, like other businesses and platforms, Facebook was hit by a decrease in digital ad spend. 

But as the dust settles, brands are starting to cautiously resume their advertising activities. 

Facebook has been one of the social app giants to have adapted quickly to the changing situation and has leveraged its reputation as a community-driven platform during this time.

It also launched the Covid-19 Information Centre, which is an expanded adaptation of its ‘community help’ function.

The Information Centre prioritises conversations in the user’s general area, and includes local information on the real-time numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths, latest news on the virus, links to authoritative bodies’ websites and pages, and coronavirus prevention tips.

Community spirit and social responsibility are two positive things to have emerged from the pandemic and the platform’s ‘offer and request help’ function has helped to facilitate community action.  Stickers and ‘empathy’ emojis also drive home that message of Facebook being a caring, community-minded platform. 


The pandemic served as a sharp shock to many Instagram influencers, as brands pulled back on their sponsorship campaigns.

Sponsored posts on Instagram fell from representing 35 per cent of influencer content in mid-February to 4 per cent of creator content in mid-April, according to a report from the marketing-analytics firm Launchmetrics.

The reaction of some influencers to a drop in their revenue left a bad taste in many people’s mouths and reputations were somewhat tarnished, with an initial backlash against the ‘out-of-touch’ influencer culture. 

Despite this, forced hibernation has meant that engagement has been climbing during the pandemic and the platform continues to perform well. 

When it comes to stopping the spread of misinformation around coronavirus, Instagram is one of the most actively responsible platforms. As well as prioritising verified information from authoritative bodies, the platform is down-ranking posts and stories that have been flagged as false, removing non-credible accounts featuring coronavirus related content from recommendations, and banning misleading ads.

Stickers and hashtags have also been popular and helped to promote a sense of community and shared experience amongst the Instagram audience.  These include the ‘Stay Home’ and ‘I Stay Home For’ stickers and hashtags, to encourage self-isolation and support health workers, and the ‘Support Small Business’ sticker, which helps to promote smaller businesses and encourages users to show their support by ‘shopping small and local’.

Where next?

Social media platforms may be a place of downtime and social interaction for the majority of us, but they are also large corporates with a responsibility to their investors and shareholders to stay afloat during this turbulent period.

Social media users can be fickle. These platforms have had to adapt quickly to keep the attention of their audience and not lose them to a more switched-on or forward-thinking competitor. 

The new features and functions that have been developed gives us insight into how we, as a society, have been shaped by the pandemic, with our need for community, verifiable news, and sociability becoming ever stronger.   Ultimately, it is a numbers game and by catering for the needs and wants of users, social media apps can hang on to their audience for that little while longer.   

Top 5 ads which demonstrate that it takes more than COVID to crush creativity

There’s nothing like a big global event to get creatives fighting in a frenzy to come up with that one campaign – the one that gets everyone talking – or laughing – or crying. And most importantly these days, going viral. Oh, and putting a smile on the face of the brand manager as the sales come rolling in. Not to mention the accolades, awards and bonuses to boot.

From a World Cup comeback or a Wimbledon washout to a celebrity wedding or a royal birth, creatives thrive on the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon of a big newsworthy and sales-worthy event. It’s like a gift – a dream brief handed over on a golden plate with a big stash of cash to play with.

But what happens when that big event causes worldwide pain and suffering and an economic crisis like no other? What if that big event changes the way people work and play – and virtually puts a stop to travel and commuting making cinema and some outdoor and ambient advertising null and void overnight.

What do creative agencies do when there are no more location photo shoots or filming commercials in exotic far-away destinations? When clients cut budgets faced with an uncertain post COVID future, do creative teams stamp their feet and take their marker pens and Macs home? Do art directors bury their heads into safer, less emotive, less controversial stimuli?

You bet they don’t.

Although lockdown has produced some predictable, quick-fix, budget-busting ads featuring home videos and conf call montages and ads cobbled together from the archives of past glory, it has also delivered some brilliance. Some even worthy of Cannes Lions 2021 if lockdown limitations are lifted in time for the revered red-carpet creative awards.

Many creative teams have grasped the opportunity to produce campaigns with heart, spirit and empathy – and an undeniable dose of creative genius. Working from cluttered spare rooms or dining tables surrounded by screaming kids and unwashed laundry has undoubtedly brought out the best in our industry – and coming up with good ideas is what makes our industry great.

But some of the best work hasn’t even been big budget brand advertising or direct response integrated campaigns. It’s been half-price meals and clothes for key workers, free taxi rides and hotel accommodation near hospitals for exhausted NHS workers and charge waivers on overdrafts for people struggling to make ends meet. Just good ideas doing good.

A global pandemic may not the right time to sell your products, but it can be the right time to make your brand relatable. Consumers remember and feel. Consumers react and retaliate. Show the compassionate, human side of your big corporate machine and make customers remember you for the right reasons with ads that make them think, smile, laugh out loud, question, donate…or simply re-wind and re-watch.

As the world looks forward to life behind a face mask, we look back at some of the good stuff to come out of lockdown – proof that it takes more than COVID to crush creativity.

Women’s Aid – The Lockdown

While the nation followed the government’s advice to stay safe at home, Women’s Aid revealed ‘The Lockdown’. This chilling campaign pointed out that victims of domestic abuse were not ‘safe’ at all following these instructions – their abusers always have and always will ‘work from home’.

Lego – Be a hero

So charmingly on brand and on brief. By using a toy to communicate the power of ‘no play’ as the core message, this is a perfect example of how to turn exceptional circumstances into an exceptional ad.

L’Oréal – Home hair colour tutorials

Renowned for celebrity endorsements in glamourous settings with stylists, make-up artists and wind machines, L’Oréal really took a step backwards to go forwards with this one.

Eva Longoria and Holly Willoughby in their own homes doing their own roots is the most convincing ad they’ve ever produced. So simple. So sold out.

SEAT – Moving is what we do

SEAT has seamlessly developed it’s long established ‘Start moving’ brand message to ‘We’ll get you moving again’ when the time is right. The advert is a beautiful production combining nostalgia, fun, humour and relatable people and places. 

KFC is back

This tongue in cheek ad uses images from its #RateMyKFC social media campaign where customers attempted to recreate their own KFC during quarantine with the earworm soundtrack ‘All by myself’ by Celine Dion.

The ad ends with KFC reassuring consumers that they will “take it from here”, ‘cleverly positioning them as THE original and best when it comes to fried chicken.

So while lots of brands are clumsily trying to be relevant and acclimatise to these uncertain times with contrived and cliched ways of saying ‘we’re all in in together’ and shoe-horning ‘new normal’ into every campaign, others are unprecedently standing out.

Now onto the toughest brief yet: find a vaccine.

Lockdown life skills

So after approximately 12 weeks without the tedious 45-minute commute to travel a measly 6 miles to the office, I decided to reflect on what I have achieved with these invaluable bonus hours. What have I accomplished whilst not radio and lane hopping my way down the M60?

This is my moment to brag about my bread baking and the perfection of my painting skills and a firmer, flatter tummy courtesy of Tabata. But my work colleagues know me too well. Even on Zoom, my work family would spot the exaggeration, well actually the outright lies.

My commute-free reality is an extra 15 minutes in bed and extra cuddles with my kids. Maybe not shout-out-loud new life skills but a bonus all the same. And in this taxing time, you take what you can and count your simple blessings.

In my defence the last 12 weeks has seen me gradually morph into my mum. I am helping self-isolating neighbours (and know their life and love stories and even their names now) and I have become obsessed with filling my decking with blooming plants and Mediterranean pots. I am even attempting not to kill a tomato plant and two lettuces. In my head I’m trying to recreate a heavenly, cool Ibiza Beach Club scene with cream sofas and parasols where I will sip Mojitos, reading French novels while listening to vintage Moby.

In reality, the garden looks like a miniature unfinished Haven holiday park adorned with plastic toys, a creaking swing, a fluorescent trampoline, a deflated paddling pool, naked Barbies and Ikea pink plastic tables. With then Frozen soundtrack blaring out to complete the Havenly, very unheavenly experience.

But at least my unschooled children are happy. And that’s my main achievement for the COVID ridden Spring-Summer of 2020. That and hopefully a home-grown salad.

So, what has the rest of the UK been up to with their commute-less, holiday-less and furloughed free time?

Has it left you feeling restless, bored, anxious, chilled out – or motivated to learn a new language, improve your culinary skills, take up taekwondo or mediate your way out of the madness?

With so many online tutorials, apps and resources swamping social media and bragging WhatsApp groups, mastering the art of the down dog or honing haberdashery skills through to coding courses and building a drystone wall should be a walk in the park. And free.

Sales of breadmakers, portable pizza ovens, home brew kits, yoga wear and sewing machines are soaring. In theory, we should come out of COVID as a highly skilled, fit, calm – if not a little inebriated nation of individuals. 

So, how have the rest of the Cameron Wells team livened up their lockdown?

Anthony reckons he is now fit for DIY SOS. After a crash course from the professionals, he can now lay an Indian Sandstone patio. And safely build a new slide for his son.  Maybe stick to PR for a bit longer Ant…

Amid the mayhem of working, planning a house move, spending time with his daughters, Mano has still found time to write and record new music. Now that’s what I call male multi-tasking.

Cara, our wannabe Jane Fonda is now a Pilates convert and can also do the crow pose in Yoga which had always evaded her. When we eventually make it back to the office, we are fully expecting her to be wearing lycra and typing with her toes with her leg slung over one shoulder. Now that would be a lockdown life skill worth tweeting about.  

Meanwhile, Debbie has been getting crafty and has made a pair of earrings and a cushion for a friend’s birthday. Watch out Notonthehighstreet. She has also been meditating to manage the madness of running a business remotely whilst juggling her cats, pro bono work and shopping for an elderly neighbour who eats more meat than a wild bear. Not the greatest COVID pastime for our vegetarian, animal fanatic MD. But as usual she puts her best pleather foot forward and gets on with it.

What Debbie and Cara don’t shout about is the selfless time and energy they give to helping elderly people living alone. They both volunteer for Independent Age and while they can no longer do home visits, they are still calling their ladies every week to check on their health and wellbeing and putting a smile on their faces with their craft, cat and yoga anecdotes. It’s good to talk. That old BT strapline still rings true – now more than ever.

Similarly, Jen has devoted much of her free time to helping Manchester & Cheshire Dogs’ Home with their website content and enewsletter to ensure that theses once unwanted dogs find their new forever homes.

So we’ve all been doing our bit and doing our best to perfect our lockdown life skills which may not change the world – but have changed ours.

I am a firm believer that good things happen to good people and these bunch are truly good. Proof that you don’t have to be ruthless in – or out of business. Brands that have been fair to their customers and used their clout and free time to do good during the crisis should hopefully flourish – and the bad will be flushed out.

Let’s live in hope that post COVID Britain will be smarter, healthier, kinder and more resilient. And I might have a self-sufficient vegetable patch.

Ten sectors that will thrive post-COVID – from the obvious to the unexpected

Coronavirus has turned our world upside down.

The UK and global economy has experienced a seismic shock in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic – and much has been spoken about the losses, both financial and social.

But while doom and gloom has understandably overshadowed any good news in recent times, commercial life has not hit the buffers.

Many companies have adapted like chameleons to the new business environment, restructuring and reorganising to cater for new needs. Furthermore, as we look forward, new opportunities and creative solutions will emerge.

Although we may not have a crystal ball, we have identified ten sectors that are already showing signs of recovery, growth, or that have good reasons to feel upbeat about their post-Covid futures.

1. DIY beauty

For many of us, lockdown brought with it the jettisoning of our daily grooming and beauty standards. Some found this liberating, others discombobulating.

For those of us that fell into the latter category, a desperation to maintain beauty routines translated into a surge in DIY beauty treatments.

According to data from IMRG, sales of beauty products during the week commencing 15 March rose by 32 per cent year-on-year. McKinsey, meanwhile, reports that online sales of prestige-brand nail polish in the UK have seen double-digit growth every week since lockdown began in March. In the US, Nielsen reported year-on-year rises in the sales of hair dye and hair clippers by 23 and 166 per cent, respectively, in the first week of April.

Returning to the salon will be a priority for many – when they are able to do so. But with money tight, and social distancing concerns over professional treatments, regular salon visits for others, for the foreseeable future at least, may become a thing of the past.

This may mean a flourishing post-Covid market for DIY beauty – from digital makeup classes to online cosmetic products – as we reassess what treatments we can do ourselves at home, for a fraction of the cost.

2. Home fitness

No gym? No problem. While gym memberships were put on hold during lockdown, the world of home exercise has boomed.

In fact demand for home fitness equipment has soared by 170 per cent globally, according to Research and Markets.

All the while we have seen a surge in people following workout routines taught by fitness coaches online, from the nation’s PE teacher Joe Wicks to Hollywood super-trainer Tracy Anderson.

Will we return to sweating en masse again when life returns to a semblance of normality?

Not all of us according to David Minton, director of market intelligence firm Leisure Database Company. He predicts that one in five of us may forgo our gym membership for good in the new post-Covid world.

Where one door closes…

3. Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has become big business, and as we continue our ‘industry 4.0’ journey, its strategic importance is sure to only increase.

The trend towards an increasing dependence on digital tools and new working models will only accelerate post-Covid, with more companies moving services online and more employees working from home, using personal mobile devices to connect to home networks.

Consequently, despite the tightening of purse strings, it’s an investment that cannot be easily dispensed with.

Indeed, research by investment publication LearnBonds has revealed that 68 per cent of major organisations plan to increase their cybersecurity spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The growth of cyber insurance might also be expected to continue, as companies and individuals alike exploit all the possible avenues to mitigate loss.

4. Virtual meetings

Virtual interaction has become a mainstay of our daily lives in recent weeks, and so it should come as no surprise that the video conferencing sector has seen phenomenal growth.

At the end of April Microsoft Teams had 75 million daily active users, up 70 per cent from just six weeks earlier. It is the company’s fastest-growing business app ever.

Zoom, meanwhile, reported 169 per cent year-on-year growth in the first quarter of 2020 and expects full-year sales to increase by $623m in 2020.

As we emerge from the crisis, many of behavioural changes are likely to endure – we’re unlikely to be attending real world events or having regular face-to-face business meetings, for example, any time soon. What’s more, we have become a lot more familiar and comfortable with using these video conferencing platforms.

Tech providers are recognising the opportunities that lie ahead and are investing in their platforms apace in a bid to attract new customers, and to stay one step ahead of the competition. Check out our recent guide on how to engage customers in this new virtual world.

5. E-commerce and logistics

Thousands of businesses have shifted their focus to online sales during Covid-19, and the impact on the e-commerce sector is set to be huge.

According to analysts at Edge Retail Insights, the pandemic is expected to add £5.3bn to UK online sales this year – and significantly, industry experts are not expecting a retraction to pre-Covid levels.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has almost certainly had a lasting impact on the retail sector, reshaping consumer shopping habits, and the priorities for retailers and brands,” said Xian Wang, Senior Director of Product and Content at Edge by Ascential. 

The warehousing and logistics market, which was buoyant prior to the pandemic, will also become stronger as our reliance upon this core infrastructure intensifies.

6. E-learning

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the e-learning sector was fast growing. Lockdown accelerated this growth overnight, with demand for e-learning platforms reaching unprecedented levels.

According to the research firm Global Market Insights, the size of the market it is now set to exceed $375 billion by 2026.

And it hasn’t just been school pupils and university students turning to online resources. People in all walks of life, across all age groups, have been taking courses on everything from floristry to fishing.

The demand for smart education and learning solutions is expected to continue as digital technologies proliferate, techniques such as gamification and adaptive learning advance, and the benefits of easy and cost-effective access to educational content are increasingly recognised.

7. Healthcare

Over recent weeks, companies around the world have been racing to develop treatments for Covid-19 – and governments have been committed to supporting them.

As we emerge from the crisis, the widespread desire to spend more on health will remain and demand for healthcare products and services can only intensify.

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies have been leading the charge of late – and infectious disease prevention and treatment research is sure to continue with a vengeance – but opportunities for innovation and growth exist across a wide range of disciplines.

At Willis Towers Watson’s pre-Covid Health & Benefits Disruption Event, AXA Marketing and Innovation Director Gordon Henderson told delegates that healthcare “has changed more rapidly in the last two decades, than at any time in the last 2,000 years”.

New technologies, for example, are transforming how we think about healthcare. Amid Covid-19 fears, many patients have been forced to turn to virtual consultations, and this may help to trigger a boom in telemedicine platforms over the next few years. Other forms of digital and remote healthcare services, for both physical and mental health, may see a similar uplift.

The LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index found that professionals in healthcare are more confident about the prospects of their industry two years from now than the UK average.

8. Gaming

Video games have become a mainstay of the home entertainment industry. The sector continues to enjoy high-volume sales, and rather than seeing revenues wane in the wake of the pandemic, it has instead received a lockdown boost.

The immersive nature of gaming has offered welcome escapism. And while there have been understandable concerns that this binge may lead to an increase in gaming addiction, it is sure to have also opened the door to an even larger market of users.

Microsoft and Sony will officially launch their new games consoles later this year, which will trigger the next generation of game creations.

The industry must of course continue its innovation trajectory if it’s to retain its place at the heart of our entertainment media, but while creativity abounds, the sky’s the limit.

9. Cleaning and hygiene

As coronavirus spread, demand for cleaning products and services unsurprisingly surged.

Good hygiene practices have become so engrained in our day-to-day lives that returning to a state where we wash our hands, or disinfect work surfaces, less seems improbable

The future for companies that sell and distribute cleaning and hygiene products, or offer cleaning services, consequently seems a safe one.

Both the British Cleaning Council (BCC) and the Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA), however, have issued warnings about profiteering.

“The public needs to beware of some organisations outside the established cleaning and hygiene sector playing on people’s fears about Coronavirus to take advantage of the unprecedented demand for cleaning and hygiene products and services,” said BCC chair Paul Thrupp.

“We are aware of many instances where the products and services they offer have been exceptionally overpriced, with no kind of guarantee that they will do the job.”

10. Augmented reality

Post-Covid, augmented reality (AR) – which provides digital enhancements to the real world – may have an important role to play in retail, manufacturing and healthcare.

Augmented reality in retail can render items in 3D to give buyers a more experiential experience of products in their home, online environment. In the post-Covid retail world, this may be embraced with vigour.

Highlighting the benefits this can deliver, earlier this year, Burberry launched a new augmented reality (AR) shopping tool, linked to Google search technology. When searching for Burberry items using Google Search on their phone, consumers can see an AR version of the product at scale against other real-life objects. 

In manufacturing, AR can be deployed as part of the design, prototyping, inspection and maintenance processes, while in healthcare AR can help surgeons visualise areas on which they intend to operate.

According to an industry report by market research company Technavio, the global augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) market is expected to grow by $125 billion between now and 2024.

Feelgood films to get you through the coronacoaster!

There’s nothing like a film debate to unite or divide the office or get families feuding over the remote for Fight Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. 

These days, there may not be any office banter by the water cooler or coffee machine to debate the merits of Cooper over Gosling or Theron over Streep while we are denied our regular popcorn and pick-n-mix filled Odeon trips.

But family, friends and colleagues are Teaming and Zooming for work and pleasure – with film fanatics sharing their must-watch bucket lists to fill lockdown free time.

But tastes in films can be as varied and divisive as marmite.

While some swoon at the sway of the Swayze hips, others switch off the minute she mutters the immortal and infamous watermelon line. Love or hate it, Trainspotting hit the headlines and became a cultural and box office phenomenon.

But two hours escapism with a good film is just what we need right now. Since the pandemic began, people have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions from financial anxiety to appreciation for the heroic work of the NHS, emotional stress and loneliness to optimism for a more caring future.

So, switch off your laptops, turn off the (bad) news, grab some popcorn and indulge in one of these lockdown oldies but goodies – there’s something to suit every mood and taste. 

Here are the Cameron Wells top 10 films to get you out of your COVID slumber. Don’t judge us!

Feeling financially fractious?

Debbie recommends a dose of The Wolf of Wall Street to take your mind off your own money worries for a few hours. See how these top earners bounce back from financial ruin in Martin Scorsese’s story of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort played by Leonardo DiCaprio who is living the American dream thanks to a life of excess, indulgence, corporate greed and corruption in the late 80s.

In need of a holiday with fine food and wine?

Claire would escape to Provence with Russell Crowe in A Good Year. Ambitious and ruthless broker Max Skinner moves to Provence to sell the vineyard he inherited from his late uncle. But of course he falls in love with the breathtakingly beautiful Provence and local barmaid and decides to settle into this intoxicating new chapter of his life, as he comes to realise that life, like fine wine is meant to be savoured. Santé!

Are you mad about missing music?

Our own Manc musician Mano would re-watch 24-hour Party People to escape the lockdown lull. Spanning the 1970’s to early 1990’s, this is the story of the Manchester music scene. After witnessing a concert by an unknown band called the Sex Pistols, Tony Wilson, a local news presenter persuades his station to televise one of their performances, and soon Manchester’s punk groups are clamouring for him to manage them. Riding the wave of a musical revolution, Wilson and his friends create the legendary Factory Records and the Hacienda Club.

But if you’re not quite cool enough for the Madchester scene then why not head to Catskills with Claire for some Dirty Dancing. Filled with as many feel good tunes as gyrating hips and cheesy one liners, it’s a guilty pleasure for many fans – in and out of the closet.

Are you feeling anxious?

If you need to switch off and escape to a life where everything is full of shiny happy people, lose yourself in Greece for a few hours. Cara reluctantly admits to enjoying a bit of a sing-along to Mamma Mia. Let’s face it, we all know the words…so get out the Baklava and feel the beat of the tambourine. Oh yeah.

Desperate to be friends reunited?

Then join Jen in NYC for some Sex and the City. You’ll laugh at the one-liners, be jealous of the clothes and shoes, be warmed by the genuine love between these 4 friends who seem to be constantly shopping, eating out and falling in and out of love – and drinking Cosmopolitans like water.

And for the boys missing their mates, Anthony relives his misspent youth with The Inbetweeners following four geeky high school friends who set out on a wild, sun and booze-filled holiday. Packed with outrageous antics and laddish banter, these 4 nerds will help you forget your new norm as they head for a notorious Mediterranean clubbing hotspot to try to break their lifelong losing streak with the ladies.

Have you missed out on a wedding?

Cara had to cancel her Italian holiday for her best friend’s wedding. Not quite compensation but Bridesmaids is a funny and smart yet audacious take on the ups and downs of being a lady in waiting. Unlike many rom-coms, this film is all about the women’s relationship with each other – not with men.

To rebalance the gender karma, The Hangover is about a blowout Las Vegas stag do that turns into a race against time when three hung-over groomsmen awaken after a night of drunken debauchery to find that the groom has gone missing, and attempt to get him to the alter in time for his wedding. Grab a beer and order a kebab…

Need motivation to fight back and get fit?

Anthony would recommend Rocky every time – but the original of course. Follow Sly Stallone’s triumphs and tribulations in and out of the ring. This comeback story of a down-on-his-luck amateur boxer is thoroughly predictable but thoroughly addictive with an ear worm soundtrack that’s as famous as his battle cry ‘Adriiiiiiaaann’!

Top 10 local business heroes showing kindness through COVID

We salute our local businesses across Manchester and the North West – many facing their own financial plight – who have been pulling out the stops to help their local communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

For PRs and marketeers, it serves as a reminder of the power of positivity and the importance of empathy through the bad times as well as the good.

1/ From theatrical costumes to NHS scrubs

The Royal Exchange Wardrobe and Costume Hire team members have been helping to make scrubs for our front line doctors and nurses.

Joining the national effort, the Exchange team are part of a passionate Greater Manchester Hub with around 36 makers, all co-ordinated from TV costume designer, Scott Langridge’s front room.

The first delivery from the Manchester team has already landed at Manchester Royal Infirmary with a further 250 earmarked for the Nightingale Hospital.

2/ Animal-themed masks to help the fight

Trafford-based print company Grafenia has designed and developed a range of facegaitor masks to help stem the spread of coronavirus – with all sale revenues going to the NHS.

Grafenia, a company that normally manufacture print and exhibition displays, have been increasingly making floor graphics, sneeze guards and other social distancing tools.

They’ve now switched their sewing team at their factory on Trafford Park into making designer face masks.

3/ Manchester doughnut drive-thru for key workers

The Krispy Kreme drive-thru in Trafford Park has been gifting NHS, police and fire service staff with a complimentary hot drink and glazed doughnut 3-pack.

Richard Cheshire, CEO said: “With this small gesture, we hope to bring a little bit of joy to these amazing people to show them we appreciate everything they are doing right now.”

4/ Gin makers provide hygiene products

Manchester-based Didsbury Gin has switched from production of gin to alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

One million bottles of sanitiser were produced in the space of seven days to supply key public service providers across Greater Manchester, including the NHS, Great Manchester police, local fire services, and other care providers, including homeless shelters.

5/ Converting cask ale into meals for the vulnerable

The White Hart at Lydgate and Dinnerstone in Uppermill donated all their cellar stock to the Committees of Lydgate Brass Band Contest and Love Lydgate, and members of Saddleworth Round Table.

The beer was sold over Easter to raise money for providing chef prepared nutritional meals for the vulnerable in Oldham, distributed via AgeUK.

6/ Holland’s Pies supports F.C. United of Manchester to create food parcels

Pie baker Holland’s Pies and F.C. United of Manchester have joined forces to deliver food parcels across North East Manchester.

With matches on hold, volunteers from F.C. United of Manchester have been providing food parcels every week, including a selection of Holland’s Pies as well as crosswords and literature to support the most vulnerable during these difficult times.

7/ Florist gives away 16 floral arrangements to key workers

Chadderton-based florist Amelia Rose Floral Couture has given away 16 flower arrangements to key workers across England.

Amelia promised the hatboxes to 15 key workers that needed that little bit of extra motivation at the moment. With over 500 nominations on Instagram and Facebook, she picked 16 in the end.

8/ Cloudwater loves key workers

Manchester’s Cloudwater Brewery has been offering a 25 per cent discount on all its beers to NHS workers.

In addition it has been providing a chance for customers to chip in for a beer for an NHS staff member. Purchase a £1 token on the brewery’s online shop, and for every 50 tokens accrued, they’ll ship an NHS worker a mixed 12-pack of beer and soda.

9/ The Creameries cooking for NHS staff …and others

Mary-Ellen McTague was one of the first to close her restaurant’s doors, locking up The Creameries in Chorlton five days before the government ordered restaurants to close.

Insights from her sister, a doctor working closely with the disease, encouraged McTague to move quickly.

She then set about preparing and delivering food to those in need – from hospital workers to the homeless.

10/ M&S’s generous gesture for the vulnerable of Rochdale

M&S in Rochdale handed over an entire food hall to the town’s most vulnerable people.

Worth around £40,000, it is believed to be the biggest single food donation the retail giant has made.

Marilyn Jones, who founded Rochdale Soup Kitchen six years ago, said she had been ‘overwhelmed’ by the generous gesture.

Lockdown light through the darkness

We only have to look at the inspiring Captain Tom Moore, the 99-year-old veteran whose heroic efforts have raised more than £28m for the NHS, to see that positivity is not lost during the pandemic. 

Here, some of the Cameron Wells team share our favourite links to help take your mind momentarily off the mayhem.

Cara Cunningham, PR Account Manager

Our in-house hilarious historian, very happily married, Northern Irish exercise junkie

Filter out the fake news

We not only have to contend with fake news and misinformation during this crisis, but we are also inundated what we should do and what we should avoid to get through the pandemic with our emotional wellbeing in check.

In this age of information overload, it is hard to see the wood for the trees – and trying to de-stress becomes even more stressful.   

To make it simple, here is an easy-to-follow guide on how to stay happy during these trying times.  It is from the BBC so it is legit stuff and there is no hogwash.

Mano McLaughlin, Art Director

Our very own uber-talented musician with a love of the great outdoors, tequila and his two daughters

Back to the wild

Being confined to our homes is not the easiest, but let’s give thanks for our one hour of outdoor exercise, which some of our continental counterparts are deprived of.

Trudging up and down the same road every day can soon become monotonous – so, how can we make the most of our time in the fresh air?

Here is a list of things to do in the great outdoors to look after yourself and nature

With some extra time on your hands, why not build a mini nature reserve, or learn how to identify butterflies and moths.  Get the creative juices flowing!

Claire Wood, Creative Director

Cheese, wine and seaside-loving Gary Barlow fan with a guilty pleasure of kitchen dancing and tinned hotdogs with her two girls!

Three cheers!

The weeks are increasingly becoming blended so we have to differentiate between the weekdays and weekend somehow!

To ward off the boredom of having nowhere to go this weekend and no-one to (physically) see, here is a list of drinking games to play with you and your partner or virtual friends.

And for those who want to try something a little more sophisticated, here is a list of simple, three-ingredient cocktails that you can (hopefully) make by raiding your drinks cupboard.

Debbie Wells, Managing Director

Four-legged friend fanatic, yoga-loving foodie and intrepid world explorer – especially if there is a good glass of red waiting at the end of the trek!

Take time for you

With the anxiety of the unknown, the stress of being cooped up and strain of makeshift workstations, we are bound to be feeling tightly wound and tense – in body and mind.  

During these chaotic times, it is important to take a breather and to push the reset button. 

My favourite yogi star, Yoga with Adriene, does some fabulous short videos that combine yoga with meditation, so you can get your body and mind out of a knot.  You don’t have to be a yogi to do these – they are as much about pausing as they are about posing.  

Here are some suggestions which you may find particularly useful at this time:

Yoga for anxiety

Stress melt

Yoga for tension relief

Yoga for beginners – mind practice

Jen Lever, Account Manager

Our very own book worm, social media guru and fashionista who unashamedly loves Westlife

And relax… with a good book

Today’s tip is for all you bookworms – if you can find the time between working, home-schooling, cooking, cleaning and sourcing rather than gold dust toilet rolls.  

In the lockdown, time can pass by in a flash and getting time to read a good book or two seems like an impossible task – but a well-deserved luxury.

So, with this in mind, I have done some digging and found a list of 50 must-read books under 250 pages.