Archive for September, 2023

A month of Mischief, September 2023

Posted on: September 29th, 2023 by Morgan Arnold

Welcome to A Month of Mischief,  a monthly take on the hottest passions gripping the nation, along with the latest Mischief news.

The Passion Perspective

Unpredictable weather, warm bottles of beer and portaloos, it can only mean we’re in the throes of festival season. The annual extravaganza of sound and culture not only draws fervent crowds seeking sonic euphoria but also provides the perfect opportunity for brands to tap into something their audience love. It’s a big, big market, and is only getting bigger. So here’s three considerations for brands wanting to headline festival season…

Passions can be hugely conflicting

A passion for a more sustainable life doesn’t negate all other interests, which can leave consumers in a quandary. For those that love travel, there’s no getting away from the damage that air travel does to the environment. For those that love following the latest trends, fast fashion is problematic.

Brands can play a positive role by helping their customers navigate this conundrum and acting as enablers for greener choices. For example, ebay and Bumble have recently teamed up to create a pre-loved dating collection, fronted by Clara Amfo, to help break the situationship with fast fashion.

And our recent work with Ocado, outlined below, is another case in point. We wanted to help those with a passion for both food and sustainable living, so we partnered with Beano to create a food waste cook book – demonstrating how making the most of past their best ingredients can still be delicious.

While passions can appear binary, they’re rarely mutually exclusive, so helping consumers find solutions will always be a winner.

Are Demographics Dead?

The environment is a passion which completely cuts through the generations. Wealthy Tesla owning Baby Boomers, eager to get ahead of the 2030 deadline, and protest-fond Gen-Z students will have both greeted the government’s announcement with despair.

The lesson here? Banish those campaigns that bracket people by age and go after what stokes a fire inside them. You won’t just be capturing part of the population, you’ll be capturing half of it. Instead, think passion first and build campaigns based on insights about what is driving this group to take action for a greener world.

A creative approach to sustainability can get people talking

Apple’s recent ‘Mother Nature’ film, which sees CEO Tim Cook dabble in the world of comedy acting as he is interrogated on Apple’s sustainability credentials by ‘Mother Nature’ (played by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) has divided opinions. With reviews ranging from genius through to cringe, what can’t be denied is the effectiveness of landing the message and prompting discussion on corporate sustainability targets amongst an audience that would normally not be reached.

This Month at Mischief

From food fights to food waste: Ocado and Beano join forces

Ocado wanted to help their customers make their food go further whilst also tackling food waste. But how to do this in a positive and engaging way?

Once known for being full of food fights galore, Beano has evolved throughout the years in line with the passions of its readers, both young and old. With sustainability one of its readers’ top priorities nowadays, we launched a Beano and Ocado partnership with a mission to help make food go further.

Launching the Ocado x Beano Food Waste Cookbook, we created five playful recipes, all featuring some of the most commonly wasted household foods at heart. With the hero recipe ‘Nearly Gone-offee Pie’ leading the way, and accompanied by the likes of ‘Bangers and Gnash’ and ‘Jammy Dodger French Toast’, the recipes aimed to bring families together in the kitchen whilst educating about food waste.

As well as securing widespread coverage, including eight nationals and eleven consumer titles, the launch generated excitement via CRM email engagement, cookbook downloads, Beano competition pages and on social media, for a truly integrated launch.

Lego launches ‘Unstoppable FC’

With women’s football continuing to be a force for good throughout summer 2023, The LEGO Group partnered with Women’s Super League Clubs Arsenal, Aston Villa and Chelsea to launch ‘Unstoppable FC’.

Led by women’s footballing icons Beth Mead, Rachel Daly, Sam Kerr and Lauren Kemp, the three ‘Unstoppable FC’ sessions targeted girls aged 8-11, empowering them with resilience skills and confidence.

Bolstered by research revolving around parents’ perceptions of their daughters’ resilience, our ‘Unstoppable FC’ launch engaged over 200 attendees, and secured over 100 pieces of coverage, including nine nationals and 20 broadcast pieces.

Chase Distillery and Tinie Tempah are ‘inspired by the wild’

Chase Distillery’s roots stem from the Herefordshire countryside, so they tasked us with bringing a slice of the wild to urban dwellers. We scoured London to find the area most in need, settling on East London residential street, Miller’s Terrace, whose residents had been looking for funding to revitalise the barren backroad for almost a decade.

With the help of creative visionary Tinie Tempah and an RHS award-winning landscape designer, we transformed the street into an oasis of plants and greenery, hosting the grand unveiling at the ‘Inspired by the Wild’ bar, complete with Chase cocktails and DJ.

Our sell-out event saw over 130 guests enjoy the new nature-fuelled space, as well as generating over 300 pieces of coverage including an ITV London broadcast interview on-site.

Mischief News

Did you know we now have a shiny new Mischief LinkedIn page, so give us a follow to check out the latest in passion-led trends and creative inspiration.

Mischief Musings

Summer might be over, but that’s no reason to stop living curiously. In this piece for Bite, our Head of Strategy Dan shares his 5 top tips for sparking your imagination.

Follow Mischief on LinkedIn, Instagram and X

What business leaders think of politics

Posted on: September 28th, 2023 by Alexandra Stamp

Best for business in the UK

Although it is true that medium/large businesses are significantly more likely to say the Conservatives are the best for business compared to small businesses (39% vs 29%), this is driven by medium/large businesses being less likely than small to say that they don’t know (13% vs 27%) rather than being less likely to say Labour (48% vs 44%).

While Labour’s lead over the Conservatives is 13 points among all businesses, Starmer’s lead over Sunak is just three points, and Reeves’ lead over Hunt is just two points.

Election outcomes so far

Medium/large businesses are more likely than small businesses to say that a Conservative government would be best for their business (38% vs 24%).

Labour Government prep

Just 24% of medium/large businesses will not be making changes/preparing for a Labour government, compared to 53% of small businesses.

A quarter (24%) of medium/large businesses have already made changes/prepared for a Labour government, versus just one in nine (11%) small businesses, while a further two in five (40%) of medium/large businesses have not yet made changes/preparations but will be soon.


Analysis from the team at MHP

Labour analysis

Josh Kaile, MHP Associate Director, Joshua Kaile, was a Labour Party political advisor until September 2023.

Over the past 2 years, the Labour Party has been engaged in concerted efforts to ‘woo’ business leaders, something once referred to as the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’. Keir Starmer, Rachel Reeves and the entire Shadow Cabinet have been doing the hard yards of meeting businesses up and down the country, explaining how a Labour Government is right for the country, and also good for business.

Today’s insights from MHP/Savanta into how businesses view the two main political parties suggests that Labour’s efforts are paying dividends. When business leaders were asked who is ‘best for business’ 45 per cent chose a future Labour Government, led by Keir Starmer, compared to just 32 per cent for the Tories. That’s a remarkable 13-point lead for the opposition, with a General Election potentially coming in the next 12 months.

The Leader Of The Opposition’s (LOTO) office, and SME4Labour will be particularly proud that 44 per cent of small businesses say Labour is ‘best’, compared to 29 per cent for the Conservatives. Political parties often fight to say that they are the party of ‘small business’, and right now, Labour appear to have the Tories on the ropes. Although, with over a quarter of leaders remaining unsure, there is still work to be done for the party to advocate for the interests of small enterprises.

Keir Starmer’s decision to put the economy front and centre of his pitch to the country, with his first “Mission” to ‘secure the highest sustained growth in the G7’ also appears to be paying off. Even Labour’s level-headed leader will be quietly pleased by his 38-35 percent lead over Rishi Sunak amongst business leaders.

Whilst Rachel Reeves holds a 2-point lead over Jeremy Hunt (29-27 percent) nearly half of all leaders are still undecided over who is better for business. But it’s important to remember the context of where Labour started this journey in 2019 with, then Chancellor Sajid Javid, leading John McDonnell by 45 per cent to 24. Few would have given Labour much chance of turning those figures around, let alone to be leading the Tories on economic competence just 3 and a half years ago. Yet here we are, on the eve of the political party conferences with a remarkable turn in fortunes.

Labour is understandably boasting that more than 300 CEOs and chairs of businesses will be attending their annual conference this year, more than even Tony Blair could manage in his prime. And the coffers are being filled with business sponsorship increasing from £200,000 last year to a significant £500,000. The FT reports that 43 business groups have bought exhibition space at Labour conference this year, up from sixteen last year.

Contrast this with a Conservative conference that, has just 28 businesses with exhibition stands, and organisers hope the entire show isn’t derailed by a rail strike that could provide a tempting excuse for yet more attendees to avoid.

Senior figures in the Labour Party will be the first to say that winning the support of business, let alone the wider public at a General Election is anything but a done deal. After a tumultuous few years for Labour, doors are finally being opened to them, but the hard work to convince people to vote for a Labour Government starts in earnest.

But with these latest insights from MHP/Savanta, it turns out that Labour’s ‘smoked salmon and scrambled eggs offensive’ is convincing many that the party is good for business.

Conservative analysis

Mario Creatura, MHP Director, served as a Special Adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May in 10 Downing Street from 2017 to 2019.

If a week is long time in politics, then a year is clearly an eternity. It’s hard to believe that just 12 months ago we had a different Prime Minister about to address her first party conference.

In that time the national fiscal picture has been tumultuous to say the least, with huge pressures on the cost-of-living and deep concerns about the resilience of our economy.

Labour have been consistently ahead in the polls for much of the last year, with Prime Minister Sunak and Chancellor Hunt determinedly sticking to their key objective of halving inflation – whatever the political cost. They have repeatedly re-committed themselves to that goal, seeking to calm the troubled political and economic waters they inherited, hoping to rebuild Conservative economic credibility ahead of the next election.

In that context, today’s fresh insight from MHP/Savanta shows the Conservatives have much to be quietly pleased about.

When asked who is better for medium to large businesses, Sunak beats Starmer by four clear points. 

There is work to be done for the Conservatives to regain the confidence of small enterprise, who rate Starmer more positively than the Prime Minister. Yet averaged out, there’s only a three-point lead for Starmer over Sunak among all business types.

When it comes to the Chancellor, Hunt is just two points behind Rachel Reeves.

If I were still in Government, less than a year on from the chaos unleashed by the Truss Mini-Budget and with perhaps a year until the next election, I’d be cautiously optimistic about what this poll indicates. It points to a clear resilience in Conservative business confidence, and with it the hopeful spark of potential Conservative success at the next election.

Overall, business does feel Labour will be better for the economy – with a significant 13-point lead. Yet beneath that headline, MHP/Savanta’s poll indicates that 38% of medium and large businesses still believe a Conservative government would be best for their business.

It’s clear that the Conservative brand has taken a beating on economic credibility, but whilst Labour is perceived to be stronger on it than the Conservatives, the team of Sunak/Hunt are neck-and-neck with Starmer/Reeves.

With everything that’s gone on, you’d expect Labour to be dominating not just on some, but on every economic question. Yet they aren’t.

With news from the ONS on Friday that GDP has increased three times more than originally predicted, the UK economy is now bigger than before the Covid-19 crisis. UK growth is higher than Germany and France.

If the economy continues to perform positively, and voters start to feel the benefit in their pockets, then you can expect Sunak and Hunt to recover even more polling ground – from a base that’s nowhere near as bad as many Conservatives feared.

Whisper it, but for an election being fought on the cost-of-living, this poll shows it really could be all to play for.

MHP Group partners with Total Politics to launch the ‘30 To Watch: Politics’ awards 2023

Posted on: September 28th, 2023 by Morgan Arnold

Today we have announced the return of 30 To Watch: Politics, the only UK awards to recognise the best young talent in British Politics.

Entries are invited across eight ‘…To Watch’ categories: Commentator, Diversity/Inclusivity champion, Health champion, Issue campaigner, Local champion, Think tanker, Parliamentarian, and Political adviser.

For 2023, we have partnered with Total Politics Group – the trusted source of news, debate and expert insight on politics, government and public policy. Total Politics will help promote the awards and take part in the judging process.

The 30 to Watch: Politics awards develops our long-established 30 to Watch: Journalism awards, which have been running for 12 years.

Tim Snowball, Head of Public Affairs at MHP Group commented:

“With a General Election looming, all eyes are turning to the next generation of political talent. MHP are pleased to be launching the 2023 30 To Watch: Politics awards, to identify and celebrate impressive young people making an impact in the political world.

“We are delighted to have attracted the partnership of Total Politics, who will help raise the profile of these awards and maximise participation. We are also grateful to our other partners for supporting individual categories and taking part in the judging process.”

Mark Wallace, Chief Executive of Total Politics Group added

“Politics runs on the commitment, imagination and creativity of the people who make it happen, so it’s important to take the opportunity to recognise and applaud the very best. I’m constantly impressed by the rising talent whom I encounter through Total Politics Group’s media titles and events, right across the spectrum of British politics. I can’t wait to see which examples of innovation and dedication come to light through this year’s ’30 To Watch’ awards.

The 30 To Watch: Politics awards are free to enter, entries close Friday 27th October.

Other judges for the 2023 awards include Nusrat Ghani MP, Seema Malhotra MP, Tim Farron MP, Baroness Foster (Former First Minister of Northern Ireland), Claire Ellicott (Whitehall Editor at the Daily Mail), Lucy Aitkens (Group Director External Affairs at Sky), Dean Sabri (Head of UK Political Intelligence at Dods), and Rebecca Deegan (Founder and CEO of i have a voice).

Alongside Total Politics, the 2023 awards will have a range of category partners including Savanta, Dods Political Intelligence, DeepSeer, and I Have A Voice.

In 2022, winners included Jessica Barnard, Young Labour, George Holt, Young Conservative Network, Emma Roddick, Scottish Parliament, Tony Diver, The Telegraph and Leor Zmigrod, Cambridge University.

Enter the Awards here


Nusrat Ghani MP
Business and Trade Minister

Mark Wallace
Chief Executive, Total Politics

David Lammy MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

Seema Malhotra MP
Shadow Minister for Skills

Tim Farron MP
Shadow Minister for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Baroness Foster
Former First Minister of Northern Ireland

Dean Sabri

Head of UK Political Intelligence, Dods Political Intelligence

Rebecca Deegan
Founder & CEO, I have a voice

Rosa Prince
Editor, London Playbook, Politico

Lucy Aitkens
Group Director External Affairs, Sky

Claire Ellicott
Whitehall Editor, Daily Mail

Roger Perowne
CEO, Savanta Comres

Atul Hatwal
Editor, Labour Uncut

UK public support for net zero has fallen since COP26

Posted on: September 26th, 2023 by Morgan Arnold

A new report from MHP Group and Cambridge University’s Political Psychology Lab, released today, finds declining support for government action on climate change and an emerging divide between Left and Right-leaning voters on the desirability of achieving Net Zero by 2050.

While two thirds (66.9%) of the UK adults participating in the Polarisation Tracker study still agree with the statement “the government should be doing more to address the issue of climate change”, this is down from the high-watermark of three quarters (74.6%) achieved in summer 2021, as the UK prepared to host COP26. Since then, support has trended steadily down in each of the survey waves, conducted every six months.

Download the full report

The cost and impact on people’s daily lives were among the key public concerns highlighted by the report:

  • 53% of UK adults agreed with the statement: “Transitioning to Net Zero will cost much more than the country can afford in financial terms.” (vs 26% disagree).
  • 49% of UK adults agreed with the statement: “Transitioning to Net Zero will require the Government to interfere in our lives much more than we should tolerate.” (vs 31% disagree).

The study, conducted before PM Rishi Sunak’s Downing Street speech in September, which pushed back Net Zero deadlines on heat pumps and electric vehicles, also revealed a major divide between Left and Right-leaning voters in terms of support for Net Zero and concern about climate change.

Self-identified right-wing adults were four times more likely (37.2%) than self-identified left-wing adults (7.8%) to disagree with the statement: “We should try to reach Net Zero by 2050, even if it means I have to make changes to my way of life” and nearly three times as likely to say that UK media coverage of climate change is “too alarmist” (63.1% vs 20.5%).

The study found that distrust of elites was closely related to distrust of the Net Zero agenda. “Super Distrusters”, who represent 29% of the adult population of the UK were less likely to support any Net Zero measure, other than expansion of nuclear and renewable energy.

Commenting on the data, MHP Group Deputy CEO, Nick Barron said:

“Public support for Net Zero remains strong, but it is declining and dividing. Once an issue becomes politically polarised, it is extremely hard to return to consensus politics. Given what is at stake and the critical role that public support will play in meeting Net Zero goals, it’s vital that we find new ways to bridge the growing divide.”

Download the full report

Media Network: Issue 7, 2023

Posted on: September 26th, 2023 by Morgan Arnold

A bigger buzz around Labour conference than I’ve ever known

By Keith Gladdis, former Daily Mail Executive News Editor 

Party conference season has begun with the Liberal Democrats now in Bournemouth before the Conservative Party head to Manchester and Labour to Liverpool. Normally the Tories would go last, but Labour booked the wrong week five years ago which means this time they get the final word.

Claire Ellicott the Whitehall Editor of the Daily Mail explains why it might be a good idea to attend party conferences this year.

How do you prepare for conferences, do you go to all three? 

We spend the weeks before conferences booking meetings with ministers and MPs. Most of us go to the Tories and Labour and usually just one journalist will do the Lib Dems.

This year will be interesting because the Tories are holding their conference before Labour – usually it’s always a build-up to Tory conference.

There is a bigger buzz around Labour conference than I’ve ever known and they’re getting far more attention in the run-up to the election.

What sort of stories are you looking for at conference? 

Conferences are a whirlwind of coffees, events and networking with very little room left for proper news. So much energy is expended on meeting people that it’s easy to forget that we still need to do the day job and put out a newspaper each day. We focus on the jostling for attention among the future stars of the parties and the leaders’ speeches. There’s very little room for anything that’s not political.

Are you looking for brands to react to stories coming from conference? 

The politicians dominate conference, but we would look for brand reaction to policy decisions, or if figures in industry or the union are pressuring the leadership to back something. Rishi Sunak has hinted that he will announce further policy changes in the same vein as the delay to net zero pledges. We will look for brand reaction to any changes.

How important is it for businesses to have a presence at Party conferences? 

Conference is ultimately a showcase, so if a business isn’t represented, it would be easy to miss out on insights into where the parties are headed and who the key figures of the future are. Also, all the most important people in each party are all there at one accessible event and looking to network and hear from essential. I’d have thought it would be wise to be in the room.

Political podcast competition hots up

By former ITN reporter Charlotte Grant

Just in time for the party conference season, the team behind The News Agents have launched a new podcast. Political Currency is billed as a weekly economics show where former rivals Ed Balls and George Osborne discuss money and politics.

They will be hoping to capitalise on the hugely popular The Rest Is Politics, where former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell and former Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart agree to disagree amicably. Such is the success of the pair’s on-air bromance, that 18 months since it launched The Rest Is Politics is now in the number 6 spot in the UK’s most popular podcast chart (with other current affairs podcasts like Newscast behind at number 8 and The News Agentsfalling outside of the top ten, at number 12).

With only two episodes under their belts, it’s too soon to say if Ed Balls and George Osborne will be able to compete with Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell’s charm offensive. However, with party conferences in full swing and the upcoming Autumn Statement, Political Currency should have plenty of opportunity to make its mark.

FT named as UK’s most trusted media title

By Ian Kirby, Former News of the World Political Editor

Studies by YouGov into trust and the media have revealed the Financial Times has a clear lead among both the public and MPs

Some 70% of 108 UK MPs surveyed by YouGov  said they trusted the FT. It had the biggest proportion (22%) of MPs who found it to be “very trustworthy” out of all of the 15 prominent outlets included in the survey. Just 12% of MPs said the business newspaper was untrustworthy or very untrustworthy.

The survey shows MPs agree with the public, who also deemed the FT to be the most-trusted outlet with ITN News the most trusted broadcaster in a previous survey published in May.

The second most-trusted news outlet among those MPs was The Times, which was trusted by 63% of MPs and distrusted by 11%. Next was ITV News, with a 45% trust score versus a 14% untrustworthy score. It was followed by Channel 4 News (52% trusted) and then BBC News (48%). Sky News was not included in the survey.

High levels of trust in the BBC were offset by relatively high levels of distrust (21%), giving the public broadcaster a net trust score of +22. Interestingly, in the earlier study of the public, it was the most trusted news brand among Gen Z, who clearly do not class the Beeb as “legacy media”.

Among MPs, the least-trusted outlet was the Daily Mail, trusted by 19% and distrusted by 58%. This differed from the general public, among whom The Sun and Mirror had lower untrustworthy scores than the Mail.

GB News, the newest outlet on the list, had the same untrustworthy score as the Daily Mail but had a higher trust score of 24%.

The Guardian appeared to be the most divisive news brand on the list, trusted by 41% of MPs and distrusted by 42%.

30ToWatch Winner Isaac Crowson on why he’s gone freelance

By Keith Gladdis, former Daily Mail Executive News Editor 

This year’s 30ToWatch Journalism awards saw the launch of the Breakthrough award for people who had broken into the media without going to university. Our winner was Isaac Crowson of the Sun.

This summer Isaac took the leap to become a freelance, here he talks about how brands can work with freelance journalists like him.

Why did you decide to go freelance and how has it changed your working day?

I was looking for a new challenge and running a business has always been something which has excited me. It’s been a fantastic start and I really enjoy it, especially working for a variety of different people and news desks.

I didn’t know what to expect but launching IC Media has been great. There’s a lot of stories out there to find and work to do. No day is ever the same. I am building up exclusive stories and targeting different publications with them as the week develops. There’s more flexibility as a freelance / company director and a very broad range of different stories to find and get to grips with.

How can brands work with you to land potential stories?

I’d say please try and build a relationship. Random, sporadic emails won’t really work for either side. Let’s have a chat about how we can both help each other. The advantage of dealing with a freelance is that I’ve got the relationships already in place with the news desks and senior journalists. I can work on stories and make sure they have the best chance of making the news.

What kind of stories are you looking for?

Anything newsworthy. I have a particular interest in crime, home and social affairs but enjoy any story if it’s got news value. That said, they still need to pass the same tests. They are, is it new? Is it interesting? Will the reader relate to it?

How important for you was it winning 30ToWatch Breakthrough award?

This was incredibly important. It was one of the highlights of my career and helped get my name and work out there. When I won it, I didn’t know I would be leaving The Sun a few months later but in hindsight it was a great way to get my name out there and expand my profile.

How trade media can help reach niche audiences

By Ned Ellison 

Private companies that work with public sector bodies, in the UK or internationally, stand to take advantage of a relatively young media outlet formed in 2020 as the sister title to Global Government Forum.

Hyper-targeted media catering to niche audiences don’t always hold the same appeal as national outlets, but they are indispensable when it comes to landing messages with hard-to-reach demographics.

Led by Editor Ian Hall, Global Government Fintech has built an impressive readership across public sector decision makers in English-speaking markets across North America, Asia, Europe and its home market of the UK. Its weekly newsletter is subscribed to by more than 5,000 senior decision makers.

“We’re always looking for stories from the perspective of the public sector and how different bodies around the world are implementing technological innovation to improve people’s lives.” Ian told MHP.

But it doesn’t always have to be finance related. “We will consider and would love to hear about anything that is genuinely innovative and tech-based from within the public sector.” Ian added.

Global Government Fintech stands to be a valuable and targeted media channel for promotion of success stories with the public sector, which is renowned (fairly or unfairly) as being slower moving and more resistant to technological innovation. If you want to subscribe to its free newsletter and stay across public sector innovation trends, you can do so here.

Super Distrusters vs The Elite – MHP launches Polarisation Tracker Wave 6

One third of British Adults can be categorised as ‘Super Distrusters’, this is according to MHP’s Polarisation Tracker Wave 6. Produced in partnership with the Cambridge University Political Psychology Lab, the report reveals that Super Distrusters’ suspicion of elites is linked to a range of issues, including climate change scepticism and concern about the role of technology. Super Distrusters are found on both the left and the right of the political spectrum and are fairly evenly distributed across a wide range of demographic characteristics. Download the full report here.

The rise of the ‘Super Distruster’ is a major challenge for communicators

Posted on: September 18th, 2023 by Alexandra Stamp

The rise of the ‘Super Distruster’ is a major challenge for communicators

Nearly one-third (29%) of UK adults are “Super Distrusters”, who believe the country is going in the wrong direction, our institutions have been corrupted, and that this is the fault of self-serving, hostile and incompetent elites, according to Wave 6 of MHP’s Polarisation Tracker – Super Distrusters vs The Elite.

This is the key finding of cluster analysis performed by Cambridge University’s Political Psychology Lab, using data from the September 2023 wave of MHP’s long-running Polarisation Tracker.

Super Distrusters’ hostility towards the system presents a big challenge for big business and government, which are regarded as the most elite and untrustworthy institutions.

Download the MHP Polarisation Tracker Wave 6 here:

Super Distrusters also pose a problem for wider policy goals, including delivering Net Zero, safeguarding public health and reducing online harms, which will all require the public to adopt and adapt to new ways of doing things. Super Distrusters are less likely to co-operate and more likely to disbelieve the case for change or the people making it.

Research findings headline news in The Sunday Times

A diverse population of 16 million people, ‘Super Distrusters’ defy all traditional political and democratic categorisation: Some worry about the enemies of growth, Marxist institutional capture, thought police, cultural erasure and ‘the new elite’. Others worry about a rapacious capitalist class, a reactionary plot against social progress, racist and misogynist police, conservative gatekeepers and ‘the old elite’.

While Super Distrusters’ specific concerns and targets vary, their analysis leads them to the same place, distrustful of traditional authority, expertise and increasingly hostile to innovation and technology, which they see as having the potential to give more power to authoritarian elites. Protests against ULEZ cameras, 15 Minute Cities and digital cash are all manifestations of these fears.

Stagnant growth, global lockdowns, vaccine mandates, rising living costs, and increased censorship have all helped to fuel public scepticism, while the Networked Age has brought with it unprecedented levels of transparency. Often, people in power have been found wanting and new ways of doing things have not delivered the progress promised.

And Super Distruster concerns reflect a wider social unease. Even among more trusting audience groups, we found that the more closely associated something or someone is with the elite, the less likely they are to be considered trustworthy.

To engage with Super Distrusters effectively, communicators must change their approach, in three important ways.

Firstly, communicators can no-longer ignore Super Distrusters.

As Coutts, the West Yorkshire Police and the National Trust have recently discovered, Super Distrusters are increasingly motivated and organised, supported by counter-elites, and listened to by politicians. Communicators need to address their strongest arguments and engage legitimate critics beyond the media bubble in order to build trust.

Secondly, tech utopianism is over.

From AI to the metaverse, communicators should encourage more open debate about risks and safeguards, rather than casting critics as luddites. Technology storytelling needs to emphasise individual empowerment rather than systemic efficiency.

And finally, institutions must become more comfortable holding each other to account.

In the era of stakeholder capitalism, collaboration replaces competition among government, business, media, and civil society. However, to those sceptical of elites, this cooperation can resemble collusion, making brand purpose campaigns seem like social engineering. Super Distrusters see a monolithic managerial class and believe the media and NGOs prioritize holding the public accountable over the powerful. Even if people disagree with M&S on the fate of Oxford Street or BMW on the EU’s electric vehicle strategy, they welcome these arguments being aired in the open.

Brands that are more transparent about their motives, and challenge government on behalf of the consumer will reap dividends.

Coming soon – We will be launching companion guides to the consequences found in the MHP Polarisation Tracker for three key areas: Net Zero, Finance and Science and Technology.

It’s been a long, hot summer of fintech M&A activity – here’s what to expect in the final months of 2023

Posted on: September 14th, 2023 by Morgan Arnold

The second half of the year kicked off with a flurry of fintech M&A, with more than half of the $500 million+ deals so far seen in 2023 having taken place in just June and July.

In the past few months alone, money-saving app Snoop has been scooped up by Vanquis Banking Group; Visa splashed out $1bn to acquire Brazilian startup Pismo; and headlines have been dominated by rumours that Monzo is plotting to purchase Danish challenger bank rival Lunar.

The general consensus appears to suggest that the macroeconomic landscape – with sky high interest rates, widespread deceleration in economic growth and VC funding levels experiencing the biggest dip in years (to the tune of a 49% July YoY depreciation) – is leading many fintechs to seek out a speedy exit. Those companies that had high valuations just a couple of years ago are now finding themselves at the end of their runway, and struggling to raise capital without the  risk of lowering their valuations. And those with more funding to play with are capitalising on that fact, knowing they can grab a bargain in tricky market conditions.

As a result, we’re seeing an increased willingness from smaller outfits to merge with or become acquired by their larger and often better-funded counterparts. It’s something we’re increasingly hearing from our clients too, with many having acquired more boutique firms – often direct competitors located in different markets – as a means to growth and/or customer acquisition in an otherwise testing marketplace. Fintechs that have “come of age” in the last few years are flexing their M&A muscles to strengthen revenue streams and set themselves on a stronger path to profitability.

But whilst the second half of the year has started with a flurry of M&A, activity is still down on a year-on-year basis. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, 128 fintech M&A transactions were recorded in the first half of 2023, compared to almost double in January to June of 2022, at 248.

So what does the closing third act of 2023 hold when it comes to fintech M&A?

AI M&A to rise up the ranks

The segment which is perhaps most ripe for consolidation by the fintech sector is AI. As with the emergence of any new technology, incumbents are grappling with whether to “buy or build” their generative AI capabilities. And for many, buying smaller outfits is the most efficient and profitable answer.

Take Ramp, for example, who in June acquired, an AI-led customer support platform, for an undisclosed sum. Or neobank Albo, who purchased, enabling it to become the only digital bank to offer debit and credit products for both consumers and SMBs.

This spate of acquisitions demonstrates two things: firstly, that the value of any company able to innovate and build large-scale generative models is likely to soon peak – that’s if it hasn’t already. Secondly, that many firms believe this technology will soon play an absolutely central role to their offerings and processes.

But at the same time, AI is also shaking up the fintech M&A market by (in theory) improving efficiency when it comes to deal sourcing, valuation, due diligence and post-merger processes – something to also keep an eye on.

Other segments which are similarly crowded, in which we can expect to see further M&A activity, include BNPL (think along the lines of Square’s acquisition of AfterPay) and neobanking (see MHP Group client Papara’s acquisition of Spain-based Rebellion, or Monzo’s eyeing up of Lunar).

Floodgates are opening

There is certainly a “wait-and-see” sentiment lingering in the fintech sector, as potential sellers wait on the sidelines to gauge the correct timing to make a move. On the other hand, anecdotally speaking, we’re seeing that many buyers are waiting for more favourable valuations to take hold, for example through more downrounds which we saw plenty of in Q1.

And sellers and buyers alike will want to avoid getting washed out in a crowded market once deal flow does resume to normal levels – so the benefits of being a first mover should also not be underestimated.

In that sense, the floodgates have arguably already opened and if we are to take June and July as an example, we should expect the pace of M&A activity to pick up even more towards the end of the year and beyond.

Higher interest rates will continue to dictate the market

The M&A shopping spree which characterised mid-2020 to mid-2022 was partly driven by firms wishing to take advantage of low interest rates, so it’s little surprise that activity is down compared to last year.

But most central banks are believed to be nearing the end of their most aggressive interest rate rising cycles in decades in response to soaring inflation, with the Fed hiking to 5.5% in August and markets pricing in a fifteenth – and potentially final – rise by the Bank of England this month.

Interest rates are intrinsically tied to M&A deals as many buyers finance all or a portion of their purchase of target companies with debt. So as the economic landscape stabilises, interest rates level out and monetary policy (hopefully) continues to curb inflation, it’s likely that buyers will feel more comfortable spending their money. It’s unlikely we’ll reach 2020 levels anytime soon, but should rates decrease, we can expect to see another flood of deals to the market.


The reality is, as the gap between the highest price a buyer is willing to pay and the lowest price a seller is willing to accept narrows, we can expect to see even more fintech M&A in the remaining months of this year. The next few months will prove to be a critical period in which we will be able to tell which players can thrive, and which might crumble under market pressure.

This will be compounded by continued caution from venture capital firms who are reportedly sitting on $271 billion in dry powder, as well as zombie IPO and SPAC markets – not fully dead thanks to CAB Payments’ IPO in early July and Ashington Innovation’s London float in June.

The result will be a fintech segment that looks very different in 2024, with fewer players but many with more diverse offerings and broader global reach.

Mental health: When does a cabinet minister matter?

Posted on: September 11th, 2023 by Morgan Arnold

A Cabinet Minister for Mental Health was a novel, political, idea

In a letter posted on her Twitter during last week’s reshuffle,  former Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health Rosena Allin-Khan noted that Keir Starmer “did not see a space for a mental health portfolio in a Labour Cabinet”, leading to her decision to step down from the role entirely. This prompted concerned reactions from stakeholders, including the British Medical Association (BMA) who called the end of the cabinet-level position “disappointing.”

The post of a Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health was established in 2015 by Jeremy Corbyn in his first shadow cabinet. The role was given to Luciana Berger and after her resignation to Barbara Keeley. At the time of its creation, the post was briefed as signalling the importance of mental health to Corbyn. In 2016, it briefly became a political embarrassment when Corbyn temporarily scrapped the post, and then joined activists calling for it to be reinstated.

There is no post with the equivalent power, mandate, and focus in the government. For example, Maria Caulfield, the current Undersecretary of State for Mental Health and Women’s Health is a junior minister within the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Caulfield is also responsible for disabilities, vaccines, the entirety of the UK Health Security Agency and patient safety. In short, a far cry from Labour’s former position of a cabinet-level minister with a sole focus on mental health.  Following Allin-Khan’s resignation, Abena Oppong-Asare has now been appointed as the Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Women’s Health, apparently shadowing the Government’s structure.

Having a Cabinet role was arguably an effective way to politically signal the importance of mental health, but was the role just that?

Policy signalling does not always lead to policy impact

For example, when Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson established the “Department of Economic Affairs” (DEA) in 1964 its main achievement was arguably political, helping to paint an attractive picture of Wilson forging a new Britain with the ‘white heat of technology’.

Did the DEA’s establishment help Wilson deliver more for the economy? In itself, absolutely not. Wound up in 1969, whatever historians may argue about the DEA’s results and record, these same historians do tend to pay more attention to individual economic decisions like the devaluation of the pound. It didn’t start a lasting revolution and the Treasury, the institution it was supposed to change, remained as ‘orthodox’ as ever.

The history of the DEA and a potential Cabinet Minister for Mental Health are hardly carbon copies, but maybe there are some similarities to bear in mind.

When you look at it through this lens, the establishment of this post in the shadow cabinet, without any detail on how it could work in practice, feels like more of a political play than a principled, thought-through policy intervention.

How would a Cabinet Minister for Mental Health actually work?

Individual decisions, like those on social security, physical healthcare, immigration, housing will have considerable impacts on mental health.

If a minister for mental health just had responsibility for mental healthcare, then this would be seen as a missed opportunity to address these factors. There’s also no evidence a minister with this portfolio would be less effective sitting under the Secretary of State for Health, rather than parallel to them within the cabinet.

What if the role was extended so that decisions made by government outside of the direct purview of healthcare, but with an impact on mental health, like housing policy, would need to be reviewed by that minister? That would be radical, but probably unworkable. In essence, they would either have veto power over their colleagues’ departments or be made irrelevant and undermined by their colleagues. Neither seems entirely constructive for policy-making. In this case, a minister would be a distraction, not an enabler of delivery.

Ensuring real results

There are other methods you could try to weave a focus on mental health across and throughout government: a cross-departmental strategy; changing the way departments model the impact of their own decisions to give a weighting to improvements in mental health; a ‘tsar’ or arms-length champion for mental health like the Children’s Commissioner; adding it to the responsibilities of a minister in the cabinet office who already takes cross-departmental briefs. In fact, you could do all of those at once.

We have written before about how there is evidence, that serious policy plans, with momentum, do lead to better outcomes. It is not the case that what happens in ministries and Downing Street does not matter, but a minister alone does not maketh momentum.

Starmer’s mission focus

We do not know what would have happened if the first ever Cabinet Minister for Mental Health had taken a seat in the Cabinet room in Keir Starmer’s first Cabinet. We do not know what dynamics would have taken hold, or whether the minister would have been a political risk.

Nor did Keir Starmer. Given his ruthless aversion to risk, a decision which allows him to focus on the ‘missions’ which we know are central to Labour’s preparation for government, seems like a natural one to him. Those missions could clearly deliver for the nation’s mental health. A minister could distract from that delivery.

MHP Group’s Public Affairs team has placed Labour’s missions under the microscope in:  “Mission accomplished – MHP’s guide on what to expect from a Labour government”. Read it here

Starmer puts Labour front bench on election footing

Posted on: September 5th, 2023 by Morgan Arnold

Keir Starmer readied his party for the election today, as he carried out his long-awaited reshuffle just the nine months after it was first mooted. However, what it lacked in timeliness, it made up for in scale and scope. The reshuffle follows months of speculation that Angela Rayner could be moved as Starmer attempts to slim down his team to mirror that of the government before the next election. Senior party insiders wanted to avoid a repeat of the chaotic 2021 reshuffle in which Rayner was initially demoted but then given an expanded brief. Remember, she’s directly elected deputy leader by the members.

However, Rayner’s move to shadow deputy prime minister and shadow levelling-up secretary demonstrates that her relationship with the leader has considerably improved; this is a clear promotion and an excellent brief for her, marrying well with her avowedly northern working-class roots which plays well in the media. It’s not without merit – Rayner has been loyal to Starmer, not only toeing the line on the two-child limit, but also with her CBI speech in March on the future of work and in her parroting of the Party’s fiscal lines without complaint.

She takes this role from Lisa Nandy who was moved to the international development brief, a ‘bruising’ demotion amid a reshuffle in which the fortunes of MPs on the Blairite right of the party largely prospered at the expense of those seen as being more on the centre-left. The international development is now part of the Foreign Office, but Nandy will still attend shadow cabinet.

A particularly interesting move is Pat McFadden to shadow cabinet office minister and Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator – putting him at the helm for Labour’s election drive. Moreover, if Labour gets into government he’d essentially be in charge of the machinery of government. McFadden is an established party figure, and he’s on board with Starmer’s vision. He has been a right-hand man to Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, these last few years. The high tax, low growth attack on the government was his brainchild and it destabilised the Tories ahead of the leadership race. Labour are gearing up to fight.

Darren Jones takes over from him as shadow chief secretary to the treasury – no real surprise, as he was tipped for promotion after putting in what many thought was a good performance as a committee chair.

Peter Kyle’s promotion to shadow minister for science, innovation and technology is also well deserved; he made the Northern Ireland brief something of an international brief, using it as an opportunity to connect with Joe Biden’s team, and position Labour as a party with serious international ideas. He’s smart, and is expected to make an impression in his new role.

On the way down, Steve Reed moves from shadow justice to shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, a demotion following a reputation as being ineffectual, and similarly a demotion for Ashworth, who becomes shadow paymaster general in the cabinet office – also struggling under a reputation for in-action.

This reshuffle has been about balance for Starmer, but if Louise Haigh doesn’t get a promotion that will mean the three big soft-left players will have been demoted, grumbling may follow. Liz Kendall and Hillary Benn also have returned to Cabinet, showing a willingness to reposition the shadow cabinet to suit the needs of a party on an election footing.

Out of the shadow cabinet entirely are Preet Gill, Jim McMahon, and Rosena Allin-Khan, who published a  resignation letter that is being received as churlish or scathing depending on who you ask (“You do not see a space for a mental health portfolio in a Labour cabinet”).

The changes so far

  • Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has been given the levelling up brief
  • Lisa Nandy, previously shadow levelling up secretary, has been moved to international development, taking over from Preet Gill Kaur
  • Liz Kendall, previously a shadow health minister and a former Labour leadership candidate, is made shadow work and pensions secretary. She replaces Jonathan Ashworth
  • Ashworth becomes shadow paymaster general in the cabinet office
  • Thangam Debbonaire, previously shadow leader of the House of Commons, moves to shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport, taking over from Lucy Powell in a direct job swap
  • Steve Reed has been appointed shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, after Jim McMahon stood aside due to ill health
  • Hillary Benn returns to the shadow cabinet as shadow Northern Ireland secretary
  • Peter Kyle, who previously covered Benn’s new brief, has been appointed shadow secretary of state for science, innovation and technology
  • Shabana Mahmood becomes shadow secretary of state for justice, replacing Reed
  • Pat McFadden has been appointed as shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Labour’s national campaign coordinator, roles previously held by Rayner and Mahmood respectively
  • Darren Jones is now shadow chief secretary to the treasury, taking over from McFadden
  • Nick Thomas-Symonds becomes shadow minister without portfolio in the cabinet office

A month of Mischief, August 2023

Posted on: September 1st, 2023 by Morgan Arnold

Welcome to A Month of Mischief,  a monthly take on the hottest passions gripping the nation, along with the latest Mischief news.

Read on for what brands can learn from this year’s festival season as it draws to a close; see how we got the nation talking about Team GB and the Olympics with a year to go, and why we’ve created a giant bowl pit in Victoria Park…

The Passion Perspective

Unpredictable weather, warm bottles of beer and portaloos, it can only mean we’re in the throes of festival season. The annual extravaganza of sound and culture not only draws fervent crowds seeking sonic euphoria but also provides the perfect opportunity for brands to tap into something their audience love. It’s a big, big market, and is only getting bigger. So here’s three considerations for brands wanting to headline festival season…

Speak to Your Festival Tribe

From the hedonistic hippy fields of Glastonbury to the EDM fuelled crowds of Creamfields there’s a festival for everyone, which means there’s a pretty big space for brands to play in. However, festival fans are very passionate – each will tell you that their choice of festival is best, and it almost becomes part of their identity, so to get authentic cut-through, brands have to get it right.

So how do they do this? By being a part of, and bettering the festival experience in a way that isn’t invasive but supportive, much like supermarket chain Co-op, and their pop-ups at festivals across the UK including Latitude, Glastonbury and Download amongst others. Not only are they conveniently placed, constantly restocked and take card payments, they also mean people don’t have to carry as much with them and can get all the beer, loo roll and bottled water they need on site – providing a better experience.

The sheer quantity of festival activations has meant that brands need to go above and beyond to get cut-through, create talkability and have impact, otherwise you get lost in the crowd.

Entertain, Entertain, Entertain

We go to festivals for entertainment, so if your brand activation is entertaining, it’s more likely to go down well and get that real engagement. If your activation is bettering an experience it’s going to have a lot more impact.

Coachella is rife with brand activations, from secret gardens to prop sets and art installations, however they all provide something that bolsters the consumer experience rather than detracts from it. For example, Nylon House by Samsung, acted as a VIP area with exclusive sets by the best DJs meaning festival goers *wanted* to be in the space.

Find the Passion Within the Passion

Festivals have become about more than just the music. Take food as an example – you can get everything from buddha bowls to loaded lobster tails. It really is a foodies’ dream – especially important after a long day of drinking and dancing in the sun. This is something Domino’s recognised and provided in spectacular fashion at Glastonbury this year, when it surprised and delighted festival goers with jetpack deliveries. Now we all know it was a PR stunt and wasn’t actually a service, but the insight was spot on and the delivery (excuse the pun) was fun – what’s more they weren’t even an official partner, which shows how a good creative that resonates with an audience can steal SOV without the need for expensive sponsorships.

Equally, fashion and make-up is also an intrinsic part of the festival experience, a passion within a passion, and one thing our in-crowd insights revealed was that flower crowns are back…

This Month at Mischief

Festivals & Flower Crowns With Three

To help maximise Three’s partnership with Live Nation, we have been spending the summer traveling from festival to festival,  capturing content for social, driving awareness of Three’s 3+ app and hosting media and influencers on the exclusive Three viewing platforms.

To ensure a big bang of media coverage amongst all the hosting, we tapped into a festival trend that shows no sign of stopping – flower crowns. Racking up 9.7 million hashtags on TikTok alone, we worked with Moon Pig, who are one of Three’s 3+ partners, to offer flower crown workshops to consumers – first hosted at Three’s flagship store, and then again at Latitude, with the workshops fronted by none other than ethereal fashion icon, Daisy Lowe.

We landed three exclusive interviews with Daisy, who also supported the campaign on socials, bringing her 425k followers in on the festival fun.

Team GB Needs You

With less than a year to go until the 2024 Paris Olympics, we were tasked with drumming up support for our very own Team GB, getting the nation stuck into the Olympic spirit.

We created an extraordinary opportunity to be a real part of the team, offering 5-11 year olds throughout the country a once in a lifetime chance to become an official ‘Mini Mascot’. Recruiting Team GB hero, Helen Glover as the face of the campaign, we launched our search for five Mini Mascots, encouraging adults to nominate young people for this money-can’t-buy prize.

The launch generated over 200 pieces of coverage across national, consumer and regional titles, and has so far seen thousands of entries roll in!

PetPlan Introduces the Bowl Pit

With recent data highlighting a significant number of animal owners were worried about providing for their pets due to the cost of Living crisis, Petplan joined forces with FareShare, Battersea, Cats Protection, and Dogs Trust to form The Pet Food Partnership.

To announce Petplan’s £100,000 donation, we launched the ‘Bowl Pit’ – a giant ball pit, mimicking a dog food bowl, stationed in Victoria Park. Emphasising the importance of every dog needing a happy, healthy mealtime, the Bowl Pit was open to the public – or rather… their dogs – who could play whilst their owners donated via QR codes,

We captured adorable video content of pups playing and launched on ‘National Spoil Your Dog’ day. Media went wild for the content across social and digital channels, appearing within the likes of Metro, Independent and Daily Express.

Mischief Musings

Find out why Josie, Senior Director at Mischief, thinks brands need to be less Drake and not let budgets be the reason their audience is passionate from miles away and passive with the things they say.

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