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By John McCarthy | Media editor

September 23, 2022 | 7 min read

The classified ad platform’s marketing boss Hannah Rouch talks us through the deal, which includes product placement and some quirky idents that she hopes will drive sustainable shopping.

Building upon its ‘Good Finds’ campaign, Gumtree has partnered with Channel 4 show Hollyoaks in a deal that will see it have a bespoke storyline written into the Chester-based soap opera. Its ambition, says chief marketing officer Hannah Rouch, is to drive traffic and engagement during a commerce-heavy Q4, when we’re seeing the consumer wallet under pressure.

Currently, Gumtree sees 9 million unique UK users a month and there are 1.8m classified ads live at any given time. It is aiming to increase the amount of gen Z users in particular, with Rouch saying: “We had huge brand awareness, but actually relatively low consideration, and particularly with 18-34-year-olds. We just weren’t talking to them. We needed to evolve our marketing mix.”

The partnership has been queued up for the back of Second Hand September and includes idents fresh off the line at Wieden+Kennedy. As well as narrative integration, Gumtree out-of-home (OOH) ads will be in shot, as well as numerous ‘Good Finds’ on the set. In addition, the Hollyoaks talent will be set ‘Flipping’ challenges to upcycle good in supplemental content for online and social.

In short, this is much more than a typical TV idents play.

The brief

A cost of living crisis paired with gen Z’s claims it wants to shop sustainably makes it the right time for Gumtree to embed with a beloved property, hitting home its message six days a week for the next four months.

“It gives us the sort of consistency and the reach and the frequency we need,” says Rouch.

The hope is to spark a brand association when the audience has those “little life moments like leaving home, going to university, getting their first car and more.” It calls the audience with this mindset ‘next efforts’ and they could be moving house, renovating, having a child or new empty-nesters.

People in transition in need of goods are the typical visitor – they’re generally infrequent in their visits and more often than not are currently in the 40-55 age range. And then there are the SMEs and casual sellers, which need a steady flow of demand to traverse into heavier users. Rouch expects to see casual sellers increasing their frequencies in the coming months.

Gumtree

On the media alone, Rouch believes she’s secured “great value,” but sees an additional uplift in the “shared values around sustainability.” The sustainable ‘re-commerce’ it is encouraging has also been well received on ITV’s Love Island via eBay, which chose runner-up Tasha Ghouri as its ambassador.

From its research, she pointed out for instance that students in the UK are operating off of around £50 disposable income. “They are going to be hard hit, if not the hardest hit, during this time.

“There’s a recognition of what our audience is going through at this time around the climate crisis and the cost of living crisis. We have a desire that we can help this audience live better and more affordably by championing a culture of re-commerce and shifting any stigma still around secondhand goods.”

At the core of the creative is an attempt to pinpoint that magic moment, that adrenaline rush that comes from getting a good deal, having a “nice exchange” and “helping the community out.”

Rouch adds: “You’ve done something good for waste reduction and for the planet too, it’s multi-layered.” And it’s Rouch’s hope that an extensive influencer partnership will show gen Z just how easy it is to list on Gumtree. Hopefully, the campaign will also encourage people to involve some craft in their upcycling efforts.

Data informing the sponsorship found that more than two-thirds (66%) of Brits have picked up an item for free during the past six months. People aged 25–34 are the most likely (54%) to show off their bargain purchases to friends and family. With the focus on that audience (it boasts a base of slightly older users at the moment), it could tap an audience that’s more likely to boast and post about their dealings and deliver stronger word of mouth.

But then why Hollyoaks?

As it enters its 27th year, the show had already expressed an interest in driving environmentally-friendly behaviors, and apparently that’s been exhibited in audience sentiments, with viewers more likely to buy secondhand clothes (8%) or look for environmentally-friendly products that save them money (22%) than the British average.

The show, taking a leaf out of Coronation Street’s efforts to monetize its high street with the inclusion of a Costa and a Co-op, introduced ‘The Grand Bazaar’ in 2019 – a shopping area filled with environmentally-friendly businesses to drive such conversations in the show. This meshes with its offscreen efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

Brand positioning

Meanwhile, Gumtree – now 20 years old – has been repositioning in the market since Rouch joined in January 2020, bringing fresh life into the classified ads category across its jobs, property and goods businesses. The company broadly competes with retailers such as Amazon, but in the secondhand market specifically at one end of the spectrum is eBay (where Rouch used to work) and Facebook Marketplace. Then, at the other, are trendy, niche apps such as Vinted for fashion. Due to the many businesses under its umbrella, there are a lot of supposed competitors. To beat them, the battle for gen Z has commenced.

It is now leaning into its multiplicity of positives now around sustainability, upcycling, value and creativity on platforms gen Z engages with. This includes Twitch, Spotify, podcasting and a London pop-up called GumFree.

But Rouch refuses to talk in terms of competition. She sees a sector set for a boom and welcomes the challenge, hoping that Gumtree can secure a greater share of a market the rivals are helping to build.

She concludes: “Circularity is our business model. We have been doing this since day one.”

For more on the evolution of e-commerce, check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive.

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