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As you probably noticed we recently relaunched Brand Republic blogs to a new platform. Keeping it simple, we moved to Word Press, which is a much easier to use and more flexible system than we previously had.

The move has meant some change to how contributors to Comment Central blog. In future if you would like to blog here what you now need to do in the first instance is drop our social media editor, Gordon MacMillan, an email and we will set you up and account. After that you will be free to post as before.

Branding Brexit: the comms strategy failures around the EU referendum

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By Sammy Mansourpour, Managing Director, AgencyUK

Nine minutes before Boris Johnson publicly declared which side he was backing in Britain’s referendum on membership of the European Union, he texted David Cameron to let him know – “Dave, I’m backing Brexit. Soz.” Or words to that effect. It was less than ten minutes before the media-at-large knew.

This was the part of the process of preparation for the announcement, apparently taken after ‘enormous heartache’. Does it sound like a course of action followed by a decisive and committed campaign spokesperson? Not exactly.

Irrespective of your political view, the communications strategies (or lack thereof) around the EU referendum have been a litany of failures.

Grassroots and leave
BoJo’s announcement wasn’t a tidy affair, not much involving the former London Mayor is, but it felt like a kind of campaign ‘kick-off’ for the Brexit movement. Which perhaps added to the general sense of confusion around the campaign’s communications, typified by the fall out of which Brexit campaign got dubbed to be ‘official’.

‘Vote Leave’, the Johnson and Michael Gove backed campaign, was given the honour, beating Nigel Farage and Peter Bone’s ‘Grassroots Out’. It was a narrow margin of 45 to 49 on the Electoral Commission’s criteria, itself indicative of the lack of a through line communications strategy on part of the Brexiters.

What is particularly odd is the fact that the EC stated greater public backing as the key differentiator. How could Farage, who it must be said has been the most vocal anti-EU proponent over the last few years, end up backing the losing horse?

Complacent, or just unexciting?
Which isn’t to say that the ‘leave’ camp has been alone in making mistakes through the course of this campaign. For transparency, I should say that I am firmly pro-remain. But I have remained firmly uninspired by my side’s campaigning.

Perhaps it’s just that the old ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ message is difficult to communicate in a non-patronising way. Perhaps it’s simply because the sensible option is always going to sound less exciting.

Which leads me to the question I keep asking myself – where is the fun in this referendum?

Black and white ‘facts’
There should be plenty of scope in the topic for humour. Why hasn’t anyone taken the sting out of the tail of the debate with a bit of whimsy? And not of the ‘Accidental Partridge’ kind Farage’s flotilla delivered. Satire is a powerful political weapon, and both sides of this referendum are ripe for sending up.

From social media, think of the political memes we’ve had in recent years; David Cameron in airbrushed for change, BoJo on a zip wire photoshop wars, “I agree with Nick”, Milifandom. This referendum has had none of that, and in its place has been monotonous furrow browed debate.

Very arguably, the complexity of the issues at stake here is deserving of seriousness. But it is a complex debate with many perspectives – it’s shades of grey, while the media’s treatment has been black and white. The national news organisations picked their predictable sides, and have done nothing but throw (supposed) evidence based arguments at their opponents, leaving many an average reader with a likely very blinkered view.

Then there is evidence that is getting thrown out of the window, with the UK Statistics Authority repeatedly decrying the leave campaign’s central ‘£350 million a week’ message. Even the facts can’t be communicated properly in this campaign.

Nothing to engage young voters
My main concern is that the outcome of this referendum could have serious consequences, and that none of the tactics deployed by either side seem to have engaged at a wider level. With the outcome likely to have such a longstanding impact, the younger voter you are, the are more impact this referendum will have on you.

And what are the campaigns doing to engage younger voters? Well this is where the impartial Electoral Commission really takes the biscuit, in attempting to inject the humour so lacking in the opposing sides’ messaging. Its ‘#BoatyMcBoatface’ campaign was not only patronising (do young people need the election turned into a joke, or do they need the issues relevant to them communicated properly?) and desperate seeming, it’s literally a real life version of a Private Eye spoof.

As I’ve mentioned, this is a complex debate, and given we rarely get perfectly delivered communications campaigns from our political leaders when they’re on designated political teams, it’s hardly surprising that it’s a bit of a mess when they are working in hurried cross-party alliances. But the complexity is exactly the reason why that’s worrying – young voters have not been engaged, the electorate at large has been stood in the middle of a slinging match of muddied truths, unable to decipher fact from fiction.

Clear marketing communications have an important function, particularly in the political sphere where the outcome is of such gravity. Where intelligent communications strategies should have been cutting through the noise, we’ve had negative campaigning – embittered, repetitive shouting to get heard. I can’t help but feel that both sides of the Brexit camp have failed their voters in this referendum.

AgencyUK delivers integrated campaign for Chang Beer

Comedian Ed Gamble in the Chang Lager tuk-tuk at Machynlleth Comedy Festival,  30th April - 1st May 2016

Comedian Ed Gamble in the Chang Lager tuk-tuk at Machynlleth Comedy Festival, 30th April – 1st May 2016

Earlier this year ThaiBev-owned brand Chang Beer appointed Bath-based marketing firm AgencyUK to run an integrated PR, social media, creative and experiential marketing campaign to increase awareness of the product and its new SKU.

Using the “refreshingly Thai” strapline, AgencyUK organised a series of events to create a greater awareness of the brand and showcase its iconic new bottle design to wider UK audiences, supported with Social and PR activity.

The campaign was kicked off with a launch event hosted on London’s South Bank. More than 150 people attended the reveal of the iconic new bottle. Visitors to the launch event, which took place at the Bargehouse in Oxo Tower, were served bottles of the new Chang Beer from an impressive bar designed to emulate a Thai boxing ring. Over 750 bottles of the lager beer were enjoyed by attendees, paired with freshly made Thai canapes from London’s Thai pop-up restaurant Farang. Seb Holmes, Head chef of Farang, confirmed that nearly 800 canapes were served from the Thai menu.

Entertainment was provided in the form of a magician who performed tricks featuring the new bottle. A street artist topped off the evening with a live, dramatic painting of the new bottle. Chang Beer was also joined by notable guests, including members of the Thai Embassy and Everton Football Club legends (Chang Beer has been the primary shirt sponsor of Everton Football Club for over 11 years).

Following the trade focused launch, the consumer facing campaign to generate awareness for Chang Beer and its new packaging amongst the lager’s target audience in the UK, included sponsorship of Machynlleth Comedy Festival. As official beer partner at Machynlleth Comedy Festival, Chang was the only lager to be served on site. The sponsorship included a fully branded, Chang-only bar, a Chang Tuk Tuk that transported comedians across the site, a live artist who painted a Bangkok cityscape behind the new green bottle on the wall of the Chang-branded bar and a lock-in comedy gig with top name comedians that could only be attended by attendees winning tickets via a social media competition on Chang Beer’s social pages.

The final piece of activity AgencyUK devised was a PR stunt and experiential activity entitled “massage in a bottle” in London’s Westfield Stratford Shopping Centre, Europe’s largest urban shopping and leisure destination. Over 1000 shoppers were offered samples of Chang Beer, as well as Thai-style massages in the giant Chang “bottle” that was designed and built for the event. The event also involved the launch of an online competition, where consumers are encouraged to share pictures of themselves on social media wearing a “Chang smile” beer mat. The competition is to run for six weeks, with the beer mats being placed in Thai restaurants in London and beyond. The winners will receive two return flights to Thailand.

All planned activity has been supported with ongoing community management of Chang Beer’s UK social media channels, ensuring that fresh and exciting content is being delivered across the brand’s various platforms. The PR activity resulted in 1.10 million opportunities to see and continues to rise.

Eleanor Huddart, Marketing Manager, Chang Beer, said: “After celebrating more than two decades of Chang Beer, we have refreshed our packaging to reflect the ever-changing face of the land of smiles. Our new premium look has been crafted in rich emerald green glass, with elegant contours and expert embossing that provide a contemporary twist on our proud heritage – the perfect match to not only our refreshed logo, but also to our crisp brew and the tastes of modern Thailand.

AUK has proven throughout the planning, execution and post-event phases of Chang Beer’s new SKU launch campaign that they are a creative and dynamic integrated marketing communications agency that is not afraid to break boundaries with their ideas. They have been a pleasure to work with throughout the campaign period and ensured that all events and activities ran to achieve the best possible results.’’


Saman Mansourpour, Managing Director, AgencyUK, said:
“We’re thrilled to have expanded our portfolio of Food & Drink clients with our recent activity with Chang Beer. After being awarded with Food & Drink campaign of the year at The Drum Network Awards in December for our work with Welsh Lamb, we were very confident that we could deliver a campaign of a high calibre, and we’re very pleased with the results.”

AgencyUK’s Antibiotic awareness campaign receives national award for its community focus

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A campaign created by AgencyUK to help tackle antibiotic resistance through educating parents has just received national recognition at the Antibiotic Guardian awards. The award comes as news of a ‘dramatic’ reduction in antibiotic prescription has been announced by the NHS this week.

The news of the reduction follows the campaign which aimed to increase awareness about the effective use and side effects of antibiotics, and provide effective tips for caring for children suffering from some common childhood illnesses.

The Listen to Your Gut campaign, which was co-produced by parents at a North Devon Children’s centre alongside Devon County Council and health partners from Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust and NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NHS NEW Devon CCG), won the Community Category at the Antibiotic Guardians awards in Birmingham on Friday 13 May.

AgencyUK undertook the planning and execution of the award winning campaign, involving animation, social media, PPC and display advertising. A microsite was also created to help change the way parents view the role of antibiotics in treating common illnesses such as coughs and colds. Social media messages were used to start conversations about caring for a young child with a viral infection, and provide information on how antibiotics can damage gut flora that supports good health, when not used properly.

The project has been developed to be part of the national Antibiotic Guardian campaign and is now widely used in other parts of England.

Dr Tom Lewis, consultant microbiologist for Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, said: “This campaign is all about raising awareness, so it is fantastic that it has been recognised on a national level.

“There is lots of new research that suggests that losing our healthy bugs can make us more likely to develop a wide range of illnesses, including diabetes. Many people do not realise that taking antibiotics can kill healthy bugs too. This campaign is helping us to get this important message across so that people only use antibiotics when they really need them.”

Devon County Councillor Andrea Davis was also part of the campaign, sporting her ‘gut face’ which formed part of the social media interaction.

“We are very proud of this campaign, because it was the result of genuine collaboration and innovation from all the partners involved. The heart of this work and the driving force behind its success were the Ilfracombe children’s centre and the community of mums, who shaped the campaign and really got behind it.”

The national Antibiotic Guardian campaign is inviting the public, students and educators, farmers, the veterinary and medical communities and professional organisations, to all become Antibiotic Guardians by choosing one pledge about how they will make better use of antibiotics and help save these vital medicines from becoming obsolete.

For further information go to www.listentoyourgut.org.uk and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36372617

Hornby posters scoop international D&AD award

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Hornby’s spoof passenger information posters on station platforms campaign has been awarded the highest accolade in world advertising, winning a coveted pencil at the annual D&AD awards in London.

The ‘Station Posters’ campaign, created by Bath based AgencyUK, was selected from over 24,000 entries from all over the globe. D&AD – the Design and Art Directors Association – is the high mark in brand creativity, embracing all aspects of advertising and design. The judging is notoriously rigorous and a D&AD pencil is a hard-earned and highly prized measure of excellence.

The pencil was awarded to Hornby for Best Outdoor Poster Campaign of 2016. The campaign featured supposedly genuine information posters on railway platforms alerting commuters to bizarre delays: ‘The 11.43 from Bath has been derailed by the family cat.’ The judges recognised that it captured the charm and authenticity of an iconic British brand.

“In terms of creativity, it doesn’t get better than this,” said AgencyUK’s Creative Director Zane Radcliffe. “We’re very proud to see our Hornby work sharing a winner’s podium alongside giants like Coke, Burger King, Apple, Wrangler and Ikea. From the feedback we’ve been getting, it’s clear that there is a tremendous amount of affection for the Hornby brand.”

AgencyUK launches new product ranges for Pestle Herbs

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The misery of summertime itching , sleepless nights and endless winter sniffles could be left behind as AgencyUK launch a series of new product ranges from online e-tailer, Pestle Herbs, with a targeted digital campaign. The campaign follows the agency’s appointment earlier this year to develop brand strategy and manage brand communications.

www.pestleherbs.co.uk fills the gap for consumers who are looking to introduce a level of natural living into their everyday lives. Pestle has been launched to benefit from a huge increase in demand in the UK, like that seen in the US and mainland Europe, for herbal products and homemade herbal remedies such as the use of dried Echinacea as an immune system booster, Milk Thistle for detoxing or rubbing an Arnica salve on to bruises or weary muscles. Delivered by AgencyUK, the brand’s new campaign includes comprehensive audience segmentation helping to inform the online advertising, search and email campaign strategy. Consumers will be targeted on their behavioural preferences when either engaging in, or searching for, content related to their interest or ‘condition’, from herbal Hay Fever remedies to products for insomnia and first aid.

Since its launch, Pestle Herbs has already made significant strides in building a database of loyal customers. The company allows for customers to choose from a selection of ethically-sourced, organic dried herbs and make the preparation, infusion, decoction or tincture, that’s just right for them. Every product is hand-selected, from the leading natural health and beauty brands, and have all been made with natural ingredients and no chemicals.

New products include an oral relief Hay Fever spray as well as a “do-it-yourself” herb First Aid kit for those who wish create their own remedies at home, appealing to consumers who like to know exactly what’s in their product and save money by making en masse.

Earlier this year, AgencyUK were appointed to develop the Pestle Herbs brand strategy as well as roll-out the new website user interface and all future Social, PR and advertising communications.

Matthew March-Smith, Managing Director, Pestle Herbs, said:

“The successful digital campaign has allowed us to precisely target consumers who desire to know and understand what is in their products and where they come from, and therefore facilitate the growth of our increasing loyal customer base.”

Sammy Mansourpour, Managing Director, AgencyUK, said:

“Audience segmentation has helped us to create an informed and successful campaign. Pestle Herb’s target consumers are vocal, keen to learn, hungry for content and eager to share and our campaign has allowed for Pestle Herb’s to reach out directly to them.”

AgencyUK helps charity Send a Cow raise over £2.3million

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Last October AgencyUK was appointed by international development charity Send a Cow to promote their Christmas fundraising campaign.

The Bath-based charity’s campaign was given extra impetus as the Government had agreed to match every donation, £1 for £1 until December 31st 2015.

The Planting Hope campaign kicked off with a Guinness World Record attempt for the longest selfie chain. Whilst in the line, hundreds of participants held up signs with their ‘hope’ for the future and uploaded their pictures to social media using the hashtag #PlantingHope. There was a dedicated text number where people could donate to Send a Cow.

To maximise the Government’s pledge, and to promote the charity’s Christmas catalogue, Agency planned a second burst of activity closer to the festive period.

Agency produced an 80 second spoof documentary film ‘Panto Farm’ which invited viewers to ‘turn panto season into planting season in Africa’ by visiting sendacowgifts.org and gifting more practical items at Christmas including seeds and tools – to help African families become self-sufficient. With the help of celebrities including Ab Fab actress and SAC supporter Joanna Lumley sharing on social media, the video amassed over 9,000 views in just a few days.

#Panto Farm’ was shot as a spoof documentary starring a rural cattle farmer – played by actor Marc Danbury who has also appeared in Casualty, The Bill and Johnny English – who breeds pantomime cows for panto season.

Thanks to supporters and partners like Agency, Send a Cow’s Planting Hope Appeal raised £1.17million, every penny of which will be doubled by the UK government to fund a new project in Wolayita, southern Ethiopia.

Wolayita is a mountainous area 300km from the capital Addis Ababa, where households are dependent on their small farms for their livelihoods, but have insufficient food due to poor yields. Families experience chronic hunger for more than five months a year. Starting in July 2016, Send a Cow will use funds from the Planting Hope Appeal to train 5,870 families over three years, giving them the skills and confidence to farm their land and provide a secure and hopeful future.

AgencyUK Rides High With Hat Trick Sports Brand Portfolio Wins

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AgencyUK have introduced 3 new sports brands to their portfolio of clients following a focused new business campaign ahead of Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Ride Smart, Jon Pitts Human Performance and Flora Harris Eventing are all well known brands among the equestrian elite athlete fraternity. Each has appointed AgencyUK to the planning and delivery of their digital strategies as well as enhancing their web presence ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

“We appointed AgencyUK based on their integrated services and first-in-class capabilities when it comes to preparing a robust long-term digital strategy and web presence. We have been fully engaged with their user experience process as well as their approach to web design and development” says Nicola Tym, Head of Marketing Ride Smart.

AgencyUK have been developing their expertise with performance sports brands since 2014 and will soon welcome a number of other Olympic brands into the agency.

“We’re lucky because we’re based in Bath, and the University is a hub for performance sports having hosted a number training camps during London 2012. The facilities and athletes that train here are world class. Bath University is currently host to the Australian Rugby Team, who have been training here for the past two weeks.” says Sammy Mansourpour, Managing Director AgencyUK.

AgencyUK have had a run of successful client wins in 2015, across a number of industry sectors, such as food, drink, gaming and financial services. They have also been ranked the UK’s No.1 Independent Agency in the National Drum Census for the second year, an accolade never before achieved by an agency residing outside London.

Practically perfect appointment for AgencyUK

8.2.16 - Corsham.The launch a new one hour training programme by Norland Nannies entitled ‘Internet in Our Children’s World’ which aims to keep children safer online at Corsham Primary School. With pupils Evie year six (11) and Jake year five (10) arefrom left, Kerry Parker, head of school, Lauren Sherrin and Claire Burgess from Norland Nannies.Photo: Professional Images/@ProfImages

Award-winning communications firm AgencyUK has been appointed by fellow Bath brand Norland College to look after future PR campaigns.

Norland College has trained Nannies and Childcare professionals for over 120 years and appointed AgencyUK’s Social and PR team to handle the media launch of the college’s latest initiative, a training programme to help children stay safe when online.

Norland College has worked with Corsham Primary School in Wiltshire to develop a pilot training programme for teachers, teaching assistants, parents and children. ‘Internet in our children’s world’ was launched ahead of Safer Internet Day on Tuesday 9th February.

Unlike other training and resources offered in the UK, Norland’s training looks at internet safety from the child’s perspective. Once the pilot phase is complete, Norland plans to roll the training programme out nationwide. Norland College will also deliver the programme to its own students many of whom are training to be Norland Nannies.

Norland Nanny and Early Years Consultant at Norland College, Claire Burgess said:
“In a world where children are teaching adults how to use technology, how are adults able to safeguard children from this exposure? We want to strike a balance that keeps children safe without holding them back from using the internet altogether for educational and entertainment purposes.”

AgencyUK Social & PR Director, Lucy Aston added:
“AgencyUK is thrilled to be working with such a prestigious and respected brand as Norland College. We are all aware of the potential dangers for young people growing up in an online-saturated world. Internet safety when it comes to children is quite rightly a hot topic at the moment, and the training programme Norland has put together has been of great interest to the press.”

The news follows last month’s recent client win for AgencyUK, when it was appointed by founder and serial entrepreneur Mathew March-Smith to launch Pestle Herbs, his latest venture catering to the increasingly aware ethical consumer.

AgencyUK Appointed to Launch e-Tailer PestleHerbs.co.uk.

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AgencyUK have been appointed by founder and serial entrepreneur Mathew March-Smith to launch Pestle Herbs, his latest venture catering to the increasingly aware ethical consumer. Mathew has a string of successes under his belt, including a leading London digital agency and the much-revered PongCheese.co.uk.

PestleHerbs.co.uk is a unique online business that fills the retail gap for consumers who are looking to introduce a level of natural living into their everyday lives. AgencyUK have been appointed to develop the Pestle Herbs brand strategy as well as roll-out the new website user interface and all future Social, PR and advertising communications.

The website itself focuses on herbs, their unique properties when it comes to human health, as well as their role in everyday household items, from luxury products to cleaning aids. For example, visitors to the site are able to purchase herbs and the required ingredients that enables them to make their very own household cleaning products, or choose pre-packaged items for their convenience that have already been carefully vetted by the Pestle Herbs team.

Matthew March-Smith, Managing Director, Pestle Herbs, said:

“We have been aware for some time that there is a desire from many people in the UK to know and understand what is in their products and where the ingredients come from. It is a step towards a healthier way of life and independence from the conglomerates that might corner us in the supermarkets. Pestle Herbs is a place where likeminded people can gather. We needed an agency that understood our market, and AgencyUK are unique in their approach to digital consumer centricity. They also came recommended – and are a totally nice bunch!”


Sammy Mansourpour, Managing Director, AgencyUK, said:

“We can see there is an active marketplace, and we already have considerable experience marketing to this consumer profile often referred to as Cultural Creatives. They are vocal, keen to learn, hungry for content and eager to share. So working with the Pestle Herbs team feels like a natural fit for us.”

The news follows a series of client wins for AgencyUK which span a number of industry sectors, such as food, drink, gaming and financial services.

Sammy M: Marketing trends to look out for in 2016

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AgencyUK Managing Director, Sammy Mansourpour, looks to 2016 and discusses what trends he thinks will be big over the next year.

There are 3 big marketing trends currently underway and I think we’re likely to see significant momentum in the coming year, so it’s worth getting up to speed with them.

  1. Marketing Automation

or the “not-so-simple” dream combination of building your sales pipeline using software

Marketing automation has been largely pioneered by organisations like Amazon, and it’s the process of using software to nurture prospects and turn them into customers. It starts with building a prospects database – then you can use all sorts of communications from email to social media, all of which plug into the prospect journey over time.

The great thing about marketing automation is that there are now really affordable software platforms available, such as Marketo and Act-On.  It is becoming easier to integrate the principles of marketing automation into much smaller organisations, and you don’t need to sell online to be able to apply them.

However, marketing automation has become a bit of a buzzword, and getting it right takes time and lots of testing and applied learning. It works well with B2C but has a way to go before we see it relevantly applied to B2B.

But we’re sure to see some vast improvements in 2016 as the software becomes hardy and the knowledge base to set it up becomes wider.

  1. Programmatic Marketing

or “problematic marketing” for those brands who fail to keep up

Long gone are the days of finger picking TV media schedules and tactically buying advertising based on a negotiation over lunch at The Ivy. Today, the world of automation has seeped into media channels, where it is now possible to automate the buying, placement and optimisation of media inventory. Think Google Adwords but applied to everything. In fact Marketing Week has reported that UK programmatic marketing is receiving such significant investment that it is likely to increase to 66.2% (£1.8bn) of media placement in 2016. That’s 59% of the entire UK’s advertising spend, so it’s something to get on board with.

But for those brands failing to keep up, it’s going to get harder and harder to see the returns on their traditional marketing effort. So my prediction for 2016 is that many companies will start getting their ship in order, and we will finally start to see the back of traditional advertising, and instead integrating offline and online channels will finally start to make sense for most.

  1. Social Media

or it’s now all about “Content Curation” not “Content Generation”

Now that Social Media has been more appropriately segmented into Social Commerce, Social PR and Social Media Advertising, we can all finally start to make sense of the world, and the fact that Social Media is an effective way to build an “open source” database of prospects and customers.

But the past two years have seen brands clamber for control by coming up with news stories, comment pieces, thought pieces, blogs and even potentially “viral” content that is usually “zany” and “hopeful” before it crashes and burns.

The order we now have is that content is still linked to search rankings, but only if it’s useful and significant. So in 2016 I predict we will see far more brand managers thinking up ideas to generate really interesting and engaging content that’s meaningful and relevant. And when the sales team just want to bang out a few orders, then there’s room to seed a voucher or two and get those sales coming in. Thankfully we’ll see that work stream filed under Social Commerce, to eradicate any potential confusion with the quarterly results.