In what has undoubtedly been an unprecedented time for everyone on a global scale, we are now in the midst of adjusting to a new kind of normal. Whether that means having to be absent from work altogether or continuing to carry out work duties from our own homes, there have certainly been many challenges during the month of March.

At Wavemaker, our Futuremakers are now all undertaking remote working, as is most of the media and marketing industry. So how have we adapted and what impact has Coronavirus had amongst the public?

We’ve gathered the most interesting developments across the sector this month. So, grab a cuppa and read on below.

Disney+ to the rescue

We’ve been keeping a close eye on media consumption trends since the COVID-19 outbreak and we can see that TV and VOD have experienced the most significant changes. No doubt because we are spending more time in our homes than ever before.

Hotly anticipated, Disney+ launched its streaming service on Tuesday 24th March in the UK and Europe and is set to launch in France in another two weeks’ time. With an estimated 5 million paid subscribers in Western Europe expected by the end of the year, it’s being tipped as somewhat of a saviour during this difficult period.

Nevertheless, video streaming platforms are facing obstacles of their own. With so much demand, many are being forced to reduce video quality. Disney+ will now feature a lower overall bandwidth utilisation by at least 25%.

Who are the TV and VOD winners so far? ITV Hub total viewing is up 39%, Sky Media Set Top Box viewing up 17%, Simulcast viewing up 60% and All4 viewing up 15% WoW (figures correct up to March 18th, 2020).

In other news, Sky has announced that Sky Go Extra will now be available for all customers at no charge, as well as universal cinema releases becoming available on Sky Store.

Twitter prioritises verified accounts

On Saturday the 21st March, Twitter released a public service announcement stating to users that tweets regarding the COVID-19 pandemic from verified accounts, will be prioritised over regular accounts.

In addition to this, Twitter is actively scouring their platform in order to identify experts on the matter in order to verify their accounts. This is different from their previous verification process, in which you had to be a recognisable figure with a relatively large presence.

This is being done in order to provide users with the most reliable information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic as possible, and – if they can verify a lot of experts – the most up to date news and information on the matter.

The verification process will also be sped up for accounts which are created with email addresses belonging to a credible organisation, in which their employees could be considered as experts in the field. It is also necessary for the account to provide a link back to their institution in their bio, and for their profile to be linked to from the institution’s website.

Twitter is also considering introducing a way to take public suggestions for experts to highlight, rather than just consulting a handful of institutions.

Communication in the Coronavirus Crisis

With fear and mixed messages spreading on social media, communication in times of the Coronavirus outbreak is critical. Even companies who may think they have nothing to do with the virus will find themselves needing to relay information. Public Relations needs to work harder than ever, to convey calm.

A survey by Campaign found that communications need to be three things; frequent, transparent and accurate. All companies should:

  • Be informed and ready to act – Monitor the media and consistently engage with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Consider boosting CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) – Upping donations to organisations such as the Red Cross.
  • Counter misinformation – Position themselves as a source of information that employees and customers can rely on.

In times of public health crises, there should be a 3E approach:

  • Empathy – Keep communications empathetic and reflecting trust in the future.
  • Engage – Engage with stakeholders to inspire confidence and offer support.
  • Educate – Use multiple channels to educate stakeholders on criticality, managing the crises and the actions taken.

This helps brands provide support to organisations such as the Government and the World Health Organisation by amplifying correct information and kicking fake news to the curb.

Circulation resilient as the UK reverts to trusted journalism

Despite social distancing measures, news brands continue to circulate well, maintaining and in some cases growing their audiences despite the changes required to distribution.

Early signs show that newsstand newspapers have seen small spikes in sales of 1-3% as readers increasingly seek out trusted content. Print demand has been further enhanced with initiatives such as delivermynewspaper.co.uk and local delivery services offering routes for readers to continue to receive the papers without leaving home – for free.

However, Freesheets appear to be most affected because of lower commuter levels and smaller footfall at key pickup points. But they have shown some resilience with updated distribution plans, focussed primarily on getting into homes and supermarkets.

Similarly, the online traffic of news brands has surged, through both audiences seeking out trusted content and increased referral traffic from Social media platforms.

Google to introduce Government advertising restrictions

Google Ads are implementing a new policy, which comes into effect in May, which bans advertising for Government documents and services. In fact, rather than this being a new policy, Google Ads are simply adding Government documents and services to their existing ‘other restricted business policy’. This is essentially a combined list of ‘restricted business’ items or services which Google is refusing to allow advertisements for. The reason for this can vary from item to item.

This ban does not just apply to third party business who go about providing a Government service, but to the Government itself. A couple of examples for said documents are passports, driving licenses, marriage certificates and visas. This is being implemented regardless of the cost of said document or service.

If you have a client that provides Government documents or services, then you may have to reconsider your advertising budget, as you will not be able to run ads for their product as of May 26th.

Hidden puzzle game injects fun into new music launch

Canadian alternative music duo Purity Ring had been almost silent on social media since the release of 2015 LP ‘Another Eternity’, leading fans to speculate their separation. Hence, the update of their web address in February at first seemed like an error, since for mobile users, this led to a grainy photo, a GIF and an unclickable pop-up box: essentially, every web designers’ worst nightmare.

It was only when a fan opened the site on a desktop that they discovered, through clicking randomly, that each image contained a ‘key’, unlocking another collage of photos. Word spread of a click-through maze, leading to new music. Click through the correct chain of images and lyric snippets without hitting any traps and unlock ‘Pink Lightning’: an exclusive preview of the lead single from their upcoming album, ‘WOMB’, arriving in April.

The maze has proven challenging: keys can be as arbitrary as a branch in an image of dense forest. But with the help of international coverage and lengthy Twitter threads, even a forum dedicated to solving the maze on Discord, on 18/3, the band announced 1,000 diligent fans had unlocked Pink Lightning, and the song was released digitally as a reward.

Brands need to adopt Maslow’s Theory during COVID-19

According to the COVID-19 barometer study by Kantar in what is such an uncertain time for people and brands alike, the adoption of Maslow’s theory is now more important than ever before to consumers. This is because people worry about people and expect companies to do the same in these trying times.

This is forcing brands to act, with Pret, Alibaba, BrewDog and Facebook amongst those leading the charge. But brands should act with caution as to not come across as disingenuous with good acts or even worse, appear to be profiting on the back of a pandemic.

With many of us recognising the need to comfort and protect our valuable frontline medical professionals, brands have been quick to help if they can. From L’Occitane sending out hand creams to various chains offering free hot drinks and sizeable food discounts, we have some truly lovely acts.

BrewDog has made lots of headlines this month by switching up its usual distilling facilities to instead make more hand sanitiser at a time when stocks had become low to non-existent. They have since announced that they will be sending out free supplies to NHS Grampian, children’s charity Aberlour and ARCHIE, the official charity of Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital. I’m sure we will see lots more companies following suit in the coming weeks in order to help where they can.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s instalment. Keep your eyes peeled on the blog for weekly updates on all things media during the Coronavirus outbreak. If you have any questions, please get in touch with our experts here.