The relaxation of social distancing guidance is set to continue following the announcement that from Saturday 4 July, restaurants and pubs, museums, cinemas and hairdressers will all be allowed to re-open.

We’ve also seen the announcement of the creation of travel corridors, turning the opportunity of a Summer holiday season into reality.

This imminent return to near normality is starting to be reflected in media consumption too. This week, we wanted to look at how younger audiences have changed their media consumption patterns throughout this pandemic.


Lack of ITV2’s Love Island will hit linear audiences hardest

The lockdown restrictions had a dramatic effect on the viewing behaviour of 16-24s, reversing the decline in 2019 when total consolidated video viewing fell by 18%. It is now up 24% since Q1 2020 – an impressive 42-point swing.

Children and 25-34s trends were similar. It is, however, worth noting that even before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions escalated in the UK, the months of January and February had seen the rate of TV viewing decline slow down across almost all age categories, in contrast to the continuously steep decline exhibited across 2019.

Last week ITV announced that Love Island, a big hit for 16-34s, would not be getting the go-ahead until Summer 2021 despite originally planning to return with a 2020 winter edition. The lack of the flagship favourite has hit ITV2 viewership hard, with viewing to date in June down -66% against 16-34s. To plug this gap, Love Island: Australia is being aired but has had a relatively underwhelming impact to the schedule since it launched on Monday 15 June, delivering only 2.9 16-34 TVRs (414,000 16-34s) –a fraction of the 13 TVRs achieved by the launch episode of last year’s Winter Love Island.

Although younger audiences watched more linear TV versus the equivalent weeks last year, much of their additional TV time was allocated to ‘unmatched’ activities including comprising streaming services. In contrast, the increase among 35-44s and 45-54s was much more balanced.

Unmatched TV use is not entirely made up of time spent watching SVOD, YouTube, or broadcasters’ boxsets. So far, game console usage has accounted for nearly a quarter of the total rise in unmatched TV use across the population.

The rise in-game console use has been driven by younger male audiences, with games consoles accounting for 35% of the rise in unmatched TV use for boys 4-15 and 43% for men aged 16-34. While this growth into consoles is high, it does still represent a minority of total viewing, at an average of 19mins/day across all individuals and 40mins/day for 16-34’s.


Increase in digital audio reach driven by younger audiences

Digital audio has seen a significant increase in both daily reach and hours listened during the lockdown period.

This is especially true in podcast listening which has seen an 18% and 7% increase yr/yr in daily reach and hours listened respectively.

The biggest increase has been among younger demographics, with an increase of 22% yr/yr among 15-24s. But the largest increase was among 24-34s with reach up 27% yr/yr. In comparison to this, the older 55+ audience only saw an increase of 9% in weekly reach.

This trend follows research done by Bauer that showed that older audiences spend most of their audio time listening to live radio (80%), whereas the younger demographics over-index for streaming services including podcasts.


The re-opening of shopping malls driving football amongst the young

The opening of shopping malls and the broader high street on Monday 15 June has caused a surge of footfall, mainly the younger 18-34s demographic.

Reports from shopping malls themselves and industry research suggest that two-thirds of people claim they will be back to the shops within a month, rising to over three quarters for 18-34s. This segment was also the most likely to head to the high street/shopping mall in the last week (+39%).

The Centre for Retail Research predicts retail spend will increase by 9% in the recovery stage, equating to £8.3 billion, and testimonials from stores with a younger fashion focus are seeing rises in yr/yr sales of between 50%-200% – typically levels reserved for Boxing Day sales!

Westfield reports that circa 20% of their audience are 18-24s and that a visit to the shopping mall is not just about shopping for this audience. Although cinemas and amusements are not yet open, the opportunity to socialise with peer’s post lockdown has until last week meant a trip to the park. Westfield Stratford reported queue times of 20 mins+ to enter the centre over the weekend with by far the largest volume of the audience being 18-24s with friends (far greater than 20%).

McDonald’s and KFC at Westfield have both opened again this week and are expected to drive even greater footfall.


Educating young audiences on global issues

We’re starting to see a shift in search, with younger demographics prompted by the universal impact of the current crisis to focus on global issues – not just issues affecting their immediate area.

We’ve seen this manifest in an explosion of search behaviour around the Black Lives Matter movement, for example.

Search language and questions are focusing on more than basic definitions and information as this demographic seeks to educate themselves; while on YouTube, interest and demand for videos which help to explain the causes and impact are most popular with younger audiences.

How can brands best connect with these younger demographics during this time? The focus needs to be on authenticity; having something genuine to contribute to the dialogue or issue, otherwise, Millennials and Gen Z will meet any messaging with scepticism, seeing inauthenticity as “trust-washing”.

These two audiences are especially likely to be using search to educate themselves on what it means to be a purpose-driven brand – they are looking to understand how products are made, how employees are treated, and when the supply chain looks like. If they are disappointed with a brand’s words or actions, 47% will reportedly walk away from the brand in frustration.


Increase in average daily unique users

We know that 18-24s were extremely engaged in newsbrand content at the point of lockdown, with publishers reporting increases of circa 35% in average daily unique users from mid to the end of March (Ozone).

News consumption waned as lockdown continued but saw another surge as soon as reporting focused on the end of lockdown and what that might look like. It varies by publisher, but we saw week on week unique visitor increases ranging from 5-15%.

However, it’s not all about escaping home for the pub and hairdressers. We’ve seen that search data highlights a focus on political and social issues, publishing is where the audience is going to avail themselves of the facts before acting or sharing.

Teads data on publisher content consumption tells us that in this age group, consumption of political content has doubled in June versus pre-COVID-19 norms with a skew toward females. Also high on the agenda of 18-34 females is shopping content.

Paid Social

Playing a pivotal role in amplifying youth voices

Social media has been pivotal in bringing awareness to stories that may have gone undiscovered and have provoked conversation about the complexities of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The platforms have also been engaged with by users to highlight how the platforms are tackling hate speech within the newsfeeds.

Twitter has been taking a harder stance at ensuring that misleading tweets are made clear with fact-checking notices being applied to tweets, but Facebook has been increasingly under fire for allowing public figures to share and spread misinformation amongst users.

The civil rights group, NAACP, has made a public call to advertisers to hold Facebook to account by boycotting running advertising on its platform with its ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaigning. Within the past week, this has gained significant traction with several high-profile brands within the US stating that they will be pausing running advertising on the platform.

It adds to another moment in the history of social where platforms are having to address a significant issue that plagues the industry, in much the same way that lead to massive scrutiny of transparency once the misuse of user data was thrown into the spotlight two years ago.


Greatest growth comes from the older demographics

In May 2020, online shoppers are far more likely to be between 25 and 44-year-olds, and much less likely to be the over-55s.

However, looking back to 2019, we can see that changes to the likelihood of being a frequent online shopper have occurred.

In fact, looking at the change in population density for each of the age bands, frequent shoppers are changing. The higher probability of a frequent shopper being between the age of 25 to 44 is still true, however, the over-55s group has grown.

The over-55s are now embracing online retail and are currently using e-commerce at a rate of 15 percent higher than the same time last year, whereas younger demographics have experienced only a 9% increase.

The stereotype of the older generation as technophobes is slowly becoming inaccurate creating a valuable audience with a greater disposable income than Millennials or Gen Z.

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