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When the world hits ‘pause’


Covid-19 has rapidly changed our lives and the impact for advertisers, brands and media is significant.The effects of Covid-19 are far-reaching and will touch every industry and every individual in some way. The ability to adapt and innovate to this new normal is now more important than ever. Almost overnight we have seen people’s routines and daily lives have been thrown upside down, but just as quickly we have seen communities adjust and adapt, giving rise to a ‘remote culture’.

South Africa watched as China and Italy started reporting cases and saw the numbers rise exponentially. This eventually rolled out to most of the world, but the lag in awareness of the virus to when it hit South Africa gave us a small advantage of time. In this time, the government mobilised quickly and warned that South Africa would be put into a mandated lockdown. The message got across, to most people anyway, that this was a serious threat and should not be taken lightly. A mobility study conducted by Google shows just how quickly people understood the concept and began to hunker down.

So, what does a world during and post-Covid look like?

There are two key aspects of play for marketers in this new normal. Should brands continue to communicate and, if so, where?

There are many historical studies, developed through previous periods of war, depressions and, most recently, the worldwide economic recession of 2008 and in almost all cases, they all reach the same conclusion. Recessionary periods provide fertile ground for advertisers and marketers to grow their brand’s market share and position their brands favourably in the eyes of the consumer.

Now is the time for brands to be present, to understand the mindset of their audience and address their purpose. It can be tempting for a brand to step back and wait for things to return to normal but great strides can be achieved if brands can earn the trust and loyalty of their consumers. Understanding that these are stressful times and people are dealing with high levels of uncertainty and anxiety, and addressing this by delivering relevant, empathetic, solutions-based communication will go a long way towards building loyalty. Rethinking your business or how it can be adapted to work in this fast-changing world is essential.

Where you should advertise is critical. Media is bought and placed based on the habits of people. When the pause button is suddenly pressed, all historical modelling and predictive data become redundant and we need to relook at how and where we communicate.

Overnight we embraced a world where children were being schooled at home via Zoom and online worksheets, gym and recreational activities were being done via live links to the instructor, shopping was done online and your kitchen table suddenly became your office. Virtual consultations with doctors and specialists became necessary and your social life became drinks over Skype. What this meant is that any media types that relied on ‘out of home’ activities like driving suddenly became less valuable and we saw peaks in in-home viewing and online activities.

A month into our new reality and we are beginning to see the shifts in media consumption. We saw cinema complexes close, forcing them to either move out new release dates or move to a direct-to-streaming model. Overall viewership has increased, and Peak TV viewing has flattened; however, we continue to see spikes in news viewership, suggesting a populace hungry for information and updates. News programming in SA has seen an average increase of 158% comparing the week of 17-23 February with the week of 30 March-5 April.

Streaming has accelerated and radio listenership has been displaced, with an increase in podcasts and streaming solutions. Usage on social media is increasing and all live events have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. This coupled with reduced contact with family and friends has contributed to the need for in-home escapism. Never in the history of the modern world have so many memes been produced in such a short space of time. App usage is increasing, with Zoom being the most downloaded App in the US and arguably in the Western World. TikTok has taken the world by storm and it has recently surpassed 1.5 billion downloads. The power of this platform amongst teens in South Africa, like their global counterparts, is undeniable.

Now is the time for brands to readdress their presence online. Increasing interactivity online is essential and the use of videos, polls and shoppable posts all contribute to higher engagement. We are seeing more and more brands experimenting with augmented and virtual reality, the future is exciting and now is the time for your brand to test these platforms. The Covid-19 epidemic has already seen some innovative ways this technology can be leveraged.

Snapchat recently launched ‘Snap Safe’ – an augmented reality application that allows you to engage in safe social distancing while in public. Improved SEO, social commerce and smart bidding should all be addressed to ensure your online presence is delivering the highest ROI and brand engagement.

We know the future may well bring a deep recession and a period of uncertainty. Unemployment will increase, the economy will take a knock and we may be dealing with a more depressed society. Brands need to be cognisant of this, not appear opportunistic and play the long game. However, with change, comes opportunity and innovation. Brands that are authentic and ahead of the curve will benefit long term.

What do we anticipate the future to hold?

  • More considered spending. With a decrease in disposable income, consumers will re-evaluate all luxury and non-essential purchases.
  • Reduced or limited travel, especially in the short term.
  • Increase in in-home activities and media consumption.
  • Re-evaluation of work and family life.
  • Services that were historically conducted in person will shift into the virtual space.
  • The world will become more sanitised. A heightened awareness of germs and viruses and an unwillingness to put yourself at risk.
  • Autonomous education. Kids will continue to depend on technology to drive and support their education.
  • A more caring and nurturing society will emerge. A trend of ‘care-mongering’ will ensure that older and more vulnerable members of society are being tended to.

The most critical role brands can play in these times is to offer practical and realistic help to consumers, initiatives that address their market with a solutions-based approach will benefit long term. Advertisers need to approach the future with a high degree of flexibility, resisting the temptation to make long-term plans but focusing on weekly plans with adaptability. Staying in touch with your market and understanding the changes they are encountering is vital. The emphasis needs to be on ACTvertising versus ADvertising.

These are murky waters, but it may give rise to a calmer world. A world that re-evaluates its priorities and focuses on things that matter. A world where we care about each other, where people connect more, where brands play a symbiotic role in the lives of people and the inherent spirit of ubuntu in South Africa abounds. Maybe this is the start of something new and wonderful.

Trendwatching and their sister company, Business of Purpose, has been creating a fast-growing database of meaningful Covid-19-related innovations. Click below to access this incredible portal of human, needs-based innovation.

Google searches reveal what topics are being searched online, with significant spikes evident once countries begin to isolate in their homes.

Pre-Covid-19, Mediology identified a trend towards people becoming self-taught ‘experts’ via the use of online tools and tutorials – the new reality has escalated this trend, forcing people to become hairdressers, chefs, teachers and first aid experts among other things.

In a recent study conducted by Global WebIndex, a question on In-home and media consumption changes was asked. This global data, averaged across all 13 markets, including South Africa, shows big upswings in streaming services, reading/listening to audiobooks, spending time on messaging services, social media and watching more news coverage.

In the same study, the question was asked about the level of concern of Covid-19 in their own country. South Africa was the second most concerned of all 13 countries studied, second to the Philippines.

A new term that has come to the forefront recently is infodemic, an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.

The Covid-19 Infodemics Observatory was established to categorise the information being generated, establish its origin (human versus bot) and gauge its accuracy. To read more about this click on this link.

Based on their analysis South Africa is one of the top countries in the Infodemic Summary.

It’s interesting to note than in a recent two-wave study conducted by Kantar South Africa the most trusted sources of information during these times are National media channels and Government agency websites, with both showing a significant increase in the second wave of the study. 

Ironically, healthcare providers and doctors showed a decrease. The same study shows a predictable increase in social media usage, predominantly WhatsApp and Facebook.

Kantar South Africa Online Survey.
Evaluation of consumer perceptions regarding coronavirus
Covid-19 Barometer: Wave 1, 14-16 March Wave 2, 27-30 March Amongst connected South African consumers Fieldwork wave 1: 14-16 March 2020 wave 2: 27-30 March 2020

As always, Mediology is here to help you navigate the media landscape during these uncertain times. Please feel free to reach out to myself Ana, or any member of the Mediology team with any questions or concerns you may have. Stay safe and we look forward to seeing you all, in person, in the not too distant future.

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