Toiling in the market research field for a number of entertainment clients, I’ve breathed deeply the charged atmosphere of evolving consumer desires and media habits. Upon retiring to the relative calm of my chamber, I recognised that several trends are rapidly gathering momentum and promise to alter the media landscape in the coming year. So bring it on…
The scream “IWWIWWIWI” breaks the stillness as gen Y throngs focus intently on their media screens and demand of programmers…”I want what I want when I want it.”
With all the time-shifting, on-demanding, and streaming, one would think it a God-given right to watch anything, anytime anywhere. But what MTV begat, “too much is never enough” was only the opening salvo in the battle for instant media gratification. But beer fear, what’s good for the seller is good for the buyer.
Marketers need to realise that, like Coca Cola, they need to be ‘within arm’s reach of desire’.
Attention Division Disorder
‘I can’t stand to be bored, but I can’t really focus…’
With a mobile screen in every hand we no longer have to experience the excruciating feeling of being still and quiet without entertainment. We game, read, view, text, Facebook, follow… anything, to not just be ‘doing nothing!’
Being in class or only watching TV isn’t stimulation enough, anymore. We need to multi-task all the time. The modern mind resembles a passel of puppies, a roiling pile of impulses and distractions. Each scrambling puppy needs a media nipple to help it calm down and enjoy itself. For programmers, this suggests that the new imperative is multiple simultaneous connections– real time Twitter conversations, Facebook updates, and television, for all and all at once.
“We all know what it’s like to go on a kick…”
Perhaps this is the golden age of television – so many good scripts, and from channels that used to peddle movies. So much salacious reality, the can’t-eat-just-one guilty pleasure that we simply cannot resist.
Entertainment consumers love it, the steaks with the McMuffins, and programme personal marathons via Netflix, on-demand, DVD, online, bit torrents. We’re gobbling multiple episodes, alone or with partners or friends, watching it all in one gulp.
Partly we need to catch things we missed, partly it’s about satisfying a desire for gratification, partly it’s about people’s addiction to cliff-hangers. We just can’t wait a whole week so we stockpile episodes and marathon.
Me in Extemis, a New ‘Relatability’
Once we watched TV to see people like ourselves, maybe a little better looking, funnier or more glamorous. Now we want to watch people who are a lot better, or wose, looking; funnier, scarier, more glamorous or downtrodden. We don’t long for the girl-next-door, but for girls living in alternate realities, like Kim Kardashian, vampires, meth dealers, rich ‘housewives’, and survivors.
Video games have trained us that avatars can be very different – and still be me – altering our definition of ‘relatability’. Viewers, especially young women, still want to see people about their own age, having fun and grappling with issues, but we’re really more interested in ‘me in extremis’ – say, a youngish guy with supernatural abilities forced to become an evil villain – than in me, per se.
Programmers and marketers can take a cue, be more adventurous in pushing the boundaries of ‘relatability’ in looks, ability, even morality, as people venture to the edges of experience.
We hunger for sensation.
Halloween isn’t the fastest growing holiday [in the US] without reason. From A for apocalypse to Z for zombies, dark humour and deeply dark drama – vampires, ghosts, hoarders, meth dealers, and Louis C.K.– take us where we want to go – into the Darkness.
In a digital world, with fewer in-person contacts, dark programming makes us feel More. We want shrieking, pee-your-pants laughs; not sad little dramas – but dire, tragic tales of woe. To compensate we want spicier, darker, more intense entertainment.
These trends present a picture of the emerging media landscape and of evolving tastes. In large part, they are the result of the rapid advances in digital media, which is making entertainment more immersive, more participatory and more seductive due to the accelerating intensity through 3D, digital effects, and interactive enhancements.
So bring it on.
Robin Hafitz is president of Open Mind Strategy in the U.S.