We have experienced many unprecedented changes in our lives over the past few weeks. We have been through a lot as individuals, families, companies, industries, countries…in fact globally.
This has resulted in a shift in our way of life, how we work, the media we consume, how we consume it and where we consume it. A lot of COVID-19 content is presented as doom and gloom, but there is a silver lining and the awareness that is felt globally, is that we are alone but together.
Despite the ‘noise’ of news coming from all directions – TV, radio, word of mouth (WOM), social media – Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, TikTok etc, we have learnt to rummage through all the clutter and find our peace.
Self-preservation looks different now. You preserve your neighbour as part of preserving yourself. People I have spoken to are getting a sense that they are beginning to master the skill of self-preserving by being selective about when to watch the news vs. the obsessive round-the-clock news cycle routine that we had gotten accustomed to in the early days of COVID-19 and the lockdown.
Right now, I feel as if the paranoia and anxiety that we were loaded with six weeks ago has somehow dissipated. Now we choose where, when and what to ingest for peace of mind as well as for some normalcy. This naturally impacts the media channels we consume and activities we choose to engage with during our WFH (work from home) breaks.
Many of those activities are dictated by a black box – the TV viewership spike that has been experienced will continue for a long time. I’m also sensing that we aren’t watching as much news programming as we did during the first few weeks of lockdown. We are still glued to the screens, be it to watch SABC, DStv, Netflix, Showmax, YouTube and many others, but now we’re balancing the heavy statistic-laden COVID-19 updates with general entertainment and huge social media engagement.
We can’t complain much because there are thankfully incredible amounts of great content on different platforms keeping us somewhat sane during this period. Favourite shows though such as Uzalo, The River and the recently launched Gomora have gone on production breaks which may leave some die-hard fans wanting. However, these have been replaced by content that is equally entertaining and fortunately Level 4 has seen production companies being allowed to resume work and filming should start soon if not already underway.
Level 4 saw digital and TV continuing to dominate and we also saw local/suburban OOH and some commuter advertising increasingly become more relevant as more commuters transit to and from work and take advantage of the then 5km radius 6am-9am window.
Print, however, continues to struggle with media houses announcing closures over the last few weeks. It is sad though that Associated Media Publishing (Cosmo, House and Leisure) closed down, while the Daily Sun announced a massively reduced distribution which will have a huge impact on them. Caxton has closed their entire magazine division (Bona, Essentials, Living & Loving, People, rooi rose, Garden & Home and Country Life) which is absolutely devastating for the industry at large.
However, we are seeing digital adaptations of many print publications strengthen as more and more copies are circulated on mobile in WhatsApp groups.
The impact on the industry at large will be cruel for the job losses but completely open for new solutions that are digitally led.
Present selves, present parenting and DIY
There is a heavy reliance on the internet for information as we have been forced to be self-sufficient in many aspects of our lives and do things for ourselves that we ordinarily would outsource. YouTube and DIY searches are surging and online books and free courses are seeing encouraging uptakes.
The lockdown has given many individuals the opportunity to stop and realign, evaluating what’s important and how they are adding value to their own lives and those of their families. Parents have become teachers overnight with the help of technology, YouTube, Google and a myriad of meetings apps are being used more than ever before.
The digital world has really come to the party! It has enabled us to be connected and productive, carrying on with school work, work from home (WFH) and connecting with relatives all over the world, more regularly than before and keeping in touch with conversations through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
So much for being socially anti-social, even introverts have come out to play on platforms such as Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook.
Of brands and opportunity
This pandemic has solidified one thing. That digital is definitely the place to find consumers of all kinds. Especially in a country like South Africa and the continent as a whole, digital will drive social solutions to make our lives better. Brands are struggling to participate as they navigate the relevance conundrum.
Most businesses and brands turned to creating communication that was in line with W.H.O communications on the pandemic and showing support for government initiatives. The majority of brands however have pulled spend and have not quite understood how to use this crisis opportunity to make their brand stand out and remain relevant to consumers.
It is often said ‘do not waste a good crisis’ and I must be honest, I’ve not seen any communication from any brand that feels like they are taking good advantage of the crisis. I think brands are going find it challenging to regain momentum post-COVID. I think brands are going to have to work smarter and faster, and look at approaching consumers differently – relevance has never been more important!
The new order
So we embrace a new order, being alone together, constantly in front of the screen – we watch our lives, work and the industry change in ways we’ve only seen in movies, and mentally prepare ourselves for being comfortable with being ‘alone together’ and utilising digital platforms in a life altering way, for school, for work and socialising.
Our digital solutions must be merged with what still works in other mediums like TV, radio and OOH in a way that makes brands shine in a relevant, compelling and useful way. Our awareness shifts to the effects that COVID-19 has had on us as individuals, companies, industries and nations, and calls on us to be more supportive of one another, even more than we were before the virus, and helps us carve out our new order and alone together moments.
Lorraine Gwewera is a digital strategist at Meta Media. She has over 10 years experience having started off as a campaign manager, before moving into digital planning and strategic implementation planning. She has been a strategist for the last five years. She is a globe trotter who loves experiencing different cultures and is especially fond of reading to relax. She has taken a liking to African literature because she can easily relate to it and because it provides nostalgic moments for her. Lorraine leads digital in the FMCG portfolio.
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