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How COVID is Changing Media, Trends From NewFronts 2020

July 24, 2020
Posted by Publicis Health Media

Consumer trends are altered and brand positioning must follow their lead heading into 2021.

Current events and COVID-19 have turned media on its head. But the more things change, the more they stay the same and NewFronts went on, albeit in an altered state as presentations went virtual. And while events are in a constant state of flux, many consumer trends around media consumption have been supercharged and stand to impact the marketplace for the foreseeable future. 

NewFronts, the annual showcase of content and media brands, virtually walked advertisers through the properties and platforms that are resonating with consumers. This new format had a few benefits over the traditional in-person event, not the least of which was a condensed and concise program.

Daily topics were broken down into five key trends and themes: The Streaming Revolution, Lifestyle Content and Shifting Consumer Behaviors, The Power of News and Audio, Audiences and Community and The Marketers Guide to Gaming.

The Streaming Revolution

Streaming has been given a boost as COVID-19, shelter-at-home orders and movements for social change impact consumer behavior. Nine in 10 US consumers are reporting higher medial content consumption since the pandemic began, accelerating a trend from 2019, when digital video revenue grew 34% among ad formats in that full year. Anything viewed via subscription and streaming services tells us that ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) is here to stay.

Personalized experiences are taking precedence and advice is to focus on viewers first, with an emphasis to provide dynamic and optimized experiences wherever possible – from content to ad experiences. As one study from Hulu found, “Generation Stream” is united by a viewership mindset vs. being united by age, race or gender. Those surveyed also said what they choose to stream serves their mood and that they prefer ads tailored to their chosen viewing experience.

Commerce, once the overriding focus for brands is taking a backseat as data access and ad innovation bubbles up in importance. The story format is now the number one format marketers are leveraging in video ad innovation for 2020 for 55% of marketers, according to one study.  

Lifestyle Content and Shifting Consumer Behaviors

The reality is that COVID-19 and the ongoing movement to right racial disparity will continue to be a focus for the rest of 2020, fueling a need to balance growth with social and political responsibility. Brands and partners alike are finding ways to creatively and dynamically pivot by embracing augmented reality, new commerce opportunities and live streaming.  

Snapchat introduced its first shoppable original where viewers will learn about an item, how the item was created and what time it will go on sale within the show—at which point the episode will integrate a “swipe up to buy” call-to-action.

To this purpose, content opportunities abound and partners and brands can innovate in unique ways outside of the ordinary as delays from traditional production houses are expected to drag on. VEVO is partnering with artists to release exclusive content in the absence of new videos and Barstool Sports is building on momentum across YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and eSports through Twitch.

OTT continues to be the bright spot in terms of video consumption and advertiser investment, demonstrated through both research and partner stats. The resounding message from the industry is that OTT is going nowhere but up!

The Power of News and Audio

News has taken center stage in the past few months and users continue to seek out content. The nature of that content has been in a state of change, however. Quantcast’s week-by-week analysis looked at how COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior, interests and purchase habits across industries emphasizing the importance of real-time AI-driven data sources to allow marketers to be agile in evolving their strategies based on consumer trends. This trend saw an increase in news consumption turn into an increased interest in cooking and craft supplies which gave way to an increase in automotive interests and ultimately a resurgence in booking travel leading into July.

Streaming audio, like streaming video, is growing along with podcasts to create a robust new media market.

Audience & Community

COVID-19 and the social uprising continue to be a key focus for partners as they seek to make shifts to content, ad solutions and partnerships. For example, Dunkin’ is adjusting media campaigns to react to this ‘new normal,’ adding drive-through locations to routes in Waze and buying more connected TV.

The content consumers are seeking out on YouTube has shifted during the pandemic. Trends indicate consumers are looking even more for how-to videos, at-home workouts and new forms of entertainment—even marble racing. Lifestyle and fashion interests have remained high, but with new twists like ‘get ready to go nowhere’ tutorials.

With diversification in content and viewing platforms, personalized, dynamic experiences can give consumers what they want, when they want it. At NewFront, Tremor highlighted dynamic consumption patterns during the pandemic and the prevalence of consumer multi-tasking across screens. To address challenges with audience fragmentation, Tremor touted data application, measurement and automatic content recognition.

The Marketer’s Guide to Gaming

Test and learn is the message here. As a natural extension to sports, gaming and eSports present brand opportunities throughout the funnel to test and learn. Authenticity is key here and brands need to look beyond the numbers and growth of gaming, as the platform is a passion and personal experience that should be used in meaningful ways.  

NewFront panelists discussed the opportunity gaming has to promote diversity and inclusion. With no physical requirements needed, particularly in eSports, gaming presents an even playing field for everyone, despite any physical or social differences. In order for brands to come across as authentic, they need to be collaborative and give influencers creative flexibility. Brands also need to be alert to their responsibility in this space, and be willing to help create the best, safest and healthiest environment for consumers to play within.

It may be time to look deeper here: Brands often associate opportunities within the existing structure of gaming as they know it, particularly top players and games. However, there are many more opportunities below the surface including amateurs, diversity initiatives, summer camps, teaching responsible gaming, youth gaming education and promoting women in gaming.

What does this mean for Pharma?

Put the audience first. Audiences expect to be spoken to as people and not just potential buyers, and they expect their brand interactions to be personalized. This means contextualization and targeting to ensure that the right audience is receiving a valuable message in a relevant moment, and more custom creative to speak to the HCP or patient more specifically based upon when and where they are receiving a brand message.

Streaming is here to stay and pharma brands who focus video dollars on traditional linear television should explore streaming and OTT. The median age of connected TV viewers has climbed to 42, compared to 56 for live TV. This audience is comprised of valuable caretakers, patients and HCPs who can be reached efficiently across CTV and streaming partners.


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