True Media Canada COVID-19 Media Impact, Part 4

Posted on April 17th, 2020 by True Media

There has been a considerable shift in consumer behavior over the last four weeks driven by the current realities of work, play, freedom of movement, health and wealth. 

The key question that is on everyone’s mind is once we start to return to “normal”, which habits will persist, what changes were only temporary and will revert to pre-pandemic, and which trends that were already emerging will be accelerated. 

There are few people who doubt that daytime TV and news audiences will return to pre-pandemic levels as we return to work, school and play. As we start to make up for lost time, OOH will see a surge and radio consumption will shift back to in-vehicle listening. However, there are key shifts/increases in consumption we have seen over the last few weeks that we believe will stick, or have an impact on the landscape moving forward. 

While it’s still speculative and early in the curve, we will make some media consumption predictions with focus this week on Millennials. This group is tech-savvy and has the greatest financial power to allow them to engage with a wider range of technology (i.e. smart TV streaming devices, games consoles, smart speakers, smartwatches, tablets). 

Within the current pandemic state, Millennials have substantially increased their consumption of video content to pass time and keep up to date on news. There have been gains across linear TV, online streaming and VOD. While there have been gains in linear TV viewing, we don’t expect this to stick. These audiences are tech adapters and expect to watch what they want, when they want on the devices they choose.

While new programming may have been discovered through linear TV, we anticipate they will track down any shows of interest and revert back to their primary consumption sources: VOD and online streaming. We anticipate continued accelerated growth in consumption for the two. This has created a bigger, and now national, opportunity for advertisers. 

The video landscape continues to change with emerging platforms such as Quibi, which recently launched on April 6th. It is a mobile app platform with episodes of 10 minutes or less featuring big celebrities and content creators. It was built for the millennial audience who are already comfortable with short-form “quick bites” storytelling and streaming from their mobile. With 1.7MM downloads so far in North America, we expect this platform to see continued growth and contribute to increased consuption of video among the millennial audience – especially if they are planning to stock up on original programming and allow option to watch on TV screens (less limiting when watching for longer periods of time). We anticipate Quibi to make waves in Canada with Canadian-specific content and representation from Bell Media.

Video conferencing is now the new normal. Houseparty significantly outpaced the others in the first week of March with its growth in global downloads. This app launched in 2016, but didn’t gain mass popularity across North America until the pandemic. It has been a key platform, especially for Millennials, to socialize with friends while staying at home. This app may have solved a basic human need for the interim, but we expect a drop off in usage as it is replaced by in-person socialization. 

Besides Online Video, another impact of social distancing is finding new ways to communicate and engage with friends and family. This has had a large impact on consumption and usage of social media, with increases across the board. For instance, 41% of TikTok’s user base was GenZ across 2019 (GlobalWebIndex), but there has been a surge in downloads (+18% in downloads March 16th to 22nd) and uptake in usage with the millennial audience. Though we expect TikTok to stay as part of their “social tool belt,” time spent and login frequency will likely decrease post pandemic. Nonetheless, it definitely remains one to watch moving forward.

Another key space benefitting from Millennials is eComm. This group leads the pack across all categories, especially for essentials. Food/grocery products, household essentials and personal care products are at the top of that list. We predict that eComm will be preferred over brick-and-mortar even post-pandemic due to safety and convenience, and that purchases will more likely be thoroughly researched and planned out in advance. Discretionary purchasing will be deprioritized. 

Final Thoughts

While it is hard to deny that things have changed dramatically, we believe that many behaviours will fairly quickly revert back to pre-pandemic times. Brand discovery and new habits may happen, but how “sticky” they are post-pandemic will be based on that relationship during this crisis. There are opportunities to pivot and capitalize on enduring and accelerated changes in consumer behavior, media consumption and pricing. 

Video is becoming an increasingly popular and important channel within the media mix, which are supported with the strong gains in the past month. With our anticipation of this holding strong, explore how you can use video from both an organic and paid perspective. Investigate those platforms that are seeing acceleration across adaptation and determine if they are something worth investing in, and potentially being first to market.