The COVID-19 outbreak is a global health crisis that has upended our daily lives. With millions confined at home, agencies, clients, and the media industry as a whole will experience unknown pressures. In the world of media planning and buying, that will lead to focusing investments and partnerships on meaningful media. By creating purposeful content, or sometimes, simply financially supporting media brands that are taking the right action themselves. These are the moments when media really matters.
So, what’s the role of media within this new dynamic? With social interactions on a hiatus, media is the core tenet of our social bonds. We need to investigate the evolution of the media landscape in two steps: short-term decisions and innovations the industry made to adapt, alleviate, and support immediate needs, and later, when the dust settles, diving into the long-term changes in consumer behaviors and industry practices.
Moments like this prove that not all media are created equal and some media brands can make a genuine, meaningful difference through three missions: inform, entertain, and connect.
The informative: Some media brands have really taken the spread of the coronavirus to be the purveyor of sense and calm that the world needs. Now more than ever, to inform the population is media’s public service duty. Despite the economic factors they face, news providers are dropping their paywalls—The Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, in the US to name a few. To counteract fake news, rumors, and despicable acts like hackers creating fake coronavirus maps to infect users with malware, trust in media is the strongest guardrail. Facebook is directing users looking for information to the WHO or local health authorities and prohibiting ads related to the coronavirus to curb scaremongering as well as prevent dishonest businesses from profiteering from the outbreak.
The entertaining: Some media heavyweights are upending current business models. For example, NBCUniversal will make its theatrical releases available to rent. We will investigate over the next few weeks the long-lasting impact of such decisions. Across the industry, meaningful initiatives are happening. Organizations such as the Seattle Symphony Orchestra plans to rebroadcast earlier performances and livestream new performances. TikTok challenges of handwashing dances are going viral. Italian’s TV broadcaster RAI is helping families stuck at home by significantly increasing the amount of kids and teens shows. And it’s hard to deny that by offering free premium service in Italy to ease coronavirus pains, Pornhub is being meaningful to many.
The useful: Video-conferencing companies are facilitating use by offering free services and free access to upgrades, starting with Google unlocking premium features of Hangouts Meets. Amazon Web Services has given access to its cloud computing to (AWS) to Italian companies, nonprofits and government agencies.
It is difficult to categorize every single initiative. And more are being launched by the hour. And some are just about giving everyone a much-needed laugh like the Australian newspaper NY News printing extra pages to help out in toilet paper shortage.
Media brands around the world are stepping up. But what comes next? With contestants on the current German edition of Big Brother unaware of the situation until a few days ago, The Truman Show doesn’t feel that far-fetched anymore. Media creation could change, live entertainment might never be the same, consumer behaviors will evolve and business models will be rethought. Our next task is to look at the long-term media implications and help brands navigate the new paradigm.
Thomas Minc is global managing director, intelligence & strategy, at Havas Media Group