A Fresh Perspective

Date: 3 April, 2020

Viewing together, even when apart

Emer Fitzgerald

By Emer Fitzgerald

Head of Connections Strategy

Live Media has our undivided attention for the first time in decades.

It’s been a decade of media disruption, channel fragmentation and 1 to 1 targeting and now a global pandemic has resurrected our media past. Collective viewing, unmissable news bulletins, live broadcasts online and comforting talk shows have put the traditional media experience back at the centre of our lives.


One big captive audience

I have spent 7 years of my career taking TV off its pedestal – working with clients and colleagues on the impact of hyper targeted, hyper relevant communications. Trading on statements like “attention spans have never been lower”, “we need to segment the targeting”, “be more personalised” and yet here we are – one big captive audience, thirsty for the same news at the same time every day.

The top viewed programs across RTÉ since St Patrick’s Day have unsurprisingly been the ministerial broadcasts, the news and The Late Late Show confirming that live media has our undivided attention at present. I nearly tripped over myself in my sitting room to cast the “emergency broadcast”. Petrified I’d miss a millisecond of the message. Along with 1.5 million other people in this country.

This is happening all over the world. In the US, current affairs shows like “Meet the Press” are enjoying their highest audiences since 2009. Globally, reading the news is surpassing checking social media for every generation. It’s been decades since we’ve all clutched to national communication with such intensity. Live media moments in the home, our environments of isolation are now, more than ever instant portals to people.


Resurrecting media past

While this is strange, it feels familiar. It’s the media muscle memory of our past that’s forging it’s way to the front again.

It has become ritualistic to watch the 6.1 and the Nine O’Clock News together. To brace ourselves for the “number” of cases together. To await further instruction and guidance together. Media is compounding the fact that we truly are in this together. All of us defenceless to whatever is communicated next. We pour our concern into Twitter together, post and re-post words of wisdom on Instagram together, laugh at silly memes together and tune in to live workout classes to make the most of this, together. And there was I thinking media was an individualistic experience!

We are also looking to trusted media sources and politicians for information again. Strict on any fake stories doing the rounds in our WhatsApp groups. Together fighting the contagion of fear bursting though the pipes of our “in home” media diets. We are all bound by the one story now. Regardless of how the internet categorises you or what content it believes you need to be served –  we are all seeking the same. Trying to “sub-segment” or personalise us now is pointless. We are an audience of everyone.


Advertising for all

Advertising and brands are in the midst of this. Occupying high value TV spots and mobile real estate with the whole country watching. Advertising is now, more than ever, a shared experience in a shared crisis bringing messaging and stories to the living rooms of the world. Similar to large-scale live events, these aren’t just “high reach” opportunities these are powerful, historic moments of time that won’t last forever. It is important to consider how your brand is turning up in this context.


Here are 3 things to bear in mind for connecting live:

1.  Content and context.

Activate what’s appropriate in real-time. Ask yourself: is your message passive, active or actually offensive in this “live” context? Assuming it’s appropriate and useful, is there an opportunity for the brand to make a bespoke edit and activate an initiative or message on a particular day, at a specific time, before a certain show?

2. Day by day.

At this time, things are changing as fast as they would in a live sports event. Your brand cannot afford to be moving at the pace of standard campaigns – in this new world, that pace is effectively static. So consider a day by day content calendar, rather than anything slower.

3. Address everyone.

As every nation is saying, we are all in this together. Are you moving beyond your segments to speak to the whole? Moving from addressing a specific target group, with a specific need to resonating with everyone… even in digital.


Forever Live

When the storm passes, will these media behaviours subside? Most likely. We’ll quickly return to “on demand”. Nielsen is predicting an increase of 60% for video viewing following the cancellations of live sporting events and more people work remotely on lock down.

Our personalised paths of consumption will re-appear – pursuits of the content we want, when and where we want it.We won’t stay sitting ducks in-front of national news bulletins, comforting talk shows. We won’t give advertising our full attention while we await the next episode of Primetime. We won’t flock to twitter to discuss the stuff we’re watching and re-watching.

But I do believe, we will covet the “live” media experience again. We will place importance on viewing together even when apart. We will tune in live more, instead of playing back. Brands will continue to pay the highest premium for these live media moments. We will carve out time to be informed, together. As a nation and a global society we will be more politically engaged and appreciate equal footing when it comes to knowing the facts. We will always find ways to come together as a powerful audience of one. That will never change.