Daniella Serhan, entertainment sales and partnerships director, Foxtel Media
The COVID pandemic has changed the world - and Australia - as we knew it, irrevocably. With many people confined to their country, state, suburb and even their actual home in the most severe stages of lockdown, unable to go to work or school, shop or socialise, daily life then was unrecognisable and a year on, it will never be the same. This has led to profound shifts in consumer behaviour, from priorities and values, to media consumption and purchasing patterns.
A year ago we carried out an in depth research project into Australian generations. Then COVID hit, and we thought that everything as we knew it had changed. Were the changes that we were seeing short term symptoms of COVID or were the changes a long-term reset?
The Great Australian Lifestyle study was able to map these changes and benchmark the impact of the pandemic on the Australian psych, and these were trends that we identified. The goal for us was to deepen our understanding of consumers and categories that allows us to anticipate trends.
There are three key trends we recorded that are highly significant for marketers and advertisers.
1. Reassurance: A year of coping
If we can define 2020 globally and in Australia in one word, it was "coping". People were forced to change their way of life, forced by a moment that collectively we had never experienced before; with overnight restrictions and lockdowns, separation from family, friends and colleagues and as social distancing measures were imposed. The stress of this finally saw the spotlight shone on mental health, which was reflected in our data.
Mental health and wellbeing has been pushed to the forefront of Australia’s national conversation. One in three people have focused more on their mental health and wellbeing over the past 12 months. Millennials are particularly concerned about this, with 44% citing it as their top priority post-COVID.
2. Comfort: The home as cocoon
Australians’ love affair with the home is stronger than ever. With public venues closed or restricted, the home has evolved into the cocoon: a sanctuary, workspace, café and movie theatre. We didn’t feel caged at all – we cocooned. One in two Australians say they’re spending more time at home than ever before. One in four also report being "more emotionally connected" to their home than previously. In 2019, 49 per cent of people claimed they were "just as happy staying at home than going out". In 2021, that’s risen to 61 per cent.
As a result, Australians are more comfortable with the idea of spending money on their homes: six out of ten Australians updated their home in the past 12 months, with the top reason being to improve their quality of life. And 90 per cent intend to maintain or increase the spend on their homes over the next 12 months. Overall, the home category saw 29 per cent year-on-year growth with this trend forecasted to be around for some time.
3. Distraction: People are seeking escapism
Amid the stresses of COVID, more than ever consumers are seeking to be lifted out of their everyday reality.
Television and content certainly took on more meaning over the past year. It was entertainment, escapism, moments that connected us with our peers and loved ones by having something in common that replaced the Friday drinks or family BBQs. Every call started with, ‘what are you watching?’ It was also essential in ensuring people’s mental health and stability in the midst of a global pandemic. This was reflected by a strong uplift in subscriptions, with services experiencing a huge surge globally as well as in Australia. Foxtel saw a 13.6 per cent increase on the pre-COVID period, adding 658,000 subscribers. Australian’s reliance on streaming and entertainment to help them through the next year is likely to persist with the shoes to sofa moment here to stay.
These trends are all significant for advertisers. Brand and content are just as relevant, if not more relevant, than they have ever been. The need to invest and entertain in our homes, the need to unwind and detach from our stresses and find our "happy place" is greater than ever before. This is our new normal, our happy place and we are seeing it across generations.
Foxtel is updating content that is informed by the trends we are seeing and bringing back more lifestyle and home related content to our screens, backed by talented and iconic personalities known and new.
Local content has also been at the forefront of our offering. Australians have an insatiable appetite of homegrown content and our local content resonates globally - in fact it accounts for 60 per cent of the top twenty shows on Foxtel’s streaming platforms. With the content pipeline full of local productions, we plan on bringing a plethora of new, local scripted and unscripted shows to our platforms throughout the year.
For advertisers, there are huge opportunities as the world gradually emerges from the crisis and industries reopen and seek to recover. The world post-COVID will not be the same, but it will be an exciting time for brands to reconnect with viewers, fortified with new meaning and the possibility of fitting into their new normal.