The year 2020 has been the antithesis of normal; toilet paper was the hottest commodity in supermarkets, there was a spike in banana bread baking and Zoom calls were the peak of socialisation (though the novelty wore off very quickly). The impact of COVID-19 saw unprecedented times across all industries and entertainment was no exception. As we are nearing the end of 2020, we thought we would reflect on the year that was and what the future holds for entertainment.
3DUX was born out of the entertainment industry in 2006 and we have seen significant changes over the years in how audiences consume media. However, with the majority of the globe in isolation throughout 2020, the access to content became harder. With cinemas closed, events cancelled and film production postponed, the availability of new content was limited. Creators, marketers and strategists sought out creative ways to connect audiences to entertainment.
A trend evident throughout isolation was consumers seeking nostalgia as a way of coping with COVID-19 anxiety. While many consumers feasted on familiar foods, revisiting dishes from their childhood, others have turned to familiar TV shows, movies and music. Entertainment brands seized this opportunity by leveraging nostalgic content to connect with consumers in search of solace. According to Jim Batchelor, Managing Director of Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Australia, “…we saw a nod to nostalgia as consumers revisited classic films and anecdotally shared them with friends and family.” Additionally, consumers returned to DVD and Blu-Ray as a means of accessing new and classic content, with sales up by 10%.
As a nation, throughout COVID-19 our reliance on technology had never been higher. To stay connected to each other, discover entertainment and keep up with the latest news, consumers turned to technology. According to Alexandra Sloane, Director of Marketing, Facebook Australia & New Zealand, “39% of Australians want to know about new products and services to cope during lockdown.” Consumers were quickly adapting to a new normal and seeking out ways to stay entertained through technology. Engagement on social media broke all records which meant advertisers needed to focus on the personalisation and relevancy of their messages. According to Kevin Huang, Vice President APAC Smartly.io, “advertisers either spent the same or increased their spend” throughout COVID-19. Due to the saturation of advertising across all social media platforms, consumers were constantly bombarded with messages. The brands that stood out were those with engaging, personalised content that demonstrated their unique offering. Irrespective of subject matter, great content is rewarded in engagement and conversions.
The COVID-19 lockdown deprived consumers the opportunity to go to the cinema, but it certainly didn’t dampen their appetite for TV and film content. According to Jim Batchelor, “both physical and digital distribution saw significant increases in volume”, as consumers were looking for other means to be entertained. Consequently, there was a boom in streaming services and video on demand, by passing cinema. Streaming has in some ways replaced the missing theatrical experience, with some studios choosing to release new films via their own platforms, such as Disney releasing its live-action remake of Mulan exclusively online. Once consumers are on these services, they tend to be quite sticky and as we near the end of 2020 this is proving to be true. According to the Australian Financial Review, there is “new research showing consumers aren’t picking winners and losers and are growing the amount of services they’re subscribing to”, proving that the COVID-19 streaming surge is unlikely to be temporary and the services will only continue to grow.
With live-action productions still facing numerous delays due to COVID-19, there’s a new player in demand. Animation studios saw significant growth through 2020, with animators able to work in isolation. Virtual animation studios have been able to run seamlessly throughout the pandemic, with shows like Big Mouth finding success through virtual table reads and video conferencing. Furthermore, going virtual has also afforded animated studios new opportunities. Voiceover work can now be done not just quickly, but without leaving home. Consumers are now seeking out diverse video content and studios are pursuing diverse ways to connect with the COVID-19 consumer. Animation has become king in the entertainment industry throughout 2020.
What does this all mean for the entertainment industry in 2021? The impact of COVID-19 on production has delayed many new releases and the industry is feeling the pressure of new products in the market. Even though Australian cinemas are now open, the effect of the pandemic in the United States and United Kingdom means studios are holding back major films from being released globally, until it is commercially safe. Despite this, 2020 has shown that consumers are extremely adaptive in finding new platforms to seek out entertainment. The industry will continue to seek out innovative ways to connect with their consumers, leveraging on technology. However, in the face of a pandemic and the rise of new channels and platforms, some things never change. Strong creative that is personalised to a brands audience will always triumph.
Thankyou to Jim Batchelor for his contribution to this article.
3DUX is a creative agency based in Surry Hills Sydney, specialising in the entertainment industry.