The affect COVID-19 is having on UK media trends

First4LawyersTracking media consumption is a core part of our day job here at First4Lawyers, so keeping up with current trends and adapting our response accordingly to the COVID-19 epidemic is part and parcel of what we do.

You won’t be surprised to hear that media consumption has changed in light of the pandemic. As a result, we’re responding to this and focusing our marketing efforts where they are best placed, to keep our panel firms moving.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen an unprecedented shift in the way people are getting exposure to our services and this will only continue to change as the situation develops. We won’t see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet, so we are focusing on what we can do in the interim to ensure “business as usual” as much as we possibly can.

The shift to home-working and home-schooling has inevitably led to an increase in TV viewership throughout the daytime, with viewership up as much as 40%. Peak airtime didn’t initially experience similar growth, however, since going into lockdown this has started to change.

14.5m adults tuned into the Prime Minister’s “stay at home” announcement. Since then we have seen big changes, with shows such as ‘Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway’ and ‘Gogglebox’ attracting record audiences. There has also been a spike in the number of people watching the news with Sky News viewers up 200%.

Channel output will become a challenge in the future as filming has stopped on virtually all new content, but channels are focusing on light relief programming to entertain people during the lockdown. Channel 4 has launched a range of programmes, including ‘The Steph Show’ as a daily magazine programme fronted by journalist Steph McGovern, along with a range of cookery and light entertainment programmes from the likes of Jamie Oliver and Kirstie Allsopp.

Like anything in the current climate and situation we find ourselves in, TV viewership is likely to fluctuate and viewing behaviours will undoubtedly change over the coming weeks. Luckily, we’re in the fortunate position that we know our markets well. Having already been subject to significant changes within the industry, reviewing and refining our marketing activities is something we’re well-versed in. This may seem to be a challenge like no other, but we’re well equipped to deal with it.

In terms of online, there has surprisingly been a huge increase in paid social as more people spend time at home, but this doesn’t come without a price. As competition for consumer attention heightens, so does the cost per impression. It will be interesting to see whether there is a further shift on paid social in the coming weeks, as well as which sectors see an uplift in activity.

Pay-per-click has seen the biggest change reflected by different sectors. Travel related search has dropped off completely, but we are seeing increases in food delivery, insurance and wills related searches.

Across our sector we saw an initial 26% drop in Personal Injury related search terms and 40% drop in Medical Negligence. It is also clear that search terms have become much more of a fact-finding mission as opposed to transactional, as consumers seek guidance on how to deal with issues they’re now faced with. These changes are very similar to what we see over peak holiday periods, such as Christmas and Easter. The main advantage at these times is that they are ‘known knowns’, as we can identify when they will start and finish.

During this current period, it is difficult to determine when search volumes will increase, but the likelihood is that we should see a return to some form of normality sooner rather than later. Over the last couple of weeks people have had to get used to significant change, making difficult transitions in almost every area of daily life. However, in lockdown people will have more time on their hands and will no doubt be considering their financial situation and looking at all avenues for financial security.

Putting this into perspective, we are seeing a shift in audience behaviour. We are seeing increased visibility across TV and social media, but increased challenges in online search volumes. However, all channels are still generating the right quality enquiries.

As a business with a multi-channel marketing strategy, we have all bases covered when it comes to generating leads and keeping the enquiries coming. With high online visibility and a strong existing presence on daytime TV following the launch of our TV campaign “Second to None”, we’re able to easily refocus our marketing efforts so they’re in line with consumer behaviour.

For our industry, we have the upper hand in terms of how consumers interact with us. We have the gift of being both transactional and service-led, meaning that we are able to adjust how our consumers find us and access our services as the situation changes and what they need changes.

It’s no surprise to anyone, whether that be businesses or individuals, that this is a challenging time. There will inevitably be hurdles to overcome, but I am confident that we are best placed to continue to generate leads for our panel firms and ensure our consumers have the access to justice that they deserve.

Andy Cullwick is head of marketing at First4Lawyers.


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