Medialab COVID Tracker | 20.07.20

To say that lots has changed since the beginning of Lockdown on 23rd March is an understatement.

The coronavirus crisis has already moved through several phases. A further crisis of equality, diversity and inclusion has come to the fore. Brexit is waiting in the wings. And don’t even mention climate disaster. With so much to cover, there is a risk the tracker becomes a summary of the news, rather than an opinion on the impact for marketing. To avoid this, from August we will move to a monthly frequency and look to offer a more focused view on marketing and media.

A lot seems to have shifted in the last two weeks, and we’ve been hit with a series of wake-up calls to consider In this week’s COVID-19 Tracker, we take a look at some of those wake-up calls; and their implications at both a societal and individual level.

Super Saturday

July 4th, the day known as Super Saturday, came with plenty of fanfare, yet now feels like a distant memory. Google Trends showed a spike in searches for local pubs and restaurants from 4th July, however, Google Mobility Data still shows the index of Retail and Recreation footfall down -47 vs Feb 2020*. Although a pivotal day in the lockdown calendar, the level of public comfort with visiting these re-opened places was, and remains, low. According to YouGov, only 5% of British adults say they hit the pubs over the Super Saturday weekend.

Ongoing Inequality and Bias

Last week, the Education Select Committee Chairman, Robert Halfon warned: “We have serious worries about the fairness of the model developed by Ofqual (to assign GCSE and A-level exam grades). There is a risk it will lead to unfair bias and discrimination against already disadvantaged groups.” The challenge comes in the appeals process, which under interrogation, proves to be almost impossible for a pupil to prove bias or discrimination.

Bias has also been exposed in sports commentary, with RunRepeat, in partnership with The Professional Footballers’ Association (UK), publishing an analysis on 10th July, of 2,073 statements from commentators in 80 football matches from the 2019/20 season. The comments discussed 643 unique players of various races and skin tones, with the findings showing bias from commentators who praised players with lighter skin tone as more intelligent, as being of higher quality, and harder working than players with darker skin tone. Players with darker skin tone were significantly more likely to be reduced to their physical characteristics or athletic abilities — namely pace and power — than players with lighter skin tone were.

But broadcasters are making efforts to address bias and inequality, with Channel 4 continuing to commission films that explore different aspects of the black experience in modern Britain. ITV is also launching a series of short films that offer black voices a platform to share stories of racism and what should be done about it.

Facebook Ad Boycott

The connected world we live in has given rise to a number of huge organisations; 7 of the 10 largest global companies by market cap are technology companies. As the fifth largest global company, this scale means that society’s problems are also Facebook’s problems. Having been implicated in the facilitation of Russian election interference, data privacy issues, market power abuse and fake news problems, Facebook recently met with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Color of Change and other groups. These organizations have recently helped push hundreds of companies, such as Unilever, to pause their advertising on Facebook to protest its handling of toxic speech and misinformation.

While Facebook’s challenges continue, broadcast media has taken the opportunity to remind us of its value. On 8th July, a unique collaboration saw the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 come together for the first time to share a special film for all viewers at the same time across their biggest channels to celebrate the role UK broadcasters play across our culture.

Income and Opportunity

Regarded as one of the successes of the pandemic, Boohoo had seen year-on-year sales growth. This was in part thanks to the speed at which they responded to the lockdown with ‘stay at home’ looks, enabled by local UK suppliers, where 40% of their products are made. However, an investigation by the Sunday Times revealed that that workers at a factory in Leicester supplying Boohoo’s Nasty Gal label were paid as little as £3.50 per hour, far below the country’s minimum wage of £8.72 per hour for over 25s. The Minister for safeguarding, Victoria Atkins, said: ‘Exploiting vulnerable people for commercial gain is despicable and this Government will not stand for it.”

This financial distress for those on low incomes has only been accentuated by the pandemic, with a greater negative financial impact falling on these households. A gap of this nature also seeps into the different generation, with 18-34s hardest hit. According to the Guardian on 29th June, ‘At least 30% of university students have lost a job or an offer of a job after the sharpest monthly increase in unemployment on record.’

This COVID-19 Tracker, along with the rest in the series is powered by Apollo, our data marketing platform, which hosts the Apollo Lockdown Live Dashboard. The dashboard provides users with a daily update on how audiences are searching online. It covers work, movement and travel, interests, social contact, and competitor activity. It aims to highlight important changes in these areas over the last 90 days. You can register for access to the dashboard at the following page: https://medialabgroup.co.uk/apollo/