Medialab COVID Tracker: January

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The nation went into Christmas with a glimmer of clarity. Vaccines were being rolled out. A new administration was entering the White House. Brexit was, finally, resolved. However, after a wet and cold January the challenges of 2020 returned with a vengeance. Growing levels of COVID-19 cases, further lockdown, closed schools, and a very tough Q1 ahead for employment.

For marketers, charting a way through is paramount. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent Gartner survey shows brand strategy is the most important focus for marketers for the next 18 months. Paraphrasing Mark Ritson, key to defining brand strategy is addressing three questions: who are targeting, what do we want to stand for, how are we going to deliver it.

Who are we targeting?

With government shifting its January communications focus to COVID-19 ‘rule breakers’ and ‘rule benders’, we have a timely reminder of the relevance of clear targeting.

The social inequalities that the coronavirus crisis has introduced, or exacerbated, have made targeting, and genuine empathy with different audiences, even more important in 2021.

For example, wealth inequality is likely to widen significantly. According to the Resolution Foundation, those in higher income brackets have saved significant amounts during 2020. The top fifth of earners are three times more likely to have saved than the bottom fifth. For others, job losses are rising, and unemployment grew to 5% at the end of 2020, concentrated in certain industries, particularly the accommodation and food service sectors.

Women have borne the brunt of lockdown. In a time when the US has its first female vice-president and treasury secretary, control of the International Space Station has passed (for the first time), from one woman to another, and women have been at the forefront of finding a vaccine, women are still almost twice as likely than men to reduce their working hours for childcare or home schooling (Resolution Foundation).

The elderly are suffering from a loneliness epidemic. As the Campaign to End Loneliness reports, the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/6 – a 49% increase in 10 years. Loneliness is likely to increase risk of death by 26%; loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for health than obesity.

What do we want to stand for?

According to Oxfam, the wealth of the world’s 10 richest individuals has risen by £400bn since the start of the pandemic – enough to fund vaccinations for every adult on Earth, as well as restore the income lost in 2020 to the world’s poorest people. While shocking, it is somehow even more so after 2020, a year that reinforced the fact that we are all connected by the same crisis. Some organisations are choosing to reflect these connections:

For example, Aldi’s partnership with Neighbourly is designed to help and support families affected by food insecurity. The campaign, starring Marcus Rashford, commits to donating 10 million meals in 2021 through the Neighbourly foundation.

Ikea and Oatly have both recently launched campaigns standing for frugality (Ikea), and the environmental benefits of oat milk vs. cow’s milk (Oatly).

BT have shared some smart creative executions intended to support young people entering a nightmare job market.

How will we deliver this?

There has been some great activation during the pandemic, with brands pushing themselves to be ever more ingenious and creative.

For example, British Red Cross partnered with TikTok and four doctors to launch a new first aid channel on the platform, aimed at helping the nation stay safe, entitled ‘First Aid Toolkit’.

Great Ormond Street Hospital partnered with Twitter on their innovative festive campaign called #Whamageddon, in which people had to avoid hearing Last Christmas by Wham! during December.

News emerges from the worlds of ‘New TV’ and addressable media daily.

Infosum have partnered with CACI.

ITV launches Planet V, its addressable TV platform.

Channel 4 ‘s five-year strategy, Future4, will drives towards doubling the viewing to All 4 and to deliver 30% of total revenues from digital advertising.

While 2020 was tough, we must dig even deeper in 2021 to cut through to the supporters and customers we need to reach. In this tracker we have gone back to basics, providing stimulus for who we reach, what we stand for, and how we activate.

This is a summary from a more detailed COVID Tracker. If you are an advertiser and would like to access the full version, please contact our Integration Director, Nick Parker, at

Our updated Coronavirus Crisis Dashboard, focusing on many audience and sector trends driven by the coronavirus crisis, providing a frequently updated set of metrics to help keep you informed. If you are an advertiser, you can register for access to the dashboard here:

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