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UK Media & Consumer Market Update — May 20, 2020

UK Media & Consumer Market Update — May 20, 2020
20 May 2020 Zac van Manen

Accurate as of: 19 May 2020

Current UK status:

Visit for all official information.

  • As of 9am on 18 May 2020, a total of 1,887,051 people have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19), of which 246,406 were confirmed positive.
  • 34,796 patients in the UK who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.
  • The UK is now considered the worst affected country in Europe, exceeding the death toll of Italy. The US remains the worst affected country in the world, followed by Russia. Brazil is now also seeing the devastating effects of the virus.
  • The current lockdown rules include those who cannot work at home are now encouraged to go to work without using public transport and only if they can safety practice social distancing at the same time. People may see one other person outside of their household in an outdoor space provided they remain 2m apart. Exercise outdoors is unlimited for those in England. Schools, gyms, tourist attractions, restaurants and the like all remain closed. Driving is permitted.
  • The ‘out of lockdown’ roadmap is conditional, however if all goes to plan, the earliest that we would see UK domestic tourism kick-starting is in July. International travel is not expected to begin again until August at the earliest.
  • A 14-day mandatory quarantine for all UK arrivals (except from Ireland, Isle of Man, and France) is being considered by the Government. More is to be announced later this week.
  • The lockdown and travel restrictions continue to cause a collapse in commercial activity, fuelling concerns for the longer-term physical, mental and economic health of the country. The UK economy shrank 2% from Jan-Mar 2020.

UK travel restrictions:

Visit for all official information.

  • As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.
  • Most flights in and out of the UK are cancelled. Airlines are cancelling flights approximately 7 days out from departure.
  • UK travellers are still banned from entering the US, as well as many other countries around the world.

Media commentary:

  • The 14-day quarantine measures have been met with criticism from airports, airlines and travel companies, some saying it would be a “nightmare” that would badly hurt a sector already in meltdown (Guardian).
  • There is an ‘air-bridge’ proposal under consideration that would allow Brits to travel to certain foreign destinations and return without entering quarantine (Telegraph).
  • This week, Heathrow will launch its trial of thermo imaging technology to help identify COVID-19 symptoms in passengers (TTG).
  • The UK is estimated to lose £37 billion in tourism revenue in 2020, Visit Britain has estimated (TTG).
  • Clinical trials of the Oxford University vaccine are ‘progressing well’ and Imperial College vaccine clinical trials are due to start in mid-June. If the Oxford University trials are successful, 30 million vaccines could be ready as early as September (Independent).
  • Some countries are beginning to lift their lockdowns and travel bans, meaning they will be open for tourists, with some opening as early as May (Telegraph).
  • The UK Government is set to begin encouraging domestic UK travel once safe to do so (Telegraph).
  • Media are still seeking destination/product news, health & safety measure updates, data stories and travel story ideas. However, health & safety measure stories need to have something innovative and use new technology to be newsworthy.
  • Online traffic for many publications is up considerably, while print readership is down.
  • Travel content relating to flight-free travel, natural landscapes, the outdoors, escapism, and getting active is increasingly sought, as following global lockdowns people believe that holidays incorporating the great outdoors will be popular.
  • Sports, cycling, hiking holiday ideas are sought, focusing on the UK, Ireland and France.
  • General feedback from publications is that press trips are on hold, but they will look at trip invitations from September onwards. They may not be able to commit 100% just yet, however.

Consumer commentary:

  • British consumer sentiment has dropped to its lowest since January 2012 as the vast majority believe the economy is headed for a recession or a depression due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a monthly YouGov/CEBR survey (Reuters).
  • UK jobless claims have soared to their highest levels since 1996 (Forbes).
  • New evidence shows that workers under 25 will be the hardest hit by COVID-19 job losses, in a survey by Resolution Foundation. The Government is under pressure to help (Guardian).
  • The UK furlough scheme has been extended by four months, affecting over 7.5 million employees and giving some hope for those potentially facing redundancies (BBC).
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned that the UK could face a recession like nothing its ever experienced before, with an economic ‘bounce back’ unclear (Telegraph).
  • An opinion piece by Anna Hart calls out the Government for having a poor understanding of the British public’s desire for a summer holiday, stating that Brits will embrace UK holidays while following social distancing rules, they just need to be allowed to do so (Telegraph).
  • Agents are seeing a slight increase in UK bookings for overseas travel, particularly to destinations that are ‘off the beaten track’ and offer lots of outdoor experiences, such as the Maldives and Caribbean. Searches for these types of destinations are also up this week on previous weeks. This shows slightly more confidence in the market than before.
  • It is predicted that domestic travel will bounce back first, followed by international travel. This is because should there be uncertainty regarding getting ‘stranded’ somewhere, people would rather be closer to home. Staycations and weekend trips will likely be popular.
  • Consumers are still frustrated at travel companies not offering refunds, however many do not have a full understanding of the consequences of providing refunds instead of vouchers. It is predicted a number of airlines and travel companies will go bust because of having to provide refunds without the cashflow. Money Saving Expert listed the 50 best and worst travel companies for cancellation refunds, with Travel Counsellors and Hays Travel being the best, and Travel Up and Travel Trolley being the worst (Money Saving Expert).

Social media:

  • This week in social media, platforms have been busy sending live new shopping tools to help customers better support local businesses. Like we touched on last week, e-commerce has grown sharply during this pandemic and platforms are doubling down.
  • Facebook hit first and hard with Shops for Facebook and Instagram. The feature is currently rolling out but Zuck did a livestream with Shopify yesterday to announce the new initiative. Marketplace has existed for a while and businesses with an Instagram Shop presence are the first to receive access to the new features but expect them to open up widely soon.
  • Facebook acquired Giphy for $400 million. If you’ve ever added a gif reply to Twitter or Tumblr or even Facebook you’ve used Giphy. Official line is that it’s been purchased as a cool new feature for Instagram but let’s not forget that Giphy is a search engine for gifs and Facebook has been notably without search engines for a while. Imagine Google ads but for gifs instead of text links.
  • Pinterest has added a new ‘Shopping Highlights’ tool to showcase pin products as chosen by fashion influencers and publishers. Pinterest is a little further down the funnel than organic Facebook so it’s interesting to note that they’re pushing ways to encourage shopping on the platform. Also interesting that they’re not pushing direct marketing as hard as Facebook is — yet.
  • TikTok’s scooped a high-profile new CEO with the hire of former Disney executive Kevin Mayer. Mayer oversaw the Disney+ launch and seems to have felt like he was prepared to succeed Iger earlier this year before Chapek, the Disney Parks Chairman, was chosen.
  • Facebook’s Messenger Rooms calls are now available to all. Invite up to 50 friends, family, and even non-Facebook users to a call to beat Zoom fatigue… somehow.
  • Instagram’s launched Guides, a new way to discover curated recommendations from high profile users across influencers and brands. During COVID, the first Guides will just be about wellness content and are a collection of Instagram posts with advice, recommendations, and tips all in one place.
  • Instagram’s now enabled saving live videos to IGTV after a huge spike in Instagram Live usage during COVID. IGTV saves won’t include likes or comments from the original livestream unfortunately and the view counter will restart.
  • Reddit, which we generally don’t talk about but does do a great job of driving silent traffic, is experimenting with a blockchain community engagement incentive. Blockchain is the tech underneath Bitcoin (which halved recently) and finding relevant use cases has been blockchain’s major issue for years so keep posted if you’re interested in how crypto rolls out.
  • Re: community management, Rooster’s still handling queries about what the rest of the year looks like for customers and it’s important that we’re reiterating that we’re ultimately uncertain about what happens next but, luckily, we work with clients offering flexibility. Reminding people of their options if worst-comes-to-worst is working well and people do understand that businesses are struggling but they do want to feel acknowledged, respected, and appreciated.

Confused about how best to communicate with your customers during this period? Get in touch.