The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live our lives in countless ways — from what we eat, to where we work, to how we celebrate, and even how we wear our hair (hello, home hair cuts!). Digital media is no exception. A lot has changed in the past year, and the digital landscape is never going back to the way it was before. Here are three digital trends we see outlasting the pandemic — and that hair cut 😬

Online is the new offline

Being stuck at home day after day after day means Americans are spending more time than ever before consuming digital content — up almost an hour a day in 2020, the biggest increase in nearly a decade. And daily online content consumption has more than doubled since the pandemic began, driven in large part by a surge in the use of connected TVs, with nearly half of consumers reporting using CTV devices more. According to Nielsen, consumers’ weekly time spent with streaming video in mid-2020 increased a whopping 75% over the same period in 2019. 

That’s a lot of digital content! Which is great news for digital advertisers, but it also means that it’s going to take more than ever to stand out. Dark, ominously narrated political spots are all but guaranteed to be tuned out by a Zoomed-out, politically weary public, which means we need to keep generating fresh, culturally relevant content that breaks through. That means big increases in native advertising, less-produced video content, and amplifying the voices of community leaders aren’t just pandemic trends — they’re here to stay. 

Reimagining the video shoot

When the pandemic hit, the idea of flying across the country for an all-day (or multi-day!) film shoot went out the window. To adapt, firms like ours shifted to a fully remote film strategy. In fact, we mailed our remote shoot kit over 10,000 miles from August through October and conducted more than four dozen remote video shoots, capturing video of candidates, community leaders, and voters that could be used in digital campaigns. Software allowed our team to remotely control focus, exposure, color balance, depth of field, and more so the subject could focus on their role: sharing their story.

The benefits were enormous. Not only could we capture video footage without endangering anyone’s safety, but remote shoots also saved our clients hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the cycle — money they could immediately reinvest in reaching more voters. Remote filming technology also allowed us to greatly expand the pool of candidates, validators, and everyday people we could include in our ads, since not everybody can get away for a full-day on-location film shoot. And the direct-to-camera format felt more authentic to viewers who were inundated with political ads in the fall. 

Making a connection

The social isolation of the past year is very real, and one of the outcomes we’ve seen is the struggle to create an authentic human connection in digital spaces. Viewers don’t just want to see our content — they want to feel seen by our content. To connect with isolated, screen-weary audiences, campaigns will need to produce content that feels more like a conversation than a lecture.

That starts with longer, more personal email messages, more direct-to-camera video, and overall content that acknowledges what we’re all living through. Over the past year we’ve put masks on animated figures, added opt-outs to fundraising emails that acknowledge the ongoing crisis, and filmed candidates who, like us, were confined to their homes. And once we’ve established that connection, voters are unlikely to want to go back to the impersonal communication that dominated pre-COVID. 

Someday, hopefully sooner than later, much of our day to day life will start to go back to “normal.” We’ll eat in restaurants, buy airline tickets, and send our kids to school. We might even fix our hair. But the digital landscape has changed for good — and, in many ways, for the better.