Alex Lubar: Instant messages, gaming and masculinity. The truth about Britain today

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I’m going to ask you to do the unfathomable and set all thoughts of Brexit aside for just a moment. Suspend your disbelief that despite its state of polarisation and socio-economic and political uncertainty, Britain is actually grappling with some other fundamental truths.

From abandoning our curtain-twitching obsession with privacy, to our fixation with sustainability and fear of tipping into the “uncanny valley” where robots are stealing our jobs.

In our latest study on The Truth About Britain informed from McCann Worldgroup’s proprietary global insights team – Truth Central - we discovered some of the following truths for the year ahead.

We will all seek 15 minutes of privacy

“In the future everyone will want to be anonymous for 15 minutes”. An exaggeration or has the elusive artist Banksy nailed it with this quote? According to our latest Truth Central insights, a staggering 91% of British people see privacy as a fundamental human right – which begs the question… why aren’t we more protective of our online data?

I’ve racked my brain for an answer and I’m putting this fast erosion of privacy down to sheer convenience. People today are time-poor and over half of the nation’s parents are happy to part with their personal data if it will shave time off the clock. But when we refer to data what are people most sensitive about sharing? The majority said their instant messages – not their browsing history or personal photos – embarrassing as they might be.

Gen Z – a new cohort or just another generation?

Every generation that comes through the ranks of time is a new promise to change the world. So, what makes Gen Z different to millennials or even Gen Y and baby boomers?

Well, they believe they were born into a time of extraordinary conflict and unrest, with 73% of Gen Z in the UK expecting bad things to happen in the world. Perhaps that’s why they prefer to hang out with friends in online games as opposed to in the physical world. And why they’re more likely to own a games console than a credit card or even a social media account. They even consider gaming to be the ultimate form of self-expression… whatever happened to showing off your new trainers to your mates at the pub?

At least Gen Z seem self-aware, with 55% of them saying they are actively trying to reduce their screen time!

Diversity is crying out for diversification

Diversity is one of, if not the, most important trends of today. But what we’re now seeing is the diversification of diversity itself. Today, over half the UK’s population believes gender is a fluid concept with Facebook users now able to choose from 71 gender options.

Diversity is no longer just being measured on the gender scale – it’s being defined by cultural nuances like origin and class. People’s self-perception and how they want to be seen is also changing. 16% of UK men say they want to be perceived as somewhat feminine, while only 2% of women want to be perceived as masculine. People are also searching for different qualities in others – as UK respondents reveal the most important thing for a man to be today is not kind, not intelligent and not supportive, but honest. Truth – you just can’t seem to beat it.

Sustainability is for everyone

Sustainability for brands has extended beyond a nice-to-have, and it’s about time too. According to our insights, people in the UK rate environmental issues above all other causes and 50% said they bought a product solely because of its brand purpose.

Plastic has become the villain of the natural world. Britain’s national treasure, Sir David Attenborough, took plastic from hero to zero on one cold December evening in 2017, when primetime TV aired shocking images of marine life sharing oceans with our plastic waste. Now 1/3 of the UK population are prepared to ban plastic products altogether and we’ve got supermarkets in the UK banning plastic packaging from their produce.

And people’s life aspirations are changing tact… our research shows people care more about bettering the world for future generations than having successful careers and personal relationships. Maybe we have Gen Z to thank for that. Time will tell.

Look busy – the robots are coming

With sci-fi fast becoming fact, there’s a continued fear of robots taking over our jobs. It’s not a completely irrational fear – but it can be explained away. When we asked people which of the following they thought would be eradicated in the next 10 years – High Street Stores, High Street Banks, Cashiers or Plastic Carrier Bags – over 1/3 said all of them. But to design all of the online stores, banks and automated checkout points and to find alternative carrier bags, we’ll still need to rely on the creative minds of humans. Because, as we like to say at McCann, creativity is the only way to survive.

By Alex Lubar, CEO, McCann London.

Article first published on The Drum.


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