Ground-breaking research investigates how New Zealanders are influenced by the Age of Acceleration
Media typically aims to reflect reality. But it can also influence it. In the interests of better understanding the supernova of technological change and globalisation, Bauer's research division Insights IQ, has been examining how New Zealanders are responding to this unprecedented pace of change - and it appears kiwis are feeling pretty overwhelmed.
Take a second to think about your childhood and the technology that was part of your everyday life. Now fast-forward to today. How have things changed?
If you’re thinking a lot, you’re not alone. Ray Kurzweill, director of engineering at Google, summed it up when he said “because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the twenty-first century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of change”.
It’s an exciting time, but the current challenge lies in the gap that exists between human adaptability and technology advancement – we feel out of control because we can’t adapt to the world as fast as it’s changing.
Wanting to explore how New Zealanders feel about these changes, Bauer’s Insights IQ team tapped into the minds of 1,600 Kiwis, generating nearly 500 hours of research data to support their Thriving in the Age of Acceleration project. It’s a significant piece of research in which respondents were asked to share their thoughts on the pace of change and how this is impacting society overall, how they’re adapting to new technology, the importance of community, changes in business and the workplace, and their feelings towards the future.
Taking a closer look
It all started last year when Julie Bramley, lead at Bauer’s research division Insights IQ, read Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L Friedman. It gave her context and perspective about the impact of the fast-paced world we live in, while also giving her details about the technology tsunami we are experiencing and a new-found confidence around technology.
“It has inspired and propelled me to get out of my comfort zone and start talking about how to navigate the pace of change with our clients,” she says, adding the most surprising find from its research was learning that 78 percent of New Zealanders believed that we are living in a time of unprecedented change. “I knew we were onto something.”
Also interesting to note is that the sentiment is not related to age or technology ability as one might assume. The findings show little difference across generations and while females feel slightly more affected by the pace of change, they don’t differ too far from how everyone else feels.
58 percent of all New Zealanders say they don’t know who or what to trust these days and driving the feelings of mistrust are social media, politicians, fake news and issues with big data. As one male respondent so succinctly said: “I only trust my own family.” With issues around big data and the pace of change it’s also not surprising that 57 percent are yearning for a simpler life, which is also fairly consistent across all generations. And as another male respondent commented: “It just makes you wish for perhaps a simpler time with less devices or screens in my life, and not having to worry about not being on Facebook for a few days or getting asked "why didn't you respond to my FB/Whatsapp/Snapchat within three minutes.”
This notion that New Zealanders are after a simpler life was supported by Barnes, Catmur & Friends Dentsu founder and partner Daniel Barnes. As part of the research, Bauer collaborated with key agency strategists who shared their take on the fast pace of change and, for Barnes, it is consistency over time that is a natural hallmark of trust.
“Brands that keep trying to move and chase the consumers all the time are actually undermining their own foundations … Just because something is widespread and everyone uses it, doesn’t mean I trust it. It means it’s easier to access,” says Barnes.
On a similar note, NZ Listener editor Pamela Stirling points out that social media, for example Twitter, has given the likes of president Donald Trump the ability to speak directly to his followers. With that in mind, she says its important media remains on his case and keeps guard by questioning the government.
“People are all over the place on issues now and they really want to make up their own mind on trusted, credible information,” she says, pointing out how the likes of The Listener, which has been around since 1939, has had years to prove its integrity.
Changing consumer mindsets
The pace of change and the way audiences are navigating it has resulted in some new consumer trends, which Bauer’s research identified as ‘the united states of anxiety’, ‘a mindful way of life’, ‘female empowerment’, ‘DNA decode’, ‘borrower’ and ‘conscious shoppers’.
The first two of those trends have been explored further in the research and it found 35 percent of New Zealanders feeling more stressed than ever before – a trend that increased with the younger generations.
Across all ages, it was Generation Y (59 percent) and Generation Z (63 percent) that agreed most with the statement ‘I often feel anxious’.
One specific cause of anxiety is robots, which pose as both an opportunity and a threat. In the study, 54 percent of New Zealanders agreed that robots will eventually take over most manual jobs.
The second trend, ‘a mindful way of life’ was highlighted in the finding that 55 percent of New Zealanders make sure they find time to be ‘unplugged’ and completely away from technology.
PHD group strategy director Simon Bird touched on the overwhelming nature of the rise of technology when sharing his thoughts about the pace of change.
He says VR and AR have been massively overblown, much like 3D TVs and Google Glass, because while they’re technologically interesting they do not solve a problem for everyday people.
But what he does see having stickability through the change is voice-driven technology.
“Voice will because it’s much more natural for us to talk than it is to type. 100 percent that will be the biggest deal in the next while.”
But before it gets there, Bird points out there are things to work through, like brands figuring out what they sound like on top of what they look like.
Founder of Circularity, Louise Nash, has a solution for brands looking for ways to incorporate technology into their mix without adding to the clutter. She thinks the rapid pace of change has opened up an opportunity for brands to go beyond the constraints of the product’s package to create a supporting service or offering for customers.
“If you have a wellness product, why don’t you create yoga classes beside it? Why don’t you create a meditation app and using technology in that way to capture new occasions, capture new consumers?”
From a consumer’s perspective, having technology that offers a service, rather than just another screen in their lives can help break the anxiety currently associated with the pace of change.
Serving clients and audiences
“The goal of the Age of Acceleration research is to build better understanding and anticipate what’s important to audiences allowing Bauer to deliver market-leading solutions to clients,” explains Kaylene Hurley, commercial director at Bauer.
“Our focus in 2018 is to provide end to end content solutions, backed by the best insight and creative ideas in combination with our editorial experts,” “To lead this strategy, we have the Media Collective - our commercial content experts, who create amazing integrated campaigns.”
The next project for the Insights IQ team will be research on how New Zealanders live, how they eat, work, learn, love, and play. Each module will be insight-led and have an editorial component relevant for brands.
“We think it’s vital to know and understand consumers better than anyone else to help our advertisers tap into the engaged personal relationship our brands have with their audiences,” she says. “This engagement is driven by relevance and trust, and in today’s fragmented landscape, these values are important than ever.
“Each day we strive to build trust in our brands, and Bauer will continue to focus on building audiences across new platforms and driving engagement through rich content.”
To hear more of what Barnes, Stirling and Bird have to say about the Age of Acceleration, follow the links to their full interviews: