What Unites a Kingdom

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At ITV, we pride ourselves on creating content that engages millions and that connects with mainstream Britain in a way that no other broadcaster can. But to do so requires us to keep our fingers on the collective pulse of the nation; to understand what makes us tick and – critically in the wake of so much change – what still brings us together.  

ITV have worked with experts from Crowd DNA and travelled the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. Conducting 120 hours of qualitative interviews, hearing from over 2000 people and exploring the semiotic codes that make up our social and cultural DNA to connect with mainstream Britain in a way that no other broadcaster can. Giving us insight as to how the dominant codes of mainstream Britishness has evolved.  

A disrupted market

For advertisers, the pandemic has been a case of stop, start, transform. Brands suspended or decreased their advertising when the pandemic first broke out, then returned to the screens with campaigns that took into account the new realities. And now they are changing
their approach again. Brands are tailoring their advertising strate­gies to the latest twists and turns in a world where viewing and consumption habits are rapidly changing. Today’s marketers are having to adapt to an emerging post-­pandemic world of hybrid working, supply chain disrup­tion, labour shortages, a soaring savings rate and growing inflation. This is a time of optimism and challenge as we put the pandemic behind us and rebuild the economy. Looking ahead, every medium is set to confront similar challenges in 2022. Whether TV or digital, video or social, out-­of-­home or print, all media are becoming more data driven, technology­-focused and agile. Sales houses are all wrestling with issues such as how best to measure the reach and effec­tiveness of the ads they place, how to automate and simplify their media booking processes and how they can thrive in an increasingly global advertising market.

Let’s look at some factors uniting the kingdom in 2022… 

Everyday Magic 

A sense of everyday magic is a key part of British experience today, with the majority of people we spoke to seeing this sentiment as helping to unite the nation. After two years (and a bit) of doom and gloom, Brits are in need of having their spirits lifted. Humour is our national coping mechanism, which is why we’re not surprised that this code resonates with seventy-four percent of our respondents. The country’s deep attachment to this value means we can expect it to influence its culture for years to come. At ITV, we’re all for it! 

Proud Resilience. 

Sixty-six percent of the people we spoke to pointed to proud resilience as a quality that unites the nation in 2022. Britain’s ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude is being modernised in this post-pandemic period. The reigns on keeping calm and carrying on are being loosened. The Brits still believe on keeping a sense of belonging, solidarity and strength, but less likely to insist on the ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality.  

“We’ll giggle at silly things that really aren’t that funny but the one thing that gets us nurses through is laughs and banter.” Shanice, 28, Birmingham

The best thing about the underdog is the thing about sticking it to the man. It is quite British.” Patrick Younge, ITV Studios Non-Exec Director.

Dreaming Big  

British people are inspired by those who not only dream but can turn their dreams into a reality. Fifty-five percent of the public we reached out to saw this sentiment as bringing the nation together. Dreaming big is about imagination and creativity, celebrating the plucky underdog spirit and, most of all wanting to know how something was done, not who did it. 

The Plucky underdog is something of a role model for many British people. The vast majority (80%) of people we spoke to have respect for people who have overcome obstacles in their lives thanks to their strong work ethics. Helping us all believe that the hard graft pays off… eventually.

So, what does the future look like? 

Despite the huge challenges facing the country, more people (45%) are feeling optimistic than not (35%) about the future of Britain. While financial concerns might be widespread, which is primarily overtaken with the desire to move on beyond the pandemic months and find peace within ourselves and with others. 

Mainstream Britain & media land compared 

With any research project (especially with one as large and complex as this!), the potential for bias is always a risk. So, we turned the spotlight on ourselves – us media professionals – to see which codes of mainstream Britishness stood out for people in the industry, compared with the general population. 

We found that, overall, media professionals related more than mainstream Britain to Everyday Magic. Eighty-seven percent of media professionals cited everyday magic as a value that unites the nation, compared with seventy-four percent of mainstream audiences. 

Lucy Crotty

Lucy Crotty

Cultural Insight & Strategy, ITV

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