Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Reasons to be Cheerful: Matt O’Mara, CCO, Beano Studios

As the coronavirus pandemic has quickly become the new normal, NDA wants to celebrate the positives of our current situation. 

We spoke to Matt O’Mara, CCO at Beano Studios to find out what’s keeping him cheerful.

What, if any, positive long-term impact on the digital industry will coronavirus have?

The pandemic and then the Black Lives Matter protests have forced more altruism from the industry. As a sector we can pivot, innovate and develop incredibly quickly and hopefully we’ll see similar focus and initiatives beyond just this period.

Equally the digital industry has had to step in to deliver experiences that weren’t possible during lockdown. We’ve had live global concerts, piano lessons and even house viewings all delivered by the industry and that innovation will continue to be demanded by consumers post lockdown.

No longer will just having a .com destination for your brand, work. Younger generations don’t see brands as digital or non-digital – it’s a completely alien concept. The industry needs to continue to drive seamless offline/online experiences for consumers.

What positive impacts on long term consumer behaviour shifts will it have?

The importance of dedicated family time was growing before lockdown but lockdown has created an even bigger appreciation for it. Shared pursuits such as going for walks and cycling have increased during lockdown and baking and arts and crafts have also both increased by 8% since March.

Parents are telling us that they want that to continue, looking for greater flexibility at work than before and a reduction in organised activities for their kids to create more time for family activities. The family unit will become the primary decision driver for families post lockdown.

What positive impacts have you seen on how your business operates?

We actually made the move to work remotely before official lockdown started which felt risky at the time but it was definitely the right thing to do looking back. Having everyone transition to remote working had its natural quirks at the beginning – especially as no one knew what was going to happen or for how long. But we had a fresh clear focus on delivering solutions for our audience and clients and looking back at the sheer volume of work done by the team in those first weeks was incredible.

We’re also a multi-site business with both London and Dundee offices and a number of the team who work from home permanently. Having everyone switch to remote working has actually really connected us as lunch breaks, coffee chats and after work social events have all gone virtual meaning everyone can get involved.

And in February we launched our Beano Brain Omnibus tool, which allows us and brands to harness youth opinion quickly, safely and compliantly through It’s been absolutely invaluable during this period.

Naturally we’ve seen an increase in kids visiting the site whilst staying at home, so we can now talk to millions of kids each week and ask daily questions to understand what’s happening and how they’re feeling. Life is moving at a rapid pace at the moment so being able to turn around quick, robust insights has been vital for both Beano and client work.

What have you been most heartened about in how your staff, partners, customers or clients have reacted to the new normal?

Quite often we see people underestimate our young Beano audience or assume that they know what they’re thinking and feeling, so we felt a clear responsibility to make sure that they had a voice throughout this.

As a generation they’ve really proved their resilience – utilising their generational traits to adapt to their new reality. Like many of us, they got bored with straight video chats with friends so have found ways to turn digital platforms into virtual playgrounds and meet up to play and chat safely together.

They’ve also got involved and helped – decorating their neighbourhoods with rainbows, clapping for the NHS, raising money for charities with their own challenges inspired by Captain Tom – it’s all been very heartening to see.

Equally it’s been incredible to see how quickly brands and organisations have turned around campaigns and assets to help. We gladly donated comics to Project Wingman, where furloughed airline crew created and staffed lounges for NHS staff and partnered with Save the Children to create Lockdown Birthday kits to help kids still have a special celebration whilst raising much needed funds.

What technologies have you been most impressed with during this new situation and do you think coronavirus will hasted their uptake or development?

Other than the obvious adoption of video conferenceing as the norm, Roblox, Animal Crossing, Fortnite and TikTok come up time and time again when talking to kids and teens at the moment. What’s interesting about these platforms is, without their users, they would be empty. They are populated and continue to grow and develop through their users’ content.

Social currency for Gen Z and Gen Alpha is digital creativity, which has boomed during this period. These kids are not defined by technology – they’re in control of it and developing new digital worlds themselves.