After soaring to the top of the app charts, the social media app BeReal has sparked a buzz in the digital marketing sphere, and experts have taken to the internet to deliberate over its popularity. But its recent rise to success has not occurred in isolation. In fact, it fits beautifully within the wider trend seen with Thursday, Wordle and HQ trivia, and demonstrates the success that can be achieved in bringing people together in real-time whilst also limiting that interaction to a specific time frame.
The BeReal phenomenon begs the question: are we so burnt out by unlimited content that we’re gravitating towards apps that restrict our access to it?
Back in the day, Instagram, the “photo sharing app”, was for seeing what your friends had eaten over the weekend, but it is now so over-saturated with content that it’s lost all sense of authentic, real-time connection. Instead, its algorithm is so aggressive in its endless recommendations that the Head of Instagram Mosseri recently conceded a U-turn on updates, following the petition “Make Instagram Instagram again”. In stark contrast, BeReal’s concept is incredibly simple – a daily notification tells you ‘It’s time to BeReal’ and gives you two minutes to upload a bi-directional shot of you and your surroundings at that moment. Taking you live with your closest friends is a nod to nostalgic platforms like MSN. The timing of BeReal’s notifications is randomised each day and the resulting anticipation is a huge factor in its success. You can only ‘BeReal’ once a day, no more. Are you out for drinks or are you sitting in the bathroom when the notification arrives?
Similarly to BeReal, Worldle’s success is also strongly underpinned by the scarcity principle. First launched in 2013, Worldle initially flopped. In 2021, a new prototype took the world by storm. The difference? The creator limited it to a single puzzle a day. Wordle gives its users one chance daily to participate in the same challenge as people worldwide, all trying to obtain the same 5-letter word. In doing so, Wordle manages to effectively combine both a sense of community and a sense of competition.
Even in the age of television on-demand, nostalgia for a more communal experience creeps in. Ten years ago, we would text each other about the Apprentice drama as it unfolded, last night’s Bake Off was a conversation starter and Reddit was working double time to produce memes as Game of Thrones was mid-episode. Yet in 2019, when Disney announced that shows like The Mandalorian and WandaVision would be released on a weekly basis, they were praised for the novelty of building anticipation and suspense, as if we’d become so accustomed to Netflix that we’d forgotten how TV shows used to be released.
As technology has evolved and we have constant access to everything on demand, we are seeing a longing ache for a past where everyone is participating live in the same experience.
And so, if live, time-sensitive entertainment is truly the future of digital entertainment, what does this mean for the monetisation of our newfound attention?
Well, pioneers in this space will let you know that advertising in this rediscovered live world will be a golden opportunity for brands that want to be genuinely memorable.
Endless scrolling formats have bred mindless snappy advertising that gets scrolled away, but live entertainment holds people in place. The most coveted ad placements in the world strike in this space. Consider the billboards in London Underground or halftime at the Super Bowl: both dramatically different spaces for advertising, but both massively effective in their ability to meet frozen audiences with gazing eyes.
BeReal, Wordle and other live, time-sensitive platforms all achieve this suspended audience during a highly engaged and anticipated event.
This effect is elevated in gaming: imagine you’re in a virtual waiting lobby for a mobile tournament giving away £10,000. Hundreds of thousands of players pile into the lobby as the countdown to gameplay ticks down. As your adrenaline climbs, your eyes widen as you scan your device for information. What’s on-screen is getting looked at, with the gold standard of user attention. But it doesn’t stop there. The twists and turns of live gameplay are intertwined seamlessly with timely advertising – non-intrusive and rewarding for the user.
And eyes on ads is not the only commercial value of live digital entertainment. As we all become more resistant to the tricks of covert data collection, live platforms will shine through in their ability to consult their audiences in a meaningful and mutually valuable way. In the future, fans of Stranger Things might expect a notification from BeReal following the latest episode asking for a picture reaction and snapshot review.
The value is burgeoning and yet to be fully realised, however, the writing is clearly on the wall as live apps and platforms are receiving millions in investment ahead of their monetisation (BeReal notably achieving $30m).
Unlike a push notification from BeReal, blink and you won’t miss it: this trend is here to stay and we can’t wait to see how this develops with users and brands alike.