Every month we analysed the pop culture stories which went viral online. Early in the year, there was much excitement about the release of Fifty Shades of Grey (90% of people were aware),while almost the same amount of people were aware of poor Madonna falling at the Brit Awards.
In Spring, Ireland lost a music hero when Tony Fenton passed away. This was the highest scoring Ignite Score in the pop culture category. The following month, 92% were aware of the birth of Princess Charlotte - which was more than the people who were aware of Jeremy Clarkson leaving the BBC (89%) and Zayn Malik leaving One Direction (81%). After a summer when Ed Sheeran scored high in our list, more people thought the Ploughing Championships was more important than the Electric Picnic.
Brands have an opportunity and role in our modern news landscape. From viral pieces of content to PR disasters, there were a number of brands included in our analysis. Volkswagen topped the list with the global story about emissions while Irish people thought the National Lottery’s price increase was more important than the rebranding of Eircom to eir.
Health and Housing stories have scored mid-league in our list of what matters to people. Early on in the year, and returning with winter 2016, concerns about waiting times in Irish hospitals is of high importance to people. Similarly, the worsening homelessness situation on Irish streets has led to many stories throughout the year.
In August, 4 in 5 Irish people were aware that the number of homeless families were increasing, while in October the devastating story of a Traveller family losing their lives as a result of a halting site fire also resonated with 86% of people. Many of the stories related to the overall problem within the market of lack of housing supply.
In Economics, The Greek crisis and our own Budget 2015 impacted the most on Irish people scoring above 60 in our Ignite score list. Despite having numerous news headlines, only half of Irish people were aware of the debate about SiteServ and the stand off at Gorse Hil. Other economic stories which had a moderate impact on people were the banking inquiry and the Aer Lingus takeover. All economic stories resonated more with urban men than any other cohort.
In environmental stories, the Nepal earthquake, solar eclipse and World Health Organisation report on red meat all scored high on importance, while 55% of people were aware of reports that seagulls were attacking people during the summer months.
The bus strike of April topped the Industry and Commerce list, while over 85% of people were aware of the Dunnes Stores workers strike.
Sport peaked in Spring when both the men’s and women’s rugby team won the Six Nations (scoring 61), but rugby failed to excite the nation as much in Autumn when the team reached the Quarter Finals of the World Cup (scoring 54). The Irish football team’s win against Germany in October scored 45 with 69% of the population aware of the win, in comparison to 64% of those aware of the All Ireland GAA finals.
The shocking murder of Karen Buckley and Elaine O’Hara, scored highly in terms of importance, particularly affecting Irish women.
In June, the tragic balcony collapse in Berkeley affected 93% of Irish people.
In politics, one story dominated headlines - protests and debates about Irish Water. One of two stories we took a deep dive on, considering the amount of coverage they received, the Irish Water tap seemed to never turn off for the first half of the year. On average 86% of Irish people were aware of an Irish Water story. People scored above 70% in importance, providing it with the highest Ignite Score (64) in politics. For the general public this was more important than talk about the 1916
commemorations (scoring 48), the launch of Renua Ireland (scoring 28), or Enda Kenny’s characterisation in the Fennelly report (scoring 24).
The other major story for at least half of the year was the debate surrounding the
marriage referendum. With 1.2 million people voting in favour of same-sex marriage, it is no great surprise that this story was in our top three. I was privileged to have been involved in the campaign collaborating with Yes Equality on Straight Up for Equality but never did we think it would connect with people as much as it did. For the month of May, we expressed who we are and what we stand for.
Brand managers and agencies can learn from the authentic and responsive story-telling of Yes Equality and should never under-estimate how Irish people will engage with topics which many claim are too-polarised.
Sadly, we finish our journey of stories throughout the year on the reality of Europe. During the summer, after years of neglect, the plight of refugees crossing Europe reached an absolute crisis which has yet to be resolved.
The Irish Navy were heroic in saving thousands from drowning, but thousands lost their lives as European Governments delayed in providing true humanitarian assistance.
As refugees flee from the terror in Syria, the terror reached European mainland. On 13 November 2015, following Charlie Hebdo, Paris was again attacked. The story is the highest scoring Ignite score - resonating the most with Irish people - because we saw ourselves in the innocent victims enjoying dinner, sport and music.
Survivors spoke about the fear but many have called on people to be resilient and cherish the important moments in life.
Paris has and will have a great impact on us, but reminds us all that there is a variety of important and not so important things in life.
Meaningful moments matter.