The Comfort of Horror

It’s been almost three years since we at the Brand Content team have regularly produced horror content. The first horror content was posted back in September 2019, so the initial discussion must be done around July or early August. By adding horror to our existing content at that time, comedy and romance, we had three working formulas of the content best practice.

The very first discussion was pretty much just us sharing personal horror stories. I still remember when our former creative shared an urban legend (sort of) of the infamous headless ghost at the post production house basement in Kemang, South Jakarta, area. In the middle of the story, the lights suddenly went out and we all spontaneously screamed. It turned out the light’s switch was accidentally pressed while he’s standing leaning on it. Right there and then, we knew that with the right storytelling, horror content would be big.

We were right. Cerita Misteri Shopee quickly gained popularity and became one of our content pillars on Shopee ID Youtube channel up to date. In total we have produced 83 videos, in which 35 of them are collaborations with top tier horror Youtuber such as Risa Saraswati, Om Hao and Kisah Tanah Jawa team, Frislly Herlind, Filo Sebastian, and Ewing HD, while the rest of them are coming from Sobat Shopee real horror experiences.

Cerita Misteri Shopee becomes one of the content pillar on Shopee ID Youtube channel

You might wonder, what does an e-commerce company have to do with horror content in the first place? Well, sit tight. Google recently published a Youtube Culture & Trends Report 2022. It has so many interesting data and insights about people’s behaviour in producing and consuming content around the globe. They found the forces that drove pop culture’s evolution took three distinct forms: community creativity, multi-format creativity, and responsive creativity. The last form, responsive creativity, has a close relation—if not every notion regarding—to the horror content pillar I was telling since the beginning. 

In the report, Google translates the responsive creativity to “creation and consumption trends that derive from the ways people adapt video platforms to suit their psychological and emotional needs”. During the pandemic, there has been a significant number, a whopping 90% of viewers, specifically Gen Z, who watched a video that helped them feel like they were in a different place. While 83% of them have watched soothing content on YouTube to help calm and relax themselves. Most of them agree that they find comfort in creators who have familiarity with them. A sort of parasocial interaction (a kind of psychological relationship experienced by an audience in their mediated encounters with performers in the mass media, particularly on television and on online platforms) forms and exists between them and the creators. Michelle Choi is one of the ‘comfort creators’ who has a regular content series called Living Alone Diaries.

In a similar vein, many people also find comfort in horror content. 53% of Gen Z agree that online horror content appeals to them. It may seem contradictory, but there’s actually a scientific explanation behind this antithetical phenomenon.

When watching scary movies, we can experience psychological responses similar to exposure therapy, a technique used to treat anxiety disorders where we force ourselves to face fear in order to overcome it. A sort of a cathartic release for some.

In 2020, National Geographic published an article titled how horror movies can help people overcome real-world trauma. According to Mathias Clasen, Director of the Recreational Fear Lab and an Associate Professor in Literature and Media at Aarhus University in Denmark, the controlled fear experiences such as watching horror movies “may have positive effects in terms of fine-tuning coping strategies.” We are genuinely frightened, maybe even screamed while watching, but we’re also aware that we’ve done it from the safety of our bed or living room. The article further explains that a study of more than 300 people shows that horror fans are showing a much better psychological condition than non-fans during the distressing time of pandemic. 

Taking everything into consideration, the Shopee Brand Team decided to tap into the horror content as well for campaign promotion. It was a parody of a horror vlog, where a man is doing a livestream in the middle of the night in a supposedly abandoned complex with a dirty pool and lush trees. To make it more convincing, the video was posted on one of the biggest anonymous Instagram accounts in Indonesia. The strategy worked. People got hooked, intrigued, and stayed until the very end of the video when the Shopee brand message appeared.

So what’s next?

Like any other trends, as a genre, horror has evolved too. Still from the Youtube Culture & Trends Report 2022, Google defines the genre based on the generation. They reported that millennial horror tends to be more about the adrenaline rush of the jump scare. Remember Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or The Ring? While the younger generation or Gen Z prefer a  more atmospheric horror. That explains the found-footage style (think of The Blair Witch Project) or ‘analog horror’ trend has risen.

A little throwback to the early pandemic, there was a trend circulated among the online community called ‘liminal space’, which later formed a new “youth-driven internet folklore, The Backrooms”, wrote Samantha Culp, a journalist, writer, and creative strategist in her piece titled Liminal Dust-up

‘The Backrooms’ was originally a meme, posted in 4Chan on May 12, 2019, on a thread calling for “disquieting images” that “just feel off”. It’s the disturbing feeling of the unknown that has drawn many people into it. It now has spawned stories, comics, fan art, video games, and increasingly high-production value viral videos on YouTube.

Working in digital content production means we need to keep improving and adapting. In order to have a long lasting, meaningful, and great bonding with the viewers (with Gen Z as the majority), we have to understand their content consumption behaviour. What interests them and what’s relevant to them. And that specific part about the ‘Millennial vs Gen Z horror’ becomes valuable insight for us as we’re cooking something fresh for the viewers to enjoy!

So did our decision to add horror as one of the content pillars for Shopee ID Youtube work or did we just get lucky? I believe both answers are right. It’s a proven formula that ‘horror, comedy, and romance’ topics are among the best-selling topics in history. However, I’ve to admit that the timing is in our favour. Horror content consumption seems to have increased, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, and is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. In the meantime, we’re not so surprised to see our competitors (yes, plural) using the same strategy by tapping into horror content on their Youtube channel.

YouTube vs Instagram vs TikTok – A Compact Guide (2022)

The short-form video is trending and there’s one ‘culprit’ behind it: TikTok. Without a doubt, the new kid on the net, the newcomer who hasn’t been existed until 6 years ago, has proven its domination. TikTok is not only making everyone (especially Google‘s YouTube and Meta‘s Instagram) watching them cautiously, but also pushes both its predecessors to adapt quickly to the trend. 

It’s only March and the three rivals have already made big move: YouTube shuts down their YouTube Originals, TikTok increases duration to 10 minutes, and Instagram shuts down IGTV. 

In this guide, I provided a head-to-head comparison on four key aspects from each platforms: content, interactivity, community guideline & policy, and monetization, branding, & ads. Those are the main aspects which I think are important for all parties involved: users, creators, and brand.

Despite having its own strength and uniqueness that differ them with each other, the three seem to be believing the same thing:

The future of content is shoppable.

In the end, there are still two questions remain for me: 1) Do we need everything to be done in one app? and 2) Who’s going to win the market in the long run?

Whatever the answers will be, I hope you find this compact guide useful and could help you decide which platform works best for you or the brand you represent.

Download the PDF file for YouTube vs Instagram vs TikTok – A Compact Guide (2022) on Scribd:

Ramadan is Coming, Get Yourself (and Your Content) Ready

It’s officially 30 days until Ramadan. The holy month celebrated by millions where everything feels sacred and festive at the same time.

It’s when the time you spend alone feels as rewarding as the time you spend with the others. How could it not when even taking a nap during Ramadan is considered as a good deed?

From the religious perspective, I see Ramadan as a special moment to bond with the Creator, personally and spiritually. While from other perspective, we have to admit that nothing beats Ramadan vibe. It has that special kind of warmth where everything feels calculated and predictable. For eleven months, we have been clutching onto this feeling, longing for the moment to come. And when it finally comes, the familiar feeling surge inside and rushing like a wave. 

Ramadan is magical. It brings family back together. To be practicing prayer together five times a day is the goal. But for some, spending time together as a family for two times a day, suhoor (eating before dawn to start the fasting) and iftar (breakfasting) is a rare moment they will cherish.

Like in most Indonesian household, I grew up watching television during both times with my family. For a late millennial like me, television was the main and only source of entertainment during Ramadan at that time.

Ramadan is THE prime time of the year.

Television was packed with various programs, from lecture (‘kultum’), Quran study (Tafsir Al Misbah with Quraish Shihab), documentaries (Jejak Rasul), or even tv series. If you’re a mid 80s born like me, you would’ve been familiar with Lorong Waktu, Kiamat Sudah Dekat, and Para Pencari Tuhan. All produced by the same production house, helmed by senior actor turned politician, Deddy Mizwar.

Apart from all of that, Ramadan commercials also hit different, just like Super Bowl to Americans. Brands are splurging money and creative team are racking their brain to produce the best Ramadan commercials, trying to beat each other’s last year achievement. Check out YouTube Ads Leaderboard Ramadan, an annual showcase by Google of the most popular ads screened during the Ramadan period.

If one must name a genre of Ramadan ad, what do you think it will be? For me, it’s a musical family drama. You have the music (I bet money some particular religious songs will be on heavy rotation again just like Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is You during Christmas!), the touching story, and of course family as the center.

Besides television, radio was also the go-to source of entertainment during Ramadan for many people in early 2000. I remember there was a radio drama by Prambors titled BOMP (Bikin Orang Mikirin Puasa) which aired daily at 5PM. It quickly became a hit! Radio drama is not a new format, it was already popular since the 80s (remember Saur Sepuh?). But, we have to admit that Prambors made the right decision to make it as a Ramadan series. Clever strategy!

When I said earlier that Ramadan feels sacred and festive at the same time, I’m not exaggerating. It really feels that way. In between practicing Islam (fasting, daily prayers, reciting Quran, and other good deeds), you’re also exposed to curated contents from literally everywhere.

It makes me wonder, how do Gen Z or the younger generation experience Ramadan? Do they have the same excitement and collective memory about the holy month? Do they feel that Ramadan is ‘sacred and festive’, or it is more festive to them considering everything is just a tap away? Do they cling on to specific Ramadan content to accompany them in between rituals?

Do Ramadan themed content even exist or still relevant to them?

Let’s shift our focus to digital contents for a while. Looking at the Google Ramadan Playbook 2022, Gen Z or the younger generations are consuming Ramadan contents differently, but ‘watching’ still become our favourite activity. YouTube internal data shows that Indonesians are watching online videos more to accompany their celebrations, with some keywords showing a spike in search (up to 4x) during Ramadan. So rather than consuming what is provided by the channel (television, radio, social media), the digital natives took initiative by curating their own Ramadan content.

As for me, I can’t remember if there’s specific Ramadan content(s) that I have consumed in the past several years. I remembered listening to BKR Brothers podcast. They have a confession series called BKR Ngaku wherethey invited listeners and their celebrity friends to send a voice memo and confess about anything. But I don’t remember if I was deliberately search and listen to it.

I also remember watching several episodes of Pemuda Tersesat, a Youtube content series by Majelis Lucu Indonesia where they invited an ustadz to answer questions from the viewers. However ridiculous the questions were—”Is it considered riya (show off) to be breathing next to a corpse?” is just one of the example—the ustadz would still give a serious answer from the religious perspective. The program was amusing, but I’m not sure if it’s specially produced for Ramadan or just another MLI regular content.

All of this boils down to one question from me: What’s your favorite Ramadan program/ content/ commercial from last year? They can be on any platform, from TV, radio, podcast, Youtube, OTT (Netflix, etc), or even articles. If you have it, please comment below, especially if you’re a Gen Z.

As a closing, please also allow me to give a friendly reminder that it’s officially 30 days until Ramadan. So brands, creative team, and writer peeps, we’re running out of time fill up our Ramadan content bank. Produce the new ones (more is always better), update the old articles with new and relevant informations, optimise your SEO, and don’t stop social listening. If you need some additional (basic) insights, you can rely on Google Ramadan Playbook.

Ramadan kareem.


The Rise of (Digital) Couch Potatoes

I was halfway through watching the new vlog of Stray Kids member, Han Jisung, last Sunday when he showed off his new neck phone holder proudly. It looks quite gigantic compared to his relatively tiny body. He then proceeded explaining why this other worldly looking thing is the best thing for a homebody. “It turns your place to a movie theater,” he convinced us.

You might wonder what kind of cinephile this rapper (don’t let his quokka-looking face fool you) is. At this specific vlog, he shared his current interest is a Harry Potter series on Youtube.

I can relate to him, not as a Potterhead, but as someone who digs deep about certain topic on Youtube and even frequently got lost in the ‘rabbit hole’. I once watched an interview video and ended up finishing a 10 minutes-long tutorial video about mini pool water filter.

Back to Jisung, after he finished his meal, he went straight to his bedroom to continue watching. Using the neck phone holder, he comfortably laid on top of his shared bunkbed just enjoying his personal time.

Until he dozed off and woke up near lunchtime.

No alt text provided for this image

(Screenshot from Stray Kids Youtube channel.)

I chuckled. Not because his gesture is comical, but several things tickled me. He is the perfect representation of Gen-Z and their digital behaviour.

Gen-Z Domination

First of all, Jisung is the Gen-Z as he was born in 2000. Internet is undeniably a part of his daily intake and use it as the main source of information and entertainment apart from “developing and maintaining connections, building self-image, and expressing thoughts and emotions”.

Jisung may lives in South Korea, but recent data from We Are Social and Hootsuite shows similar behaviour in Indonesia. We have more than 202.6 million internet users and 170 million active social media users in Indonesia. Although the study didn’t have specific data for Gen-Z, other report by the Indonesian Internet Providers Association (APJII) shows the accumulation of internet users between 10- 24 years old were up to >25%. In short, we can safely assume that Gen-Z dominates the use of digital media with Youtube, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as the five primary platforms.

Online video and Chill

With a landscape this massive, digital is no longer viewed as a niche in Indonesia, especially during the pandemic when everyone is homebound and everything mostly done virtually. Google Trends Data shows online video keeps gaining popularity in Indonesia and over 93 million unique users online visit YouTube every month. Time spent for personal use was also increasing from 3.6 hours to 4.3 hours per day.

It’s only natural for us at the Shopee Brand Content team at the beginning of pandemic to quickly adapt to the situation and pivoted our strategy by creating Shopee Anti Mati Gaya Club, bitesize video series of things people can do at home. From a simple make-up tutorial, 15 minutes workout, mini kitchen makeover, baking tutorial, to fun ideas for working parents to play with their toddlers at home. Once staying at home has become the new norm, we swiftly back our strategy to keep people entertained, hence welcoming back our signature content series.

It seems what we did was the right move. Another Google data shows similar trends about Youtube users in Indonesia. They were turning to online videos to satiate their curiosity or keep themselves entertained.

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(Data visualisation from Thinkwithgoogle.)

Looking at the trends, most users spent their time online to gain new knowledge, while other major part of the users were ‘traveling without moving’ during this pandemic. Other interesting and obvious part of trends is the increase of searches for Korean drama. Or in our case, all things K-Pop have shown spike during the same period of time in our channel.

The Rise of Couch Potatoes

Here comes the interesting part. When I mentioned that Han Jisung was perfectly captured Gen-Z with his watching habit, there’s a completely different trend has been happening amongst internet users worldwide.

Now we have entered the streaming era, which has, ironically, landed us back in the living room. (Brian Albert, Gautam Ramdurai, 2021)

People still watch a lot of mobile video, but they tend to find more comfort in watching them in a much bigger screen; a smart tv or also known as connected television. Although there’s no specific data about Gen-Z viewers, this ‘new’ trend is actually makes sense. Less people are watching television for channel surfing. Instead, they have full authority to stream their favourite and more personalised contents through OTT (Over the Top) services. In Indonesia alone, there are currently ten locals OTT along other popular giants from abroad like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Viu, etc.

If you’re privileged enough to have a full WFH option during this hard times, you somehow also grew a higher level of comfort and quality to spend you personal time. If before the pandemic you’re coming home from work exhausted and need a little refreshment, most of the time, the only option left is taking your mobile phone to your bed and do whatever you want to do online. It’s hassle free and you can straightly dozed off after because you’re already in bed.

The More The Merrier

Today’s viewers are moving from “me” to “we” in the living rom. So once again, watching considered as a communal activity. People who watch together tend to watch longer videos and for a longer period of time. Group viewers are also more engaged, and when an ad comes, they experience a stronger emotional response than the solo viewers.

(Data visualisation from Thinkwithgoogle.)

Conversations and interactions are obviously the biggest factor that determine this emotional response. For us Indonesians, a ‘nobar’ (nonton bareng) almost become the tradition to ‘celebrate’ certain moments, from watching the new or finale episode of our favourite series, big sports match, to the quick count of presidential election.

For writing purpose, let’s pretend Han Jisung and seven other Stray Kids members are Indonesians and living in the same ‘kost’ (rented house/ apartment). Today is their movie night and it’s Jisung’s turn to choose what they’re going to watch and everyone has to agree. If you guessed it’s going to be a Harry Potter series, you’re right.

(Picture from Allkpop.)

Now let’s also pretend they are just eight broke kids who can’t afford Youtube premium. Several ads will appear while they’re watching, and hypothetically, one of them is from Shopee.

Shopee is currently in the beginning of 10.10 Brands Festival campaign. This time, one lucky shopper will bring home a Tesla car. If Shopee ad appeared while Han Jisung was watching it alone, there’s only 37% chance of him giving a response. That’s not the case when he has co-viewers. Now that they are watching together, whenever Shopee ad appeared, there’s a chance it will get noticed by other members. It will lead to a conversation, an interaction, then the ultimate goal is turn into an action.

What is the action? Shopping.


Meanwhile in a living room where all eight members are gathered and ready to stream a Youtube series from their connected TV, suddenly a Shopee ad appears.

I.N: Cool t-shirt! What was the brand? I missed it!

Felix: It’s ERIGO. You want me to search it for you at Shopee?

I.N: That would be wonderful, thanks Lixie!

Hyunjin: Oh, Scarlett body lotion? Interesting.. Wait a minute, why did i run out of body lotion so quickly? YAH.. who use it without MY permission??

Chan: Changbin look, they have a good deal for Xiaomi.

Lee Know: If you still insist to be an Android user!

Changbin: OF COURSE. WDYM?

Han: I’m hungry…

Seungmin: We run out of ramyeon. Do you want to try Mie Sedap?