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Brief Published: 22 Dec 2015

December 2015: Pop-Culture Update

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has smashed all sales records with a $571m global opening weekend. With Christmas just around the corner, we take a look at what else is happening in pop culture this month.

  • Blended Identities: While Harry Potter fans are looking forward to seeing a black Hermione in the upcoming London stage play The Cursed Child, Disney animation studio Pixar has also cast its first lead of colour. Sanjay's Super Team is a seven-minute short that is currently being screened before Pixar's feature The Good Dinosaur. Depicting the clash between young Sanjay's Saturday morning cartoons and his father's Hindu prayer ritual, it shows how multicultural values can mesh and blend. Acknowledging the experiences of second-generation immigrants is also central to hit Netflix show Master of None, as we addressed in November's Pop-Culture Round-Up.
  • Women in Podcasting: The podcast phenomenon Serial garnered eight to 10 million listeners every week during its first season in 2014. Co-producers Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder have just started releasing the second season, and they are joined by other women maximising the podcast opportunity we addressed earlier this year. Shows like Invisibilia, The Mystery Show, BuzzFeed's top-billing Another Round and Women of the Hour, Call Your Girlfriend and UK current events magazine The New Stateman's Srsly harness millions of weekly listeners for female voices.
  • Immersive Marketing: US Warner Bros. Entertainment is enhancing the promotion of its DC Comics feature film Batman vs Superman with real interviews of fictional character Lex Luthor in Wired US and Fortune Magazine, as well as video and poster ads for his tech giant company LexCorp. The transmedia blur of fiction and reality kicked off at New York Comic Con, where the fictional LexCorp sponsored the in-house wi-fi system.

    This is not the only entertainment franchise trying to stretch beyond its fictional storyworld. In September, UK's AnOther Magazine ran a cover interview with British actress Tilda Swinton in character as Marianna Lane from her film A Bigger Splash, while UK music magazine NME had a brief interview with the animated Netflix character BoJack Horseman. Disney even lets fans chat to the iconic Muppets character Miss Piggy for two hours every weekday – enabled by an artificial intelligence engine on her Facebook profile. Such breaks with established advertising formats will prove key in overcoming the challenges posed by ad blocking.

For more on how to engage online audiences, see our coverage from Ignition 2015 and our Beyond Ad Blocking report.