Out of Scope: Issue 07
This week's non-required thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week, we continue to reflect on the effects and consequences of 2020, ponder the future of the resurrected MoviePass, celebrate a milestone magazine cover, and contemplate the highs and lows of reputation in all its forms.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Worth a look: the past year has made for some major changes in the advertising industry.
As Google goes, so goes the tech industry. With the elimination of cookies, which are used to track users as they surf the web, to better sell their personal data to advertisers, publishers and marketers who rely on the data are wondering what to do next. We at HL are betting some new set of solutions will take their place, but probably not for a while.
Nike just launched a major maternity line for active mothers-to-be with an emotional ad campaign -- and their current and past elite sponsored athletes are sharing their reactions. Athletes like Alysia Montaño, Allyson Felix, and Kara Goucher went unpaid during and after their pregnancies; following a 2019 NY Times op-ed, Nike announced a new maternity policy. The athletes applauded the new line and ad but noted that this should be an opportunity to hold Nike accountable for the promises they made to mothers if they want to market to them as well. Communicators take note: Accountability is a long-term game.
I think you should watch this ad. It reminds mothers that they are athletes. It celebrates mothers. It speaks truth. It’s powerful. It’s brilliant marketing. I agree with every word in this ad. I also think you should watch this ad so that you will hold Nike accountable for it.
Nike @NikeTo every mother, everywhere: you are the toughest athlete. https://t.co/9qa88DlkAZ
We at HL are not the only ones who have identified Dolly Parton as a spiritual figure: “Our new belief system is a blend of left-wing political orthodoxy, intersectional feminism, self-optimization, therapy, wellness, astrology and Dolly Parton,” says Leigh Stein in The New York Times. If Tennessee has an unofficial head of state, it’s Queen Dolly.
More bad looks from Governor Cuomo’s team with old school political scare tactics in play - Larry Schwartz, who currently leads New York’s vaccination efforts, has been making calls to state leaders asking for their support for Cuomo as he faces sexual harassment inquiries. The bad press just won’t stop for Cuomo and team.
Revolutions have cultural consequences, even after 244 years. After their tell-all interview with Oprah, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex plummed in popularity in the UK while becoming more popular in the US.
After the absolute roller coaster that MoviePass took us on a few years ago, we’re waiting to find out what the heck is happening here. Suspense is the right marketing tactic for this brand.
Proof that press releases still make for interesting news … Pete Davidson's attorney says a press release that claims he's married is 'completely false'.
In a major mainstream moment for transgender representation, Elliot Page, known for his roles in Juno, Inception, and The Umbrella Academy, took to the cover of TIME to discuss his identity and journey to his transition. Reception for the article has been largely positive, though some in the trans community shared they were looking to hear more about the joy in transition beyond Elliot’s struggles.
This week’s Bachelor finale had an opportunity to prepare for and execute what could have been a meaningful, educational conversation around race for mainstream America. ABC botched it.
😳 WHO APPROVED THIS?
Alexi McCammond’s past leads to Teen Vogue EIC resignation before she even starts
There’s always a tweet, right?
Two weeks ago, Anna Wintour selected Alexi McCammond to be the next editor-in-chief of the historically progressive Teen Vogue. But before she even started, she resigned due to the backlash around a series of racially insensitive tweets from 2011.
The tweets were not new news. McCammond previously apologized for them in 2019, and we can have the argument on the proper career punishment another time.
But while it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and say “they should have seen this coming”... they should have seen this coming. All it would have taken was some simple internal communications exercise to anticipate (and maybe prevent) what has been an entire news cycle of negativity for Conde Nast management.
McCammond, the former Axios White House political reporter, is not exactly a stranger to controversy. Just last month, POLITICO reported her very conflict-of-interest relationship with now-former White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo, who threatened the publication in advance of their reporting. In her defense, McCammond did disclose the relationship to her employer at the time, and she was taken off the Biden beat.
💡ON OUR MINDS
THE ART OF THE POLITICAL MOVIE TRAILER
Why not sell legislative policies and candidates the way you sell movies?
President Biden put out a short video clip on Twitter last week announcing that stimulus checks were on the way. We think it feels like a cross between a consumer banking commercial and a movie trailer.
Last week we wrote about Rishi Sunak’s trailer for the next UK budget (and possibly his future candidacy for Prime Minister).
Back before the last election, Dan Crenshaw made headlines with a full-on action movie trailer for Republican Congressional candidates in Texas.
Maybe it’s time for The Squad to parry with a video of their own? Any ideas what genre they’d choose? Heist movie? Marvel superhero riff? Seven Samurai remake?
COMMUNICATING COVID RESTRICTIONS
The age-old question from high school health classrooms to major public health crises: should we be preaching abstinence-only or harm reduction? With the current pandemic, many have leaned into the puritanical approach, asking people to stay home and avoid contact for an indeterminate amount of time.
Especially as we head into the largest phase of vaccinations in the US, the CDC advice that suggests people shouldn’t hug their vaccinated loved ones even after getting a vaccine gives a fatigued public just another reason to sigh and ask, “why bother?”
People are always going to have trouble following the rules perfectly - so how can communicators ensure that the least amount of harm comes to them and others? Needle exchanges and sex-ed have proven that an all-or-nothing approach isn’t the best way to keep people safe.
The Atlantic’s Dr. James Hamblin published a Q&A-style harm-reduction piece for Thanksgiving, acknowledging “There is no perfectly safe way to gather. That said, here’s how to make the holiday less dangerous.”
From Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation: “The US in particular struggles with making a distinction between individuals’ roles and … what’s society’s responsibility… There’s going to be a lot of factors that prevent people from taking the ideal steps in a public health context. You want to recognize what those factors are and minimize the harm to them and to others.”
As summer approaches and shots get into arms, we should be able to take a deep (masked) sigh of relief. We’re not at the finish line just yet, and giving up all restrictions entirely could be a problem, but beach days and park picnics with friends and family are certainly in our near future.
WHAT’S THE VALUE OF A GOOD REPUTATION? A FREE PASS FROM THE FTC, IT TURNS OUT
Credit is due to Politico for publishing this analysis of the Obama administration’s choice not to regulate Google for, among other things, favoring their own search results in commerce.
But any moderately informed journalist (ahem) could’ve told you this nearly a decade ago.
The difference between now and 2011? Big tech’s reputation has taken a nose-dive since then, while early in the Obama years it was still drafting off late 1990s tech optimism. Politico notes this but underestimates its importance.
You don’t regulate what’s still mostly beloved by the public. In fact, voters won’t let you. Some crusades for regulation have their patron saints, while some are a groundswell after the harm of unintended consequences. The Obama administration dropped the ball, but they were well in keeping with public opinion back then.
Want to predict the next legislative crackdown? Look for where public opinion may be turning against a well-established industry.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
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