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Out of Scope Issue 19: A little bit of everything, all of the time
This week’s non-required thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week, we’re taking a dive into the corners of the Internet for news on the FBI’s hottest influencer, Gen-Z pop (punk?) icon Olivia Rodrigo’s latest album, an incredible failure of a press conference for the Yankees, and the NYC mayoral race, where we’ll take a look at a suspicious refrigerator.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Post-divorce, post-pandemic, and soon-to-be post-CEO Jeff Bezos is shaping up to be an interesting character. He’s a far cry from the baby-faced nerd in this twenty-year-old hit piece from 60 Minutes. For a man literally rich enough to launch himself into space we have to wonder if the next phase of his career will be as (ahem) stratospheric as the first. With Bill Gates on the outs with the global public, will Bezos be America’s next avuncular grandee? And will Bezos manage a mid-life crisis in front of the whole world by launching a new age of space exploration?
Re: Rainbow washing… The FTC is apparently celebrating Pride with rainbow-decked social cards for nearly every social post this month. Celebrate Pride... Stop Scams? While we appreciate a commitment to a consistent look and feel for a brand, using a rainbow flag template for every single quote card might be overkill.
Can pop star Olivia Rodrigo’s meteoric rise be attributed to specificity? Her lyrics deliver a very specific perspective on how it feels to be a teenager going through heartbreak, and her willingness to divulge the details around her feelings paints a crystal clear picture of what it’s like to live in an era (or have a job) where your life is constantly documented, commented on, and analyzed. In one song from the new album, Rodrigo sings, ``I'm not cool, I’m not smart, I can’t even parallel park.” Girl, same. The love for teenage feelings from all generations encapsulates a thousand think pieces about the awkwardness of emerging back into a post-pandemic world.
Reflected or refracted glory from the throne in London is–so far–still the main source of fame for the Sussexes of Los Angeles. Harry and Meghan, from their ducal court-in-exile in Montecito, have gained attention for naming their new baby “Lilibet,” after the pet name the late Duke of Edinburgh used for his wife, the Queen. The name itself has caused a stir because it raises the question of just how often the estranged couple speaks to the monarch.
Eric Adams, current Brooklyn Borough President and NYC-mayoral hopeful, was met with claims that he might actually live in New Jersey this week. His campaign’s defense tactic? Holding a press conference at the apartment he owns in Brooklyn. Too bad that so many elements in the apartment screamed falsehood — like the self-proclaimed vegan’s fridge full of dairy and meat products, the bed in the middle of the room (??), and odd decor choices.
Millennials are getting pilloried again. We thought we were done with this! While the subsidies that have kept prices low for Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb might be trickling away, the headline for this NYT piece, which calls out an overall “millennial lifestyle subsidy,” seems designed to collect rage clicks from millennials who are tired of having their perfectly normal life choices questioned.
If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen him engaging with various celebs and media figures and sharing anonymously sourced breaking news: Yashar Ali. LA Mag takes a deep dive into Yashar’s meteoric rise with some surprising revelations — including his tendency to grift off of his rich and powerful friends by overstaying his welcome. Remember the great Alison Roman/Chrissy Teigen drama where his research and tweets led to the end of Roman’s career at the New York Times? Yashar is known for digging up dirt from the corners of the internet and making reputation waves — so it’s a shift to see the tables turned on him.
How durable are the effects of a global public shaming? It's the ultimate comeback move: Jeffrey Toobin has returned to CNN. In an awkward “welcome back?”-style interview with Alisyn Camerota, he reveals that he, a full-grown and rather well-educated person, didn’t realize he was still on the Zoom call. At the end of the day, we have to commend the blind bravery he has in showing up on live TV again. Hopefully, someone on his staff will be in charge of telling him when the cameras are on.
In a move that we all know will really just solidify the notion that the rich only get richer, ProPublica has launched a series of stories revealing the private tax data of America’s most wealthy citizens. With the infamous 2016 release of the Panama Papers, we have an idea of how this new series will be received by a global public. Hopefully, we can find a great PR firm for those named …
Pressure is mounting for big business to do their part to address societal concerns. Where previously environmental, social and governance changes fell low on the priority list, they’re now top-of-mind even for giants like Exxon Mobil. The driving factor? Consumers and investors are demanding action.
🏆 REPUTATION FAIL OF THE WEEK: Gerrit Cole Swings and Misses
We could hear the Yankees PR team collectively panicking when Gerrit Cole offered this insane “response” to whether or not the $324M pitcher used “Spider Tack” to improve his grip on the baseball. When suspicions of Gerrit’s sticky situation arose, a press conference was scheduled, then suspiciously delayed and rescheduled, all so we could watch this swing and a miss of an answer from Cole.
💡ON OUR MINDS
LOOK, I MADE YOU SOME CONTENT
Is there a downside of having access to “a little bit of everything, all of the time?”
Bo Burnham released a new Netflix comedy special, “Inside,” that explores how the internet has conditioned us to prioritize our digital lives over the physical world. Viewers watch Burnham create and perform his signature satirical songs in his studio apartment during the height of the pandemic, as his mental health visibly disintegrates the longer he works on the project.
Before writing it off as just another hot take on fragmented attention spans, for marketers and communicators in particular, the special is a fascinating reflection of the impact of a culture that’s increasingly fueled by the internet’s influence, even if we can identify when that content is purely performative.
One of our favorite segments: Bo poses as a social brand consultant, offering his advice for marketing in a woke world.
Consumers want to know, “Are you willing to use your brand awareness to effect positive social change, which will create more brand awareness?”…The question is no longer, “Do you want to buy Wheat Thins?”, for example. The question is now, “Will you support Wheat Thins in the fight against Lyme disease?”
Catch us continuing to reflect on how the comedy special made us feel and maybe, just maybe, playing some of the songs on Spotify.
TIME FOR A RENOVATION OF THE PUBLIC’S OPINION OF THE OCCUPANTS OF No. 10 DOWNING STREET?
Renovations to executive residences are also renovations to executive brands, and the row over Boris Johnson’s costly redecoration of his suite of rooms at No. 10 Downing Street is no exception.
The story of excess furnished at public expense is in keeping with Johnson’s reputation for sloppiness and even sleaze, but no less a publication than The Economist has used the occasion to complain that UK prime ministers, denied the glory of being head of state, could use a little more luxury to keep them focused on the job rather than the tacky furniture.
Lloyd George was given Chequers, and Thatcher famously felt executive mansion envy and tried to spruce up No. 10 to be a bit more like Reagan’s White House. Johnson, who is blundering his way toward being a transformational PM, might provoke a permanent change in the way prime ministers are allowed to style themselves.
THE POWER OF PERCEPTION AND INFLUENCE TO...FIGHT CRIME?
This week a number of law enforcement agencies around the world collaborated to expose a criminal network of 800+ individuals linked to global drug cartels and syndicates.
To do so, the FBI built an entirely fake but seemingly real company, to launch an encrypted phone app called “ANOM,” which would allow them to monitor the conversations and activity.
But once they built the secret company, they had to market it. So they turned to a strategy familiar to anyone with experience in consumer advertising: influencer marketing. To distribute the app among a highly skeptical network, they had to build credibility first, and the quickest way to do that was to find a champion for the brand--someone that the target market trusts.
They found that man in Hakan Ayik, known in the Australian media as “the Facebook gangster.” Ayik accidentally became the top ANOM influencer when undercover agents gave him a phone with the ANOM app installed on it, and he then recommended it to people throughout the network. Australian Federal Police Superintendent Jared Taggart is quoted saying, "If you look at Ayik and his involvement, essentially he's almost like the prime sponsor of ANOM among the criminal cartels and the criminal milieu.”
Is influencer marketing so effective because it taps into a basic human instinct to trust your network, or have we as a society gotten so accustomed to influencer marketing that it can now be leveraged in the most unexpected place: government-backed stings?
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
This newsletter brought to you by 42 inspirational quotes about mythology from Joseph Campbell.