Discover more from Out of Scope
Out of Scope Issue 20: Sharks vs. Driverless Cars 🦈 🚘
This week’s non-required thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week, we’re making fun of the Danes (for a cause!), reading into alien clickbait, applauding a fake spokesperson, and thinking about vaccine conspiracy theories.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Facebook finds itself the site of political warfare once more after reports confirmed a pro-Trump digital marketing firm pushed out deceptive Facebook ads during the 2018 US elections in an attempt to split the Democratic vote. We’re getting deja vu to the recent news of a mysterious Russia-linked PR agency and can’t help but wonder – when will this type of scam make the jump to target businesses? Or has it happened already?
Sometimes you can’t target your audience. You have to go after who your audience pays attention to. That was the strategy this firm took to get Danes to put on sunscreen and avoid skin cancer. Apart from a great example of stakeholder management, it’s a productive use of public shame to drive behavior change.
YouTube’s prime real estate is officially restricted access: moving forward, politics and elections advertisers, gambling companies, and companies trying to sell alcoholic beverages or prescription drugs can’t advertise on the site’s masthead. New media is looking more like old TV.
Once again, Elon Musk is setting the rates for cryptocurrency with his reversal on accepting bitcoin at Tesla. ICYMI: it seems like every time Musk has something to say about crypto, prices rise and fall based on his stance.
Pregnancy announcements are a dime a dozen on Instagram and Facebook, but when’s the last time you saw one on LinkedIn? Alex Fine, CEO of sex tech company Dame, asks whether that should change. Different platforms might have different audiences, but parenthood is a major stepping stone for many careers, she writes, with effects that go far beyond a few weeks of parental leave.
‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’ debuts later this summer, and in the ultimate reclamation of her narrative, Monica Lewinsky is producing the show about her infamous role in the 1998 Clinton impeachment, and has just inked a major deal with 20th Television for her new production company, Alt Ending Productions.
Jaws of life or Jaws of Bruce? According to The Next Web, one in three Americans would rather swim with sharks than ride in self-driving cars. Even though autonomous vehicles have gained market traction — the driverless car market was valued at $19.46 BN this year — manufacturers seem to be caught in the net of negative public perception… looks like it’ll be an uphill battle when it comes to their future marketing efforts. Bonus points for one of the sillier (if effective) graphical treatments we’ve seen.
Vegas entertainment typically centers on individual headliners, but all twenty of the famously unknown Jabbawockeez dance crew intentionally keep their faces anonymous by wearing masks during their show. One founder member explains, “The idea is that everyone in every demographic, every generation, should have a moment in the show where they can relate.” In a marketing era where nearly every brand aims to hyper-target their audience, perhaps we can learn something from the Jabbawockeez approach: there’s something compelling about making people feel like part of a collective that a divisive personality can’t quite accomplish. Then again, when the uniform masks combine with distinct dance moves and a comedic flair, the effect creates, arguably, a personality of its own.
The alien click-bait Op-Ed war continues, with Mark Buchanan’s hot take surprising us with some actually valid points, in contrast to Holman Jenkins’ dismissal of the whole trend as low-brow journalistic pandering. Maybe we should just leave aliens alone – and keep them out of the headlines!
Chrissy Teigen, former supermodel and current unofficial mayor of Twitter, recently released a long-form apology for her past Tweets, claiming she wasn’t asking for fans’ “forgiveness, only your patience and tolerance.” Has a master of Internet culture successfully avoided cancellation? We’ll have to wait and see.
As communicators, we all know the power of words. So what does it say when your OOO message reads “I’ll be slow to respond” or “Reach me on my cell”? Especially after a year of being perpetually reachable, it might be time for the weak out-of-office message to go.
Lordstown Motors suffered a reputation fallout after investors claimed the company told a misleading tale about how many pre-orders they had in the pipeline. Conventional corporate wisdom says that every brand strategy needs to rally around a vision, but for startups going public through SPACs, what’s the line between inspiring investors with a convincing story and a flat-out tall tale about potential success? Dealbook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin has some thoughts on how SPACs can improve accountability on this front.
In the face of heightened expectations for executives and companies at large to participate in, and sometimes lead, social and economic reform, PwC’s approach to revamping its reputation leans on an old classic: (re)building trust with customers. This week, they announced plans to re-org some of their offerings, establish a “Trust Leadership Institute,', and invest in building a more diverse workforce. It will be interesting to see the impact of these efforts...and the branded trust-building media coverage that’s sure to follow.
Buzzfeed is finally rewarding its community contributors… a couple of years late. While no one can accuse Buzzfeed of making a rash decision, does the new program adequately address the risk of quality control? If users are rewarded solely based on views, it’s likely the quality of some of Buzzfeed’s quizzes and lists (fan-favorites) will drop as clickbait prevails.
🏆 REPUTATION ??? OF THE WEEK: Simon MacLaren, who?
In an absolutely 🤯 move, the hail-a-helicopter service Blade has apparently been parading out a fake spokesperson for the past three years. Blade CEO Rob Wiesenthal told Insider that McLaren was a made-up persona, and it was Wiesenthal on the phone when journalists requested interviews with McLaren. The ruse was complete with a public drama around McLaren's purported departure from Blade in January. McLaren has been quoted in The New York Times, the New York Post, Curbed, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Fox Business, CNN, and Insider. Is it madness or genius?
💡ON OUR MINDS
Hot Goss, Hotter Conspiracy
Are conspiracy theories just a version of juicy gossip? Both are conversation-starters that tend to gain traction quickly with or without facts to support. One of the most prominent theories in the news right now is the idea that COVID-19 vaccines contain a microchip.
According to an article developed in partnership by Reveal and The Verge, this theory started with a radio host reacting to the news that Trump and Melania had tested positive for the virus back in October 2020. Ever since, the theory has gained traction thanks to a he said/she said that escalated from a combination of deliberate misinformation, a Swedish website that misconstrued an AMA comment by Bill Gates via a meme, a Baptist pastor in Jacksonville, Roger Stone, and so on.
One of our favorite memes in the wake of his divorce announcement depicts Gates activating the microchips…
As it stands, the article reports that 42% of respondents of a recent US-based survey believe at least one COVID-19 conspiracy theory. And this hasn’t been helped by the unclear comms plan from scientists and public health officials, particularly around mask guidelines, which has led to more questions than answers for many Americans.
A similar trajectory is happening with the idea that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab. From NBC News’ piece on why scientists have changed their mind about the theory to the skepticism around the top virologist at the Wuhan Institute’s response, it’s clear that this particular line of gossip might be marching toward in the direction of mainstream acceptance.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
This newsletter brought to you by this out-of-office message generator. Set firm work boundaries and educate your contacts at the same time!