Out of Scope Issue 51: Super Bowl Edition
Big Tech is spending big money on the big game this weekend.
This week, we’ve been thinking about the Super Bowl ads we’ve seen so far while looking forward to wild ones ahead. We’ve also been following the Olympics, from Eileen Gu’s success to Shaun White’s final run. Here’s what Hirsch Leatherwood has been thinking about comms this week, in the sports world and beyond.
💡ON OUR MINDS
Ahead of the Super Bowl, Here Are Some Ads that Caught Our 👀
As crypto surges to new levels of public awareness, Matt Damon has delivered a performance for the ages in a Crypto.com ad, making viewers groan far and wide. He delivers a recap technological development throughout history, ultimately panning to a shot as though he’s in a spaceship, looking towards the future of online currency. This ad dropped in October but got a lot of traction last week for its sublime cringe-worthiness. Some things definitely do not improve with age.
The Internet has a love-hate relationship with Alexa’s quirks and sometimes spooky behavior. In Amazon’s Super Bowl ad, Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost learn what it would be like if Alexa could actually read their minds and announces their everyday thought processes, playing on the notion that the device is a little too smart for its own good.
Acting legend Matthew McConaughey raised eyebrows this week in Salesforce ad that seems to consciously run against the Damon/crypto ad. The Interstellar star dresses in a familiar space suit seemingly in awe of the metaverse, crypto, and Mars, then pivots to focus on our world and our own people. It seems like somewhere, Marc Benioff is rolling his eyes at Web3.
🏆 BRAND FAIL OF THE WEEK
We don’t nominate Bruno
Those of you who follow awards season may have noticed that Lin-Manuel Miranda is nominated for an Oscar for best song—but not the song we expected. While “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” has skyrocketed in popularity, Disney submitted “Dos Oruguitas,” another bop from Encanto, notable for being the first song Miranda ever wrote entirely in Spanish.
Why this track and not the movie’s runaway hit? Disney had no idea that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” would succeed the way it has. When they put forward “Dos Oruguitas” for an Academy Award, “Bruno” hadn’t popped off on TikTok yet. Even if you’re Disney, you can’t always anticipate what will resonate with your audience three months down the line.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
The attention economy has infiltrated every aspect of society, including the sacred ritual of naming a child. While parents once sought to give their child a name that would help them fit in, now they look for names that will help them stand out. Our favorite tidbit from this article? The Social Security Administration began posting the most popular baby names on its website at the direction of one Michael Shackleford, a government actuary who grew up resentful of having a popular name.
Whether the American public recognizes them as such, congressional staffers are some of the most important stakeholders in upholding the American democracy. And a new instagram account, Dear White Staffers, is unveiling the conditions they’ve been forced to withstand – low pay, harassment from their bosses, and racism, just to name a few. From “vibe checks” on Members of Congress to publishing staffers’ personal accounts, the instagram page is causing quite a stir on typically quiet steps of Capitol Hill and forcing the same public reckoning that many other industries have faced in recent years.
As with many beauty routines and legacy brands, everything old is new. Vaseline has been in our feeds tied to the latest skincare trend, slugging - or “the practice of slathering your skin with the stuff before bedtime to lock in moisture and keep skin hydrated.” However if TikTok identifies the trend, Twitter is where the discourse happens, as there’s been significant criticism for co-opting this practice that has long been a staple of the Black community.
Canadian truckers are fed up with COVID restrictions, but their pandemic has bigger implications than the power of protest. Bloomberg's Tyler Cowen breaks down the way this "Freedom Convoy" could move across borders, proof that stakeholder unrest can impact policy in surprising ways. Smart business leaders should be prepared.
Are mascots the key to brand success on TikTok? From Duolingo to Sour Patch Kids and even the Empire State Building, it seems like more and more brands are “leaning into mascots as part of their TikTok strategy, finding that characters seem to resonate with users more than other types of content.”
The streaming wars continue as Disney+ dips its toes into live streaming, with a test run timed to its first live broadcast on the platform for the 94th annual Oscar nominations, hosted by Leslie Jordan and Tracee Ellis Ross. This latest move combined with other subtle changes to the platform, including the addition of a sports page on the sitemap, are driving continued speculation if the streamer is looking to move into live sports and expand integration with ESPN.
Some researchers are noting some unusual activity on social media surrounding Olympics coverage. Some signs suggest that China is deploying bots to drown out criticism and calls for boycotts. Experts call this tactic hashtag flooding and characterize it as a modern form of propaganda.
Twitter blew up this week when Adidas launched a campaign to promote its new inclusive sized sports bras with a photo depicting 25 topless women to highlight the need to accommodate different breast shapes. As Twitter is the only social media platform where showing the female nipple is allowed, this post generated significant conversation ranging from criticism to praise. While many argued the image was click-bait to grab headlines, Adidas clearly put a stake in the ground with a powerful stance that, while salacious, still made a substantive statement.
One of the controversies coming out of this year's Olympic games is Eileen Gu, who grew up in California, choosing to compete for her mother’s native China, as political tensions rise between the two countries. China is taking advantage of a young marketable superstar in the making to sway the public eye away from their countless accusations and accounts of human rights violations. It will be interesting to see how the American side of the media continues to cover the young star as she returns back after the games.
Microsoft made a splash with this blog post by their President in the midst of potential antitrust scrutiny for attempting to acquire Activision Blizzard. They pledge to keep Call of Duty available on PlayStation, treat all apps equally on its platform, and not require developers to use their own in-app payments — all pledges that competitors in the space notably haven't made. This is good, proactive comms—provided they follow through.
And yet another print magazine bites the dust. Entertainment Weekly, InStyle and four other magazines published by Dotdash Meredith group will become digital-only, as the company tries to “embrace the inevitable digital future.” (sigh).
In case you missed these stories this week.
The Rogan x Spotify saga continues to unfold. The streaming continues to stand by their man, but some conservative outlets are turning on him.
Everyone is a thought leader now, as the Girl Scouts reposition as a top authority on supply chain disruption.
Awkwafina recently addressed long-standing criticism of her “blaccent” and appropriation of Black culture in a statement posted to Twitter. As a fast follow, she announced she is retiring from the bird app, given the slew of comments she’s received during her time on the platform.
HL is relieved that we can all continue to enjoy Leslie Jones’s Olympics commentary.
Susan Collins is the first Black woman to lead a regional reserve bank in the history of the Federal Reserve.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
This newsletter was brought to you by Joe Shiesty, Joe Cool, Joey Franchise, Joe Brrr, and any other nicknames used by Joe Burrow. Happy Super Bowl weekend!