Out of Scope Issue 69: Flying sucks right now. Airlines are profiting anyway.
Plus: Lizzo’s new lyrics
This week, we’re checking out the latest supply chain hit, Bechdel test news, the new mental health crisis number, and a potentially sentient AI.
💡ON OUR MINDS
The Great Tampon Shortage of 2022
ICYMI, a tampon and pad shortage (that TIME has dubbed “The Great Tampon Shortage of 2022”) caused by supply chain issues is the latest nightmare for Americans who menstruate, with empty shelves or higher prices galore.
While shortage complaints have been circulating on social media for months, top retailers like Walgreens and manufacturers like Procter & Gamble — the manufacturer of Tampax, the tampon giant that sells 4.5 billion boxes globally each year — finally acknowledged the shortages this past week – although some addressed the issue more sensitively than others.
P&G spokeswoman Cheri McMaster attributed the shortage to Amy Schumer, saying that retail sales growth had exploded after the brand launched a new ad campaign with the comedian in July 2020. As TIME author Alana Semuels pointed out, “even if the Tampax ads were a hit, that explanation doesn’t account for why other brands of tampons, including Playtex and o.b., were also out of stock.” This seems like a good time to remind everyone about correlation vs. causation.
Meanwhile, the issue has become political and transphobic as baseless rumors fly from Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
As consumers cope with the shortage, many are turning to alternative hygiene products like menstrual cups, period underwear, and reusable pads. It seems like the perfect time for these brands to rise to the occasion by ramping up their marketing and CSR efforts.
Is Google’s A.I. sentient? Not yet.
A senior software engineer at Google, Blake Lemoine, claimed that one of their language models showed signs of consciousness, the equivalent of a 7 to 8-year-old child. He urged Google to gather the model’s consent before running experiments.
The tool, called the Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), learns by analyzing large sources of data. It uses pattern recognition to learn from and replicate prose. It’s a highly sophisticated conversation bot.
Google says that hundreds of its researchers and engineers have evaluated the tool in response to the claim and did not find evidence that it has a soul. Lemoine, who works in Google’s Responsible A.I. organization, was put on paid leave as of Monday.
Industry experts emphasize that we’re a long way from creating sentient computers. According to the New York Times, Yann LeCun, the head of A.I. research at Meta, said in an interview this week that their bots, as they stand, “are not powerful enough to reach true intelligence.”
🏆 BRAND FAIL OF THE WEEK: Google Agrees to $118 Million Settlement
Speaking of Google, the company settled a class-action lawsuit, agreeing to pay $118 million to over 15 women who claimed they were denied equal pay and promotion opportunities compared to their male colleagues.
The agreement doesn’t mean that Google accepts wrongdoing. In their latest statement, Google said, “While we strongly believe in the equity of our policies and practices, after nearly five years of litigation, both sides agreed that resolution of the matter, without any admission or findings, was in the best interest of everyone.” Google also agreed to have an independent industrial-organizational psychologist evaluate their hiring processes, and an external labor economist will look at their pay equity.
Though Google’s internal policies continue to make news for various reasons, in this case, their communications are fairly consistent — at least they’ve put a clear plan in place to improve the issues raised by the settlement.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Goodbye golden arches, hello “Tasty, and that's it.” As the latest global corporation to leave Russia during the war with Ukraine, McDonald’s announced their exodus on “Russia Day,” a holiday marking the country’s independence. In its place is the new brand "Vkusno & Tochka,” under the direction of Oleg Parov, who’ll oversee the entire operation that, while different in name and branding, will offer a few familiar favorites including the double cheeseburger.
Angry customers + Staffing shortages + Inflation-induced price hikes = Profits? Apparently so, if you’re in the airline industry. The industry’s reputation has taken a hit as of late, with passengers increasingly unhappy with their experience. However, demand has been strong, and investors hear the message loud and clear. Ticket prices may be surging and oil prices may be increasing, but after two years of COVID isolation, consumer hunger for travel is insatiable, and not even terrible customer experiences will stop them from paying to fly.
After a writer tweeted that Fire Island, the latest Hulu hit based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, failed the Bechdel test for failing to adequately represent women, Alison Bechdel (the unscientific test’s creator) herself logged on to make a new corollary to declare it passes. While the author deleted the initial tweet and apologized, the internet still exploded with roasts and memes (even Margaret Cho, who starred in Fire Island, weighed in).
Over the past week, more than 10,000 visitors have been evacuated from Yellowstone National Park due to dangerous flooding and weather conditions. As the world’s first national park has closed for the first time in 34 years, the National Park Service is calling this devastation “unprecedented,” and Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has declared it a “statewide disaster.”
A study from the Center for Intimacy Justice revealed that of the surveyed health-oriented businesses that served women and people of diverse genders, all 60 had ads rejected by Meta. Ads for breastfeeding workshops and consent education were labeled as promoting adult content. A spokesperson for Meta said that the algorithm has made mistakes when enforcing ad policies. With ads for manscaping products and solutions to erectile dysfunction on Meta’s platforms, their ad guidelines are communicating huge inconsistencies.
A piece from Charlie Warzel of the Atlantic documents the rollercoaster of communications from Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong over the past week. From a tweet storm and blog posts to laying off approximately 1,100 employees, Warzel writes that this management style is straight from the “Elon Musk School of Management.”
Commercial US water bottles have come a long way since first launched in 1767. Liquid Death sells water in cans that look like 16-ounce beers (also known as “tallboys”) and uses shock advertising and other tricks to differentiate in a crowded market.
After receiving criticism for a harmful lyric in her latest single, Lizzo apologized and released a new version of the song without the slur. She’s receiving praise for setting an example for allies: listening, learning, apologizing, and taking meaningful action.
Beginning on July 16, Americans can text, call, or online chat the number “988” instead of “1-800-273-8255” if experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis. Professional counselors from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be available 24/7.
ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) or sustainable investing is all the rage these days - even if investors don’t know what it actually means. At face value, ESG adds luster to brands in the age of growing climate and social awareness, and investors are interested, but many haven’t sought them out because they don’t understand it. Despite some detractors, like Elon Musk, calling it a scam and the complexity of the ESG rating system, more education will likely enhance its attractiveness.
WHO has decided to officially rename the “monkeypox” virus to settle concerns about stigma and racism and fit into the WHO guidelines that recommend avoiding geographic regions and animal names. Considering the rise of racist harassment and assaults that followed Trump’s “China Virus” tweets, it’s a wise call to avoid terms that could be discriminatory and stigmatizing.
In case you missed these stories this week.
Amazon’s Prime Day is coming. Set your Alexa alarms for July 12 and 13.
Anna Sorokin (of Inventing Anna fame) has her next great
scamproject all picked out: NFTs.
RIP to Internet Explorer.
Beyoncé is back. And she’s selling merch that doesn’t yet exist.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print: This week’s newsletter is brought to you by an organic brand win.