Out of Scope Issue 78: The Uncertain Future of “Boy Bosses”
Plus: Android’s green bubbles and the CW’s surprising viewership.
This week, the boys of Silicon Valley are feeling the heat and Google’s on a mission to stop the hate (for Android’s green text bubbles, that is). Plus, Apple announces its ad ambitions, Daily Harvest continues to ~crumble~, and the CDC pledges greater transparency.
💡ON OUR MINDS: Boy Bosses Next Gig
The “Boy Bosses” of the tech world are leaving the unicorn startups they founded in waves. This week the New York Times explores why they're leaving and what it signifies about the way the tech world views leadership.
Companies like Airbnb, Pinterest, and Instacart have founders that are now somewhat famous as “visionary heroes.” But these same founders are transitioning from prominent roles at the helm of their companies to advisory roles, or leaving altogether. And some, like Uber’s Travis Kalanick, are still dealing with severe hits to their reputations.
Why the perspective shift? In the economic downturn, venture capitalists are looking for executives that have experience navigating complex operations challenges, rather than the visionary founder mentality that has dominated Silicon Valley’s ethos for the past decade. As the NYT puts it: “Patience for visionaries wore thin. Founder-led companies started to seem like liabilities, not assets.”
Though the general trend is moving away from championing tech darlings, one recent exception stands out: Andreessen Horowitz just invested in Adam Neumann’s (co-founder and former CEO of WeWork) new project, Flow.
Innovation only happens when there’s a vision people can get behind. But transitioning from vision to execution can be an altogether different job description.
🏆 BRAND ??? OF THE WEEK: Google and Android
The annoying green text bubbles might not be your Android-using friend’s fault. Last week, Google rolled out its new #GetTheMessage campaign, aimed directly at their competitor Apple. Google is specifically calling on the tech giant to make cross-platform text communication more effective.
The campaign is new, but the gripes about texting Android users from iPhones are timeless: the green text bubbles, ineffective group chats, and low-quality pictures. To get into the tech behind it, Android phones use a more universal communication method, RCS, while Apple is the creator and sole user of iMessage. The issues consumers perceive about the mismatch, Google points out, would be resolved and unnoticeable if Apple switched to RCS.
We’re wondering how effective this tactic will be. Publicly complaining about a competitor is a bold move, and Google here is pretty clearly announcing that Apple has some serious influence over their product. We aren’t sure Apple will bow to public pressure, but until then, we encourage you to be kind to your friends, no matter the color of their texts on your phone.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, some contraceptive brands are doubling or even quadrupling their online advertising. While this change in spending can be attributed to the newfound urgency to reach more consumers and make contraceptives more accessible, some marketers are more specifically looking to combat misinformation that has exploded on platforms like TikTok in recent months.
This week Uber announced it is rolling back its long-standing free loyalty program, originally released in 2018 to promote frequent use and positive brand sentiment. Since Uber is all but ubiquitous now, the company is looking for other ways to reward customers, though it’s always tricky to message when popular features are discontinued – especially when it is being replaced with a paid version.
Johnson & Johnson is finally pulling its talcum-based baby powder off of shelves after years of being sued by women who claim using the product gave them cancer. The product has long been a reputational hazard for the legacy brand, with the company going so far as to create a subsidiary that managed all of its lawsuit claims (until filing for bankruptcy in late 2021).
Daily Harvest continues to experience intense fallout from The Great Crumble Debacle of 2022, which saw hundreds of its customers fall ill with severe gastrointestinal issues after consuming their Lentil + Leek Crumble meal. Now facing multiple lawsuits, serious reputational damage, and even layoffs, this week, Fortune published a deep dive into where Daily Harvest went wrong — namely, that as a company built for the influencer era, they failed to account for just how quickly it could bring them down.
Gen Z TikTok influencers have thrown support behind the People Over Prime campaign, which is rallying behind Amazon’s fledgling labor union. Seventy young creators with a collective reach of 51 million followers serve as a reminder of Gen Z’s inclination for social justice and surprising digital reach.
In the latest notable brand collab, Walmart and Paramount+ struck a deal to offer the streaming service free to subscribers of Walmart’s paid membership program. This is a modern classic strategy of big-name brands looking for mutually beneficial opportunities to tap existing audiences with similar interests – an approach that Amazon has seen success with in everything from Whole Foods to GrubHub.
Following Apple’s privacy push last year with App Tracking Transparency, the tech giant is making an ironic move into the ad space. The Apple Ecosystem of products provides an ideal advertising haven for the company, even though they only make about 1% of revenue through ads currently. Will this new push lead to angry Apple users, or will consumers turn a blind eye to the ads popping up on Maps?
When e-commerce sites are a dime a dozen these days, brands must work hard to differentiate and promote themselves with a creative approach - just as much as the products they sell. This new campaign from discount retailer Wish.com taps into the emotional elements of bargain hunting and discovering new treasures, paired with a new short-form shoppable video feature that looks to make the shopping experience more dynamic, but the impact on sales will remain to be seen.
We aren’t sure exactly whose parents are keeping up on Riverdale, but following the CW Network’s acquisition, new leadership identified the channel’s average viewer age as a shocking 58 years old. The network has had a distinct teen lean for the last several years, so we’re interested to see if new owners will change the network’s MO, and finally give audiences the Archie and Jughead home ownership storyline we’ve all been waiting for.
While legacy or buzzy new businesses often make headlines for their moments of TikTok virality, even “boring” companies are seeing considerable sales due to the platform. The success of these small businesses further shows how TikTok continues to shape the world of e-commerce and brand strategy in unpredictable ways.
After admitting they had failed to muster an effective response to the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC has pledged to be more transparent about the information they gather. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky revealed to senior leaders that she will conduct a revamp that will, “reward action over publication” along with the faster release of scientific information and easier-to-follow guidance.
In case you missed these stories this week.
Forget Instagram, Gen Z has found their latest canvas for self-expression in L.L. Bean’s Boat and Tote bags.
As the Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster antitrust trial rages on, Katy Waldman at The Atlantic wrote about the publishers’ inability to discern whether publishing is about art or commerce.
Airbnb this week launched “Anti-Party” tech to algorithmically screen potential party throwers and halt large functions at the point of booking.
In a streaming first, Nielsen will now provide ratings to Amazon Prime’s Thursday Night Football broadcast, pointing to measurement’s evolution amid a shifting TV landscape.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print: This week’s newsletter is brought to you by the Kid’s Division of this week’s USA Mullet Championship. HL is pulling for you Mullet Boy!