Agency workers are fleeing cities, and Facebook promises to crack down on white nationalism: Friday Wake-Up Call
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Ad agencies have traditionally been metropolitan businesses. The action and amenities of city life draw the kind of creative, ambitious talent needed to churn out idea after idea. But now, all work is done online, scattered to the four corners of the internet by an invisible menace that thrives on open floor plans and brainstorm huddles.
So why pay to live in the city when all it has to offer is shut down? Plenty of agency employees are making that very calculation. “According to a recent Fishbowl survey that received more than 18,000 responses, 41 percent of the anonymous networking app’s users are considering moving to a more affordable city due to the pandemic,” writes Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse. “Another 5.84 percent, according to the survey, have already moved. Fishbowl says 59 percent of its San Francisco users and 57.9 percent of its New York users responded that they are considering moving to a more affordable location.”
Some are entry-level workers moving back home to save money, trading freedom for free laundry and meals. Others are living with in-laws to take advantage of much-needed childcare. And some are just living where they would have wanted to without the mandate of face-time.
The question, however, is whether those workers will return to big cities once the coronavirus is under control. Or will indy agencies in small markets snap them up with promises of wide open spaces?
More than 1.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, down just under 100,000 from the previous week. While filings have fallen from the staggering highs seen over the last few months, numbers continue to hover week after week at well over a million new filings, dashing hopes of a quick economic recovery.
Wells Fargo, which has resisted trimming its workforce over the last decade even as many other banks have, is planning to cut tens of thousands of workers from its rolls this year. And Harley-Davidson is cutting 700 jobs, about 13 percent of its workforce, due to lower demand for motorcycles that’s been causing problems for the company for years.
Of course, the underlying issue is the surge in coronavirus cases in many parts of the U.S. Twelve states hit a record-high seven-day average for new infections this week. Oil refineries in Texas are dealing with outbreaks, just as meatpacking plants around the country did before them. And even top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have expressed concern about the upcoming Republican National Convention next month, which was moved to Florida to avoid coronavirus-related restrictions on large gatherings.
Facebook is finally acceding to some of the demands of Stop Hate for Profit, a coalition of civil rights groups including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League. “Facebook said in its note to advertisers, which was obtained by Ad Age, that it was 'implementing changes to our content policies, including an expanded policy that bans praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism, and a new policy that prohibits content encouraging or calling for the harassment of others,’” writes Ad Age’s Garett Sloane.
The platform also says it will refund advertisers whose content ran next to offensive posts on Facebook. Of course, new policies are well and good, but there is no one to enforce them but Facebook, and no one to define what constitutes “praise, support and representation” on the platform but Facebook. Some of the initial complaints from Stop Hate for Profit stem from Facebook’s refusal to take down misleading posts from President Trump that its own internal auditors say violated the site’s guidelines.
Talking with Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi on Thursday, Aba Blankson, senior VP of marketing and communications at the NAACP, said the organization felt “no sense of urgency” from Facebook to address these issues.
Quibi’s popularity lasted about a Quibi (that’s about 10 minutes or so the streaming app’s ads proclaimed). After racking up more than 900,000 users in its first week in April, the platform for short-form content lost over 90 percent of them when the free trial ended. That left it with 72,000 users after three months.
One issue the service has is the lack of a marquee show. Without a “Handmaid’s Tale” or “Hamilton” to get people to sign up, it has depended on drawing an audience it expected to be busy and on-the-go, not locked indoors smelling of sourdough starter and despair. And one of its relative hits, the Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz vehicle “Most Dangerous Game,” will have its first season turned into a feature film reconstructed from the very content tidbits that are supposed to be Quibi’s raison d'être. Can’t wait to watch it on Netflix.
In the 40 years he spent in advertising, the industry has “not made substantial progress” on diversity and representation, says Mark Robinson, a veteran of agencies like Lintas, Grey, Uniworld, Carol H. Williams and Spike/DDB and the author of “Black on Madison Avenue.”
In the latest episode of the “Ad Lib” podcast, Robinson talks about being turned down for jobs at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample because he was Black and at Uniworld because he was “really not Black enough.” He also says even today, general-market agencies don’t create good multicultural work.
“They could do it, but none have,” he tells Ad Age’s Judann Pollack. “The condition is that you have to be committed, make a full-throttled commitment that this is what I do and invest in the business. I have not witnessed a general-market agency making that commitment. They do it as a diversion, a way to claw back dollars for their clients they lost to minority agencies, and they do it with a level of cynicism and disingenuousness.”
Not for the young at heart: The deadline for Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 is fast approaching, and nobody’s getting any younger. Join the ranks of previous winners like Gary Coichy, founder and head of partnership at Pod Digital Media; Ryan Robertson, innovation director and head of multicultural marketing at Diageo; Sarah Rosen, head of global content partnerships at Twitter; and Jill Abbott, head of consumer and athlete engagement at Gatorade. Applications are due Aug. 5—which is less than a month away because 2020 fell down a hole.
Foul brew: Anheuser-Busch InBev is paying a $5 million settlement for strongarm tactics with retailers and sporting venues, one of the largest penalties handed down by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for these kinds of violations. "While the purchase of advertising rights by the brewer 'was in no way conditioned upon' a retailer’s purchase of AB InBev’s products, employees of the brewer 'allegedly enforced an unwritten expectation' that an unnamed retail concessionaire 'purchase and provide favorable placement' of AB InBev’s beers," writes Ad Age's E.J. Schultz.
New news: Check out Ad Age’s latest newsletter, “Office Hours,” all about the ways the workplace is evolving in a still-very-in-the-middle-of-a-pandemic world. “There’s going to come a day soon when clients are going to want to meet in person,” Doner CEO David DeMuth tells Jeanine Poggi. “There are people who are going to be comfortable doing that and those that aren’t, and we aren’t going to judge either way.” But working from home also means never leaving the office, and 73 percent of agency employees say they’re suffering from burnout, according to a Fishbowl survey. And 44 percent of them are looking for another job because of it.
That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call. Thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.
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