Everlane accused of 'anti-Black' behavior and NBA returns with virtual fans: Monday Wake-Up Call
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Everlane, the direct-to-consumer fashion brand that’s seen a meteoric rise in the past few years (it was one of Ad Age’s Hottest Brands in 2019), is the latest company to experience leadership fallout over the wave of social-justice awareness following the death of George Floyd. The brand's chief creative officer Alexandra Spunt is stepping back from her role after the company faced accusations of hypocrisy over its ethically conscious image.
According to a report by The New York Times, the company conducted an internal investigation after allegations by former employees of “anti-Black behavior” and of “selling an image to the world that did not reflect their damaging experiences inside the company.” At an all-staff meeting last week, the results were revealed, confirming many of the complaints, including that “insensitive terms were used while discussing Black models” and that leaders “used inappropriate terms when referring to people of color” and “violated employees' personal space by touching them.” Everlane said Spunt, who received “significant criticism” from staff, will be “no longer leading the creative team” and will be “transitioning” while “advising the senior leadership team as needed.”
It's just the latest in a series of moves that show corporate employees will no longer tolerate behavior they object to: Last Thursday saw Hearst Magazines President Troy Young resign a day after the Times published accounts of sexist and sexually graphic remarks he allegedly made to employees.
The National Basketball Association returns this week in Orlando, but with some big changes as a result of the pandemic. The league revealed some “high tech upgrades” to games on Friday, reports Ad Age’s E.J. Schultz, including “virtual cheering” to replace in-person fans, while courts will be surrounded by robotic cameras and microphones to deliver “never-before-seen camera angles and enhanced audio” for select fans watching from home.
The system isn’t without its potential pitfalls: audio from the virtual fans will be heard by players as well as TV viewers and, as Schultz points out, “this raises the possibility that inappropriate fan behavior might be seen or heard on games.” To limit that possibility, the NBA said it will have moderators in each virtual section and claims individual voices won’t be heard.
Nevertheless, the return of the live sport bodes well for advertisers, with more impact for ads during live content—although questions still remain, such as what happens if large numbers of players test COVID-positive?
McDonald’s has announced that it will require all customers to wear face masks in its U.S. stores from next month, joining other companies including Walmart, Starbucks and Chipotle in the move. The chain seems prepared, though, for a backlash, saying in a statement that: “In those situations where a customer declines to wear a face covering, we’ll put in place additional procedures to take care of them in a friendly, expedited way.”
However, many retailers were more explicit about the fact that they won’t enforce the wearing of masks themselves, according to a CNN report. Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Home Depot and Lowe’s have all said they won’t prohibit people not wearing masks from being served, in order to avoid confrontations in their stores.
While there’s no federal mandate to wear a mask, the feeling is similar in the U.K., where the government made the wearing of masks in stores mandatory from last Friday. Major retailers including Sainsbury’s and Asda said they wouldn’t enforce the face mask laws, begging the question, who will?
Janine Pelosi, chief marketing officer of Zoom, and Heidi Cooley, head of global marketing at Crocs, are among the leaders from some of Ad Age’s America’s Hottest Brands who will speak at a virtual conference tomorrow, kicking off at 11 a.m. EDT (register here.)
As conference host Adrianne Pasquarelli writes, many of our featured brands have reported new developments in recent weeks. They include King Arthur Flour rebranding, Headspace going into partnership with Snapchat on mini meditation sessions, and Twitch setting a new record of 5 billion hours watched in its second quarter. Michael Jordan also announced an expansion of his Jumpman brand in time for the NBA restart this week.
Ad Age’s latest Digital Edition, out today, takes detailed a look at President Trump’s campaign ad spend (more than $300 million, in case you're wondering), and examines how to set a marketing budget for an uncertain 2021. We also investigate how safety concerns are affecting back-to-school lists, and there's an interview with Hungry Man director Bryan Buckley on his Trump Statue initiative, which trolled Trump on the streets of Washington D.C.
The Digital Edition is available for subscribers only: to subscribe, find options at AdAge.com/membership.
The Week Ahead: This week will see the start of the 3% conference, with speakers including Cindy Gallop, while companies including Facebook, Kraft Heinz, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s and L’Oréal are all reporting financial results. See what else is on the agenda for the week ahead in our roundup here.
Not today: The congressional hearing with the chief executives of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple has been rescheduled from today to Wednesday at noon EDT, reports The Verge. It was delayed to allow members of Congress to pay respects to the late Rep. John Lewis.
Podcast of the day: With a year to go until the postponed Tokyo Olympics (maybe), Christopher Carroll, the International Olympic Committee’s marketing and digital engagement and director, joins Ad Age’s E.J. Schultz on the latest edition of the Ad Lib podcast to discuss the organization’s latest marketing moves, including its “Stronger Together” ad campaign. Listen up here.
Creativity of the day: Wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation puts interviews with humans about their time in lockdown into the mouths of animated animals like elephants and tigers, in a collaboration by agency Engine with animation house Aardman, highlighting the plight of animals in captivity, The charming and sad film, which you can watch here, will be one of the campaigns under discussion during Creativity’s live Top 5 session later today, where the team will discuss the best work of the week. Tune into the livestream here at noon EDT.
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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