Burberry apologizes for a fashion statement that resembled a noose: Wednesday Wake-Up Call

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Look carefully at the drawstring on the hoodie.
Look carefully at the drawstring on the hoodie. Credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage

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What people are talking about today
Another week, another startlingly bad choice by a luxury brand. Burberry sent a model out into the runway in a hoodie with drawstrings that resembled a noose. After criticism, Burberry apologized and pulled the item, CNN reports. "We are deeply sorry for the distress caused by one of the products that featured in our A/W 2019 runway collection," Marco Gobbetti, Burberry chief executive officer, said in a statement to CNN. The brand added that the knot had been meant to nod at a nautical theme in the collection. The apology came after model Liz Kennedy, who appeared in the runway show, made her concerns public on social media: "It is beyond me how you could let a look resembling a noose hanging from a neck out on the runway," she wrote. Her Instagram post mentioned rising suicide rates, and she added: "Let's not forget about the horrifying history of lynching either." The backlash comes after Prada and Gucci made designs that reminded people of blackface. When does this end?

The tweet: Comedian Wanda Sykes retweeted an article about the Burberry design and commented: "Ok, did you a--holes get together and ask, 'How can we make this THE worst Black History Month ever? I mean let's really f--- it up."

How to read a room
There have been a lot of culturally insensitive screw-ups from brands over the past year, in terms of both products and ads. (Remember a year ago, when Heineken's "Sometimes Lighter Is Better" ads outraged people for seeming to suggest that lighter skin is better?) Ad Age examined how brands end up making such poor choices--and how marketers can do better. One basic tip: "Brands need to ensure that decision makers, whether in product development or marketing, represent a diverse set of groups, including different genders, ages, ethnicities and geographical locations," Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli writes.

On that note
Carol H. Williams, the iconic adwoman, has amazing stories that show the need for diversity in creative teams and in commercials. A natural storyteller, she shared some memories with Ad Age's Judann Pollack about life as a black woman in advertising. There was that time years ago when she cast African-Americans in Secret commercials and one of her bosses told her the work probably wouldn't make it on the air. But "P&G put it on the air and that antiperspirant went from No. 9 to No. 1 in six months," she says.

Another time, Williams was a woman in a room full of men who thought it was a good idea to make an ad about an anthropomorphized feminine hygiene pad, with big red lips and heels. Her response: "First of all, women do not want to be personified as a sanitary pad." The team ignored her advice and tested the concept. It bombed.

Also: Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement, talked to Ad Age's I-Hsien Sherwood about PSAs and the future of the movement. Check that Q&A out here.

And also: Ad Age's E.J. Schultz looks at how Boston's pro sports teams got together to tackle racism head-on after racist taunts broke out in Fenway Park.

Just briefly:
In-house:
Walmart is taking its website ad sales and related analytics work in-house; the move is a big blow to WPP's Triad, which has handled the work. The change affects hundreds of jobs. Read more by Ad Age's Jack Neff.

Moving on: "White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters, who regularly defended the administration's economic policies, plans to leave in April to work for Edelman Public Relations," Bloomberg News reports.

Golden arches: "Delivery is a high priority for McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, and a big worry for franchisees," Crain's Chicago Business reports. "Franchisees grumble that delivery costs put more pressure on their tight profit margins."

Upfronts calendar: Bookmark this link. It's Ad Age's continuously updated calendar for the dates when TV networks and digital publishers will make their annual pitches to media buyers and marketers. Jeanine Poggi is keeping track of it all.

YouTube conspiracy theories: "What if stemming the tide of misinformation on YouTube means punishing some of the platform's biggest stars?" The New York Times asks.

Political ad watch: Senator Bernie Sanders launched his presidential campaign and debuted a "stirring, nearly two-minute ad released on social media that ticks off key elements of his platform, including universal healthcare, free college tuition, combating climate change, campaign finance reform and more," Ad Age's Simon Dumenco writes.

A parting thought: Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic Chanel designer, has died, his fashion house says. (He was believed to be 85; there was some fuzziness about his date of birth, reports say). The Washington Post writes this about him: "The important thing was the constant striving toward something new and invigorating. Fashion, for him, was a constant evolution, an endless series of tweaks. He aimed for the best, but sometimes the only way to get there was through rocky and jarring terrain. If there was fear, it was of obsolescence."

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