P&G calls for people with power to make a 'choice,' and Lululemon moves ahead: Friday Wake-Up Call
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Killings of unarmed black people at the hands of police are nothing new. What is new in this moment is the positive perception that non-black people have of protests against police violence. Support for Black Lives Matter has surged in recent weeks, and many white people are beginning to embrace the task of being actively anti-racist.
A new spot from Procter & Gamble calls upon those people to use the power that comes from privilege. “The Choice,” created by Grey and Saturday Morning co-founder Keith Cartwright’s new agency Cartwright, lays out concrete steps to do just that, including reading up on racism and privilege, listening to the experiences of people of color, donating actual money to organizations that are working to effect change, marching in the streets and—of course—voting.
U.S. unemployment filings dropped to 1.5 million last week, a number that in any other circumstance would seem devastatingly large. More than 20 million people are currently receiving state unemployment benefits. But in the context of the last few months, economists are taking the new numbers as a sign that the downturn is turning down more slowly.
Hopes for a quick recovery now seem unreasonably optimistic. Earlier this week, it became clear that the unemployment rate for May was closer to 16.4 percent, not the 13.3 percent reported by the Department of Labor, due to a classification error, and April’s rate was actually closer to 20 percent, a number economists had feared would be hit in May. Any of these numbers represents more people out of work than any period since the Great Depression.
But people touting a slight drop in the unemployment rate as progress are missing the effects of systemic inequality. While the rate did drop for white people, it rose for black people.
Never underestimate the appeal of comfortable pants. Sportswear brand Lululemon is sticking to its plan for its brick-and-mortar stores, despite the challenges posed by social distancing and the coronavirus pandemic. “Last year, Lululemon said it was planning to dedicate 10 percent of its store fleet to experiential stores—one such venue, boasting 20,000 square feet, opened in Chicago last summer. Along with clothing, the store has a restaurant, rooms for meditation and yoga, and lots of pillows,” writes Ad Age’s Adrianne Pasquarelli.
The company has already reopened 60 percent of its stores, with the rest slated to open by the end of the month. Online sales are up 70 percent, but net revenue has dropped 16 percent with fewer in-store shoppers. Still, Lululemon seems to be faring better than many other retailers. “Coresight Research estimates store closures in the U.S. will be as high as 25,000” this year, Pasquarelli writes, “more than double the 9,821 closures of 2019.”
Tucker Carlson is no stranger to incendiary remarks—it’s basically his brand. But his recent comments about Black Lives Matter have advertisers backing away. “This may be a lot of things, this moment we are living through,” he said Monday on his show on Fox News. “But it is definitely not about black lives and remember that when they come for you, and at this rate, they will.”
Walt Disney Co., Papa John’s and T-Mobile US have pulled advertising from “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” though according to a Fox News spokesperson, those dollars have been shifted to other programs on the network. It’s certainly not the first time Carlson has weathered an advertiser boycott. In 2018, SodaStream and TD Ameritrade dropped the show after he made negative comments about immigrants. Judging from Carlson’s history, it won’t be the last.
Volkswagen is promising a tighter rein on internal marketing in the aftermath of a racist ad that showed a white hand flicking away a black man. The spot, created by Omnicom’s Voltage, is one of five videos featuring a mixed-race couple playing pranks on one another. The company says the racist connotations in the ad were inappropriate but not intentional.
“Despite our diverse and international teams, a racist video was produced,” said Juergen Stackmann, head of marketing at VW. “It seems very clear that, apart from mistakes in the process chain, there were also shortcomings in creating sensitivity among employees.”
The spot is an excellent example of the way colorblind creative processes can backfire. An initiative that may start with good intentions—featuring a mixed-race couple—takes on an offensive meaning when inherent power imbalances aren’t taken into account. Out of context, viewers see not a playful couple but an obvious visual metaphor for colonialism and systemic racism at the literal hand of a powerful white person.
The customer is often wrong: Starbucks is on track to reopen all of its stores, but customers won’t be seeing solidarity among the staff. The company has banned employees from wearing clothing or accessories that mention Black Lives Matter, claiming that “agitators” could “misconstrue the fundamental principles” of the movement and cause division. Essentially, the company is worried that racist customers will start trouble. However, it has long allowed messages in support of Pride and LGBTQ issues, which are far from uncontroversial with many people. In response to complaints on social media, the company tweeted that it would be sending stores shirts designed by its Black Partner Network.
Out of stock: The stock market took its biggest single-day hit Thursday since the beginning of the pandemic. The Dow dropped more than 1,800 points, the S&P fell 5.9 percent and the Nasdaq slumped 5.3 percent. Investors appear to be spooked by rising coronavirus cases in many states that have begun to reopen. Shares of Facebook and Microsoft lost more than 5 percent, Apple and Alphabet dropped more than 4 percent, while Amazon dipped more than 3 percent, for a combined loss of n $269 billion in value just among the five tech giants.
Butterfly in the sky: “Do the work,” social media says these days. “Educate yourself” about racism by reading up on it. Now Washington, D.C., public libraries are making it easy, so there’s no excuse. Free ebooks and audiobooks are available for download from authors like Martin Luther King, Jr., Robin DiAngelo, Audre Lorde, Charlene Carruthers and Malcom X. Get to 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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