Uber and Lyft could abandon California, and QAnon hijacks a hashtag: Thursday Wake-Up Call
Welcome to Ad Age’s Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. If you're reading this online or in a forwarded email, here's the link to sign up for our Wake-Up Call newsletters.
Two days after a California judge ruled that rideshare services Uber and Lyft must treat drivers as full-time employees rather than independent contractors (making them eligible for unemployment, overtime and health insurance), Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CNBC that the company would likely shut down in California. Later on Wednesday, Uber’s Director of Strategic Operational Initiatives Brad Rosenthal said the shut down could last a year.
The suit that prompted the ruling was brought by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (who succeeded Kamala Harris in the role). The companies have another week to appeal the decision before it goes into effect, but if it does, it seems Uber would prefer to pull out of the state than offer benefits to drivers. Lyft President John Zimmer said that company would also need to suspend operations in the state. That would put drivers in a tough situation, either left without jobs or stuck as essential workers without health benefits during a pandemic.
There’s one more out for the rideshare companies, though. In November, California voters will weigh in on Proposition 22, a ballot initiative funded by Uber, Lyft and delivery service DoorDash that would exempt drivers from rules requiring them to be classified as employees.
A new spin an old conspiracy theory has entangled very real initiatives to help children. Adherents of QAnon, the loose confederation of online conspiracists, who insist that a cabal of prominent celebrities, philanthropists and Democratic politicians are abusing and eating children around the world, have latched onto #SaveTheChildren as a vehicle to spread their message, reports The New York Times.
Unfortunately, it’s a hashtag already associated with legitimate organizations that fight child trafficking, including Save the Children, the 101-year old U.K. charity that recently had to distance itself from trending posts using its name in vain.
It’s a tragic and trying reminder that hashtags aren’t proprietary, and social campaigns designed to let anyone join in can, well, let anyone join in. It also highlights the darker side of hashtag hijacking, which K-pop fans previously used to glorious effect to drown out white supremacist content with bubblegum pop and flashy dance moves.
And it demonstrates the difficulty of combating diffuse movements like QAnon, which are boosted by a combination of online trolls, hostile government actors, political partisans and people genuinely concerned about child welfare who have been caught up in misinformation. Facebook temporarily banned the hashtag earlier this month in an effort to tamp down on the spread of deep state conspiracy theories, a move that served as proof of its veracity to true believers and also limited the hashtag’s rightful use as a rallying cry to aid the 25 percent of trafficking victims worldwide who are real children in need of actual help.
The 2017 dismissal of Joe Alexander, The Martin Agency’s longtime chief creative officer, kicked off the ad industry’s Me Too reckoning. But last year, Alexander filed a lawsuit against several parties he claimed conspired against him, namely the anonymous whistleblowing Instagram account Diet Madison Avenue, the trade publication Adweek and reporter Patrick Coffee, who covered Alexander’s fall from grace.
Turns out, The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (where the agency is based) dismissed Alexander’s $25 million suit last month, citing a lack of jurisdiction over New York-based defendants.
“The Court also ruled against Alexander’s invoking of a ‘conspiracy theory of jurisdiction,’ stating that Alexander did “not plead any facts to suggest that the defendants ever engaged in a conspiracy with anyone,” writes Ad Age’s Ann-Christine Diaz. “‘Instead, his allegations indicate that the defendants’ behavior amounts to conduct typical of news organizations and their reporters: news-gathering, fact-checking and publication.’”
But this drawn-out drama isn’t over yet. Alexander’s $50 million suit against The Martin Agency and IPG is still pending, and the next hearing is six weeks away.
Google and Facebook employees can work from home until at least summer 2021, and at Twitter and Slack, they can stay at home indefinitely. But other companies are weighing the importance of their offices against the steep price of real estate. The New York Daily News is closing its Manhattan office, and REI is selling a never-used headquarters in Seattle.
Real estate giant JLL has reopened 85 percent of its 350 offices, Paige Steers, executive managing director of marketing, tells Ad Age’s Adrianne Pasquarelli on the latest episode of the “Marketer’s Brief” podcast. “In addition to its own properties, which include shopping centers, JLL is also advising clients on the best way to re-open and keep workers socially distant. While lingering has taken a backseat at malls, many consumers are taking advantage of curbside pickup services.”
Steers talks about safety designs and strategies workplaces are beginning to use, including one-way hallways and defined exit strategies—plans to get a sick person out of a building without infecting other people.
Numbers game: Age ain’t nothing but a number, but for now, we’re keeping score. Today at 5:00 p.m. EDT is the final deadline for Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 nominations, our annual list of the most impressive people in media and marketing who have yet to crest the hill.
Mask ask: Mucinex is bringing World Mask Week to Florida, a state that is currently is desperate need of anything to cool its coronavirus hot spots. “‘Back to normal is up to you’ is the tagline of Mucinex’s campaign, which notes that getting back to birthday parties, hairdresser visits, cruises, offices and coffee with friends depends on controlling the disease through mask wearing,” writes Ad Age’s Jack Neff.
Saturday shift: With two of college football’s conferences out for the year, the NFL could shift some games to Saturday to reach additional audiences for advertisers. “A sports marketing executive at a major company that is a heavy NFL advertiser says the league has yet to approach the company—but this person did not rule it out,” writes Ad Age’s E.J. Schultz. College towns are also set to take an economic hit.
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.
From CMO Strategy to the Ad Age Datacenter Weekly, we’ve got newsletters galore. See them all here.
Subscribers make the difference. Individual, group and corporate subscriptions are available—including access to our Ad Age Datacenter. Find options at AdAge.com/membership.