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What to call Capitol extremists, and brands choose silence: Thursday Wake-Up Call
A day after a pro-Trump mob took over the U.S. Capitol building, it’s become clear that the police preparation and response was woefully inadequate, despite much of the planning for the event having taken place out in the open on social media. Right-wing platforms like Gab and Parler featured instructions on avoiding law enforcement and breaking into the building, according to the New York Times.
As the day unfolded, news media evolved their language, switching from “protesters” to “mob” or even “terrorists” after authorities found improvised explosive devices planted in the Capitol and at the Republican National Committee. The entire event played out in stark contrast to Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, for which Capitol police rolled out riot gear, tear gas and proactive violence.
And yet, against this backdrop, Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff won both Georgia Senate runoffs, cementing Democratic control of Congress and potentially setting up another stimulus package that could be worth $600 billion.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blamed President Trump for inciting the violence and called on him to condemn it. But when he released a video addressing them, he opened with false claims about winning the presidential election. That triggered a harsh rebuke from Twitter, which not only labeled his tweeted video as “disputed” but prevented it from being liked, retweeted or replied to “due to a risk of violence.”
CNBC’s Shep Smith cut away from the video mid-viewing when Trump asserted an election win, saying, “This is not true, and we are not airing it.”
Facebook removed the video altogether, followed by Twitter and YouTube. “This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump's video,” tweeted Facebook VP of Integrity Guy Rosen. “We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.” Ultimately, Twitter locked Trump's account for 12 hours after three false tweets, and Facebook blocked Trump's account for 24 hours.
For the most part, brands decided not to weigh in (with visions of Kendall Jenner surely haunting them). "At least three major brands delayed marketing announcements slated for Thursday, and PR agencies were again having to advise clients on how to react to news events," write Ad Age's E.J. Schultz and Garett Sloane.
As the Capitol riot escalated throughout Wednesday, incongruous tweets greeted doomscrollers—marketing messages scheduled before the chaos and not pulled in time. When the extent of the insurrection became apparent, many brands just silenced their social media accounts, according to an unnamed ad exec.
“In 2020, we had unfortunately a lot of practice managing these disruptive moments, whether it was the pandemic or various social unrest,” says Jeremy Mullman, a partner at ICF Next. “The watchword we gave [clients] was either to be helpful or be quiet.”
End of an era
In other news (is there other news?), the longest-serving employee of Wunderman Thompson has retired at the age of 93, after 69 years at the world’s oldest ad agency. Ginny Bahr took a job as a receptionist at J. Walter Thompson in 1951, writes Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse.
“I would say we were fortunate in always having good leadership in our company,” Bahr says of the 1987 WPP acquisition. “So I didn’t have any fear in the leadership in our company. You hear little things occasionally of things that might have gone on, but I thought it was great. I had confidence in the company.”
Over the years Bahr worked as a secretary for VPs and CEOs and ended her career as an expense reports processor. “All of a sudden it’s hitting; the days are all free,” she says. “I don't have to run for the train anymore. It's going to be different.”
Continuing the conversation
Anti-Asian racism has been on the rise since the spread of baseless conspiracy theories about COVID-19. Ad Age’s next town hall (Jan. 21) focuses on challenges facing the Asian and Asian American community in the ad industry—including barriers to hiring and promotion, outreach, representation and discrimination.
Panelists include WarnerMedia's Katie Soo, Ogilvy North America CEO Devika Bulchandani, Nielsen’s Mariko Carpenter and Google’s VP of Marketing Marvin Chow, who will each be answering viewer questions. There's still time to submit them here.
Stepping up: Linda Yaccarino, chairman of global advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal, succeeds Facebook’s David Fischer as chair of the Ad Council’s board of directors. She’ll serve an 18-month term, which will cover the Ad Council’s COVID-19 vaccine PSA effort.
BUeno buyout: Twitter acquired creative agency Ueno, which was founded by Haraldur Thorleifsson in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2014. The move bulks up Twitter’s in-house design chops with new employees that have worked on projects for Google, Facebook, Walmart, Visa, Apple and startups including Credit Karma and Strava.
Treason's greetings: Never one to miss an opportunity to take a dig at Donald Trump, the Lincoln Project re-shared its “Flag of Treason” spot from last June, lambasting people who wave the Confederate flag as traitors to the United States. Video of a flag-bearing Capitol assailant brazenly stalking the halls of Congress has been making the rounds, and calls from several Democrats to impeach Trump for inciting the riot add another layer to the “treason” appellation.
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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