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19 Jul 19

Weekly Media Trends (19 Jul 19)

19 Jul 19

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Cats Trailer | Bowie Barbie | Trump Racism | Lashana Lynch 007 | Insta/Twitter

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

There’s been loads of viral news in a week that started with more people seemingly outraged about an androgen Barbie and a rumoured black, female 007 than an actual racist running the free world…and ended with mutant singing cat-people, with an interesting evolution in the world of social media and worrying harbingers for the future of international journalism along the way.

Nostalgia still dominates as Bowie Barbie hits shelves, but for how long?

Our founder Mark Borkowski wrote this week about the brilliance of Mattel’s new David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust-inspired Barbie in managing to turn even today’s fraught gender politics into an excuse for nostalgia. But will this kick last? There’s a growing school of thought – exemplified by an interesting Guardian tome later in the week – that the success of nostalgic family brands amongst grown-up millennials, is starving the next generation of new ideas. With even well-received reincarnations such as Ziggy Barb-dust and Toy Story 4 copping flack, are we now watching the trend for reworked vintage pass its peak?

Trump's racism is calculated. And will pay off for him

Donald Trump created another media firestorm this week with a racist barrage aimed at four Democratic Congresswomen. But a mere controversy isn’t going to damage the granite-dense core of Trump’s support. Mark Borkowski explains:

“Donald Trump is an ignorant, dangerous buffoon and ugly sociopath. His latest disgusting racist click-bait, turbocharged by his most rabid supporters and magnified by liberal outrage, is yet another example of how he rallies society’s ugly, silent underbelly.

His racist posturing is not the rhetoric of a blundering idiot. It Is tactically deliberate. He’s an arch PR for the social age.  The reasoning might be subconscious, but nothing he publishes is accidental.

Racism is Trump’s weapon of choice. In creating another scandal, he’s just generated another tirade of free diversionary coverage, distracting from his more rounded inability to fulfil even a single duty of elected office. And it’s impossible to ignore or cut off his channels. This was another victory for Trump, and sadly there will be more to come.”

Dangerous time for international journalists

Trump’s one example of another worrying trend of the growing influence of geopolitics over journalism. It’s always interesting to hear opinions about the BBC’s foreign language services, as even before Brexit poisoned our national discussion of bias, their impartiality seemed to be questioned more frequently than that of the UK mothership.

So it wasn’t totally surprising to see that the BBC’s Persian service was criticised for appearing to acquiesce to the Iranian government’s demand for a media blackout.

But self-preservation is an understandable instinct, especially in a country lying 170th on the Press Freedom Index, and we should also be concerned at recent developments both at home – with increasing reports of heavy-handedness by government and institutions towards British journalists (yes even the Mail – so often the aggressor- is a victim in this instance)—and the federal police raid on the homes of Australian journalists which threaten not just media freedom, but democracy itself.

We talk a lot about what brands, people and organisations should be doing to communicate better. Keeping half an eye on the plight of the media outlets who can be trusted to report on them honestly is solid advice.

'Female Bond' reaction Lashaken not stirred 

Early this week the media was awash with the news that Lashana Lynch was to be cast as the first black female James Bond ahead of 2020’s ‘Bond 25’ film.
Since Daniel Craig announced he was stepping down as James Bond in early 2016, candidates to replace 007 have included Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston, Richard Madden and Rami Malek with bookies overwhelmingly favouring a male lead.

Speculation surrounding the casting was a widespread and often testy conversation of tradition and canon Vs progressivist reinvention in which the Captain Marvel star didn’t figure. If she is set for a main role, it’s the second revolutionary act of modernisation enacted by the Bond 25 team in recent months following the recruitment of arguably the world’s most sought-after creative force Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a screenwriter.

On one hand, realistically, how much longer could the old-fashioned James Bond have survived in the post #metoo era? On another, can you make such deep-routed changes to a historic brand and still preserve the elements which made it a classic in the first place?

Making Lashana Lynch the protagonist (even if she’s 007 but not ‘James Bond’ per se) could pull millions of fresh fans that are excited by the prospect of a female ‘Bond’ and/or drawn by the Phoebe Waller-Bridge factor. The only questions is whether they’ll outnumber the (Grand Tour-watching, men’s rights-toting, gammon, incel) ‘Bond purists’ who’ll stay at home.

Social Media Giants 'Likes'/'Comments' Experiment 

This week Instagram announced they were testing a surprising change to their platform: hiding a post’s likes. Under the new system, currently being trialled in numerous countries, users will be able to see the number of likes their own posts receive, but not others’.

In a similar move, Twitter have also announced this week that they’re going to give users in Canada the option to hide replies to their Tweets in a bid to combat trolling, hate speech and pile-ons.

Some have applauded these moves, seeing them as steps towards more socially conscious social media. Many have cited studies that found a link between excessive social media use and poor mental health, especially in young people. Comparing the amount of likes on your post to others is said to be particularly destructive, with Instagram stating on Twitter that they want users to “focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.”

These moves may also put professional influencers on alert. The industry is built on the ability to demonstrate ‘engagement’ through likes and comments, and thus secure lucrative brand partnerships. If these disappear, influencers will find their impact much harder to prove, which signals another step towards the end of the ‘Wild West’ dawn of influencer marketing we often discuss in these Trends.

There are two major lessons to be learned from this development. Firstly, social media is only a source of income for influencers because platforms allow it. One tiny shift in the rules can destroy business models, as brands relying on Facebook found out when their algorithm changed earlier this year. Secondly, these platforms aren’t going away any time soon. The industry’s giants are beginning to recognise how unregulated use tarnishes their reputation and risks them being subject to more draconian regulatory legislation. By wising up to this, and proactively addressing such issues, Instagram and Twitter may just have secured their own survival. 

Cats Trailer: A Prowl Through the (Uncanny) Valley of the Shadow of WTF

A few months ago, we discussed how Aladdin’s bizarre trailer being so meme-able was a handy, publicity-driving distraction from how bang average the film looked. Then there was the Sonic the Hedgehog trailer which inspired a similar reaction, except but was too brutalised by the public to have the same cult-raising effect.

The upcoming adaptation of Cats is on another level.

The public hilarity doesn’t even really seem to stem from the notion that the film will definitely be bad. The indecision about whether to portray the characters in Baron Lloyd-Webber’s classic as cats or humans in costume, or just humans has led producers to splice some of musical theatre’s icons into terrifying uncanny valley Brundlecats.

This is set against a visual backdrop which is more Terry Gilliam’s-poppers-are-past-their-sell-by than anything like director Tim Hooper’s previous musical adaptation, 2012’s Les Mis. The combination looks like a particularly psychotropic and terrifying old musical episode of Doctor Who.

There’s also the uneven casting which recalled Jimmy Kimmel’s parody ‘Movie: The Movie’. Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, Ian McKellon and Idris as evil Macavity are all solid but there was a note of derision on social media around James Corden, Jason Derulo, Rebel Wilson and even Taylor Swift, who, big star though she is, is untested in major feature films.

The Cats producers now find themselves with a bit of a double-edged sword on their hands. On one side, the whole world is talking about their film, on the other, few people seem convinced that it’s going to be much good. And there’s a clue in the trailer that they saw that reaction coming. Memory is the song that transformed Cats from a good musical to a classic: revealing nearly a minute of your showstopper in the first trailer smacks a little of desperation to communicate the quality of the singing. When the visuals are so baffling, you can’t entirely blame them.
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