Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Cantona | Bond | Euro Elections | Taylor Swift

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

This week we look at Eric Cantona being outrageous, a lukewarm Bond launch in Jamaica, a worrying new political trend and PR heavyweight Taylor Swift gearing up for her next shot at world domination.

You Cant(ona) be serious

You’re a 53 year-old former professional footballer turned actor. You’re famed for doing weird stuff. Your greatest hits include roundhouse kicking a fan, trying to get everyone to withdraw all their money from the bank and just hide a wad of cash under their beds, giving up football for ‘beach soccer’ and philosophising about seabirds.

But this all took place over twenty years ago. Times have changed. Which raises the question: how does one maintain a brand of such dark, deep-seated weirdness in 2019?

For Mnsr Eric Cantona the answer was simple: post a video on Instagram which began as a selfie before panning down to reveal an erect penis smashing an egg against its owner’s torso.

Cantona, or more likely a bewildered Instagram admin, deleted the post eventually and it was soon replaced with a heavily symbolic image of an egg and a banana alongside an enigmatic caption about censure.

Bewildering, unnerving, nonsensical, borderline offensive. Whatever its purpose, this was vintage Cantona.

To paraphrase the great man: ‘When seagulls follow the trawler (on Insta), it’s because they think splatters of penis egg will rain down on them.’
Uninspiring launch for Bond 25
No title, no car, no gadgets, no morsel of storyline or setting, just a cast – most of whom haven’t known each other long enough to establish chemistry- struggling through a press conference clearly in the grip of publicists and lawyers.

Bond 25 has been a rocky project so far but has recently emitted glimmers of positivity: they’ve secured Daniel Craig for one last mission, Cary Fukunaga was a popular directorial choice (even if we still think our old friend Susanne Bier could be brilliant for Bond at some point), and Phoebe Waller Bridge, having shown in Killing Eve that she can do an espionage thriller rather brilliantly, could be an inspired choice to inject a little vinegary humour into the sinewy intensity of Craig’s Bond portrayal.

But this week’s cast announcement showed that there’s a long way to go if Bond 25 is going to fulfil this promise. Craig’s 4 outings to date have gone down as (chronological): classic-stinker-classic-mixed. We’re due another classic, but this slightly uninspiring early publicity drive seems to have left Bond fans more nervous than optimistic.

Euro Elections: The dawn of Tweetocracy?

Everyone thinks of it as the election that was never meant to be, but we risk looking back on the upcoming European Parliament elections as the first harbinger of a dark new era.
A century ago, a young ambitious politician wanting to make a name for himself would join the military, do their utmost to get themselves in dispatches and then ride the national adulation into a safe seat. This was what grabbed the attention of the British public – at the point of a sword in a far-flung corner of the Empire. A different age, with different priorities and value systems.
Who are their modern-day equivalents? A look at the candidate list for the MEP elections gives us an insight into a new, untried way of picking candidates. Sargon of Akkad, Andrew Adonis*, Tommy Robinson, Nora Mulready, Frances Weetman – you probably don’t know who they are, but these are people with profiles in the political world because they are constantly arguing on political Twitter. And now they are top-tier candidates for the most important European election in living memory. What does that tell us?

In American politics they say that Washington is always the last to get the news. I hope for our sake that this is Westminster being behind the curve of general revulsion towards social media, and not a savvy bet on the political rewards that you can gain with zealots capable of whipping up a twitter mob, but have no idea to compromise, admit defeat or write a law.

*Yes, Adonis is a Labour Grandee, but there’s no way he would have the fame that he has if he hadn’t been spending all day every day hysterically arguing on Twitter.

Taylor's Shift

Taylor Swift is an artist whose media and press image eclipses any scrutiny of her music.

Her brand-new single ‘ME!’ has taken the internet by storm – fans are going into scrupulous detail in their attempts to decipher cryptic clues in her lyrics and music video.

The song is a basic pop tune with simple yet catchy lyrics and a quirky edge provided by Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco.

But the truth is… substance doesn’t matter. Because the timing of her release is impeccable.

Releasing ME! on the same day as Marvel’s End Game hits cinemas (with some interpreting a nod to the comic uber series in the lyrics) has subverted the traditional American High School social pyramid by uniting 'Swifties' and comic-book nerds.

Galvanising her fanbase by subtly targeting an audience she hasn’t yet permeated is a clever move, particularly one so partial to cult fandom.

A genre crossover expert herself, there’s been a demand for Taylor Swift to return to her country roots. This seems to be her personal End Game.

As the country music scene suffering its own identity crisis – typified by Billboard removing Lil Nas X’s viral song “Old Town Road” from country chart – Taylor’s return would be the ultimate power play.

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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Carlsberg | Notre Dame | Tiger Woods

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

Quick Easter blast here: Did Carlsberg's social media self-immolation work? Were big brand donations to rebuild Notre Dame benevolent or kneejerk? And has Tiger Woods gained reputational redemption?

Probably the best brand turnaround in the world?

Carlsberg – most people’s second or third least favourite lager – employed a slightly unusual technique ahead of their upcoming rebrand; promoting abusive Tweets about itself in a campaign admitting that it’s ‘Probably not the best beer in the world’ but promising that the new one would be better.

Self-deprecation can work. Jokes about Skodas being rubbish are greeted with blank expressions by younger members of our office, but it wasn’t that long ago that the manufacturers were playing up just such a reputation to emphasise the quality and popularity of their new Fabia.

The problem Carlsberg have is that Skoda had the collateral of actually having produced a decent car behind them, whereas Carlsberg did the same things with only a promise that their new beer will taste better than “the bath water that your nan died in”. Early reviews suggest that might be a bit better, if not quite enough to justify the irony intended by the ‘Mean Tweets’-style swagger with which Carlsberg has been slagging itself off.
Notre Dame Cathedral: Have brands benefited from big donations?
There was an interesting reaction to the charitable but ostentatious donations to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral after the world-renowned monument was devasted by a huge fire this week.

Brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, L’Oreal, and Louis Vuitton have clubbed in to raise a total rumoured to be €700 million. No down side right?

Wrong: the donations have inspired something of a nuanced and multifaceted public debate (remember those?!).

On one hand: How we can live in a society in which millions of poor starve and sleep rough, while the few rich finagle their taxes so that they can sit on sums so vast they could change the face of entire communities…and yet the money only appears when they smell a chance to look benevolent in the news (and maybe get a tidy tax exemption and their name on a tourist attraction). This is complicated by the moral quandary of the Catholic Church already having benefited extravagantly from French government goodwill during their tenancy of the cathedral.

On the other: were they just trying to support a good cause?

Probably the latter, but if big brands want the glory, they need to test their conviction in causes célèbres against this kind of potential backlash, and have a justification ready, before pulling the trigger, otherwise accusations of short-sightedness and cynicism are always going to emerge.

Rise of the Tiger

The ‘return’ of Tiger Woods is complete. After multiple career-threatening surgeries, he managed to return to first class golf and this week won his first Major since 2008 at the Masters in Augusta - a feat being lauded as one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time. Most professional athletes don't even get a decade at the top, let alone a decade between their two stints at the top to build the tension...

The return to golfing greatness has coincided with a reappearance in the public's affections; a kind of reputational redemption that serves as proof - were it needed- that our memories are short when we want them to be.

Back in 2009 when Woods was at the centre of a media circus alleging rampant promiscuity, he had very few options in front of him. He was forced to keep his head down, apologise and seek therapy. A star beloved by millions, many couldn’t excuse Tiger’s actions at the time.

But now all appears forgiven and forgotten. Amid the furore of his dramatic Masters triumph, there is little to no reference of his shady past. Despite his 2017 run in with the law for driving under the influence  – there are few occasions where his past is brought up. His sporting triumph has eclipsed his less auspicious personal life.

On current evidence, talent is king, and Tiger is back. 

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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Disney Plus | Assange | Black Hole | Israel Folau

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

In a week of big news stories we take a look at the media fortunes of Disney (again), Julian Assange, the team behind that Black Hole photo, and disgraced Australian homophobe and (probably ex-) rugby player Israel Folau.

'Disney Plus' to halt giant's stream of bad PR?

Another week another mention of Disney in this email. To sum up our previous analyses of Disney’s recent output: the entertainment giant needs a win.
Dumbo has had its wings (well, ears) clipped by bad reviews, Aladdin – in our humble opinion – could go the same way, and the forecast for The Lion King, cinematically the most promising of the trio of mega releases, is less rosy than first thought (Forbes did a good analysis of the challenge it faces to become a $2Bn movie).

The Lion King’s second trailer was subject to a mini-controversy when some members of the media and entertainment world’s most important pillar, the gay community, expressed some tongue-only-half-in-cheek offence that the film’s villain Scar had been ‘retro-hetero-d’ to look less gay than his lavishly camp predecessor.

It was against this backdrop that Disney launched its opening salvo in the battle for streaming supremacy. While Britbox looks DOA, Apple TV has at least fired a shot this week by announcing a collaboration between Oprah and Prince Harry, so how will Disney get on?

The early signs are promising: for only about a fiver a month you’re getting a storied back catalogue and some original productions wielding huge, very powerful IP – three Marvels and a Star Wars spinoff for starters. That’s a solid statement of intent to us, and the markets agree, with Disney shares jumping 10% on Friday and Netflix taking a 3% hit. This might just be the win Disney needs…
After almost a decade as one of the world’s most recognisable and polarising figures, Julian Assange is in police custody – arrested minutes after the Ecuadorian government ended his asylum in their Embassy in London this week.

This the culmination of a remarkable reputational nosedive: from being viewed as a fearless campaigner and rebel-intellectual whose early work probably changed the way governments communicate with people forever, to an embattled, self-important demagogue whose fragmenting network of relationships forced him to consort with malign influences, to an alleged rapist who spends his days egomaniacally pontificating on conspiracy theories, the human embodiment of the murky underbelly of the internet forum that makes you roll your eyes and switch off.

So putrefied is the public perception of Assange that it’s actually harming the understandable argument against his extradition to the United States. The current government in Washington does not have a healthy, democratic view on dissent and being able to have their enemies extradited extrajudicially is not going to help things, but because it’s Assange, most people have little sympathy.

Sometimes you need people to like you, and to be able to recognise when they don’t. We’re not sure Assange ever really understood that. Being hated is one thing, but the alienating behaviour that led to his arrest has doomed him to an even worse fate: being forgotten.  

Could Black Hole create science's next stars?

With the whole world watching, the historic first ever image of a Black Hole dwarfed the story behind its capture.

Those behind this landmark discovery missed a trick. They failed to tell a compelling backstory or put human face to the forefront of this epic feat.

To be fair, the media have caught up. According to BBC News, Katie Bouman was an instrumental figure behind the first black hole image having led the development of an algorithm which made the breakthrough image possible. She could be an inspirational figure, especially for young women with an interest in science, for years to come.

But there was important legwork missing from the original discovery: Who were the team behind the discovery? How did they do it? How does it impact our understanding of the universe?

Instead the lasting image of a black hole millions of lightyears away seems at the moment, quite literally, to exist in a vacuum.

Ultimately, there’s plenty of room in the science world for a star (pardon the pun); in an age where Donald Trump is what passes as a public figure of authority and the BBC made Nigel Farage their top story this morning, we need discoverers and inventors more than ever.

But while scientists continue to push these boundaries, it seems to us that too few of them are household names whose work is really understood by the public at large.

Folau Fallout
Israel Folau is homophobic. People tend to have been introducing him as one of the most talented rugby players in the world and positioning the homophobia as a side-hustle but since it now looks like he’s out of a job as a rugby player it would be sensible to introduce the homophobia first.

We wouldn’t be shocked if a number of the world’s top athletes shared similar views to those expressed by Folau – not for the first time – in an Instagram post earlier this week, but the overwhelming majority seem to at least understand that it’s not appropriate for public figures – role models- to voice opinions which could incite hate.

That’s a basic misjudgement on Israel Folau’s part and the Australian Rugby Union will be doing the right thing if they terminate his contract. Athletes have a responsibility to set an example for their fans (particularly young fans) that does not encourage behaviour which could motivate hate crimes and violence. By again insinuating that gay people need to repent or go to hell, Folau failed.

His malign influence can already be seen in the hundreds of vitriolic social media comments supporting his views, not least those authored by England rugby player Billy Vunipola, for which he should also expect a serious punishment.

When Israel Folau first expressed homophobic views, Australian rugby were right to give him one last chance. He’s wasted it, and it would now be dangerous and irresponsible of them not to make him an example of what happens when sports stars fail to uphold their totemic public role.

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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: KFC EDM | Airbnb-Louvre | Knife Angel | @Sussexroyal

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

Happy Friday! You know the drill by now: Stinker stunt, great stunt, poignant stunt, Royal Insta



How do you successfully ‘get down with the kids’? Don’t ask KFC. Late last week, an excruciating PR stunt left unprepared festival goers in shock as Colonel Sanders performed an EDM mini-set at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival.

I can picture the planning meeting no: a cultural box-ticking exercise dreamt up by suits and resulting in a perverse amalgamation of outdated trends and an opaque attempt to penetrate a cultural zeitgeist.

The result? An audience almost literally paralysed in horror as they witnessed an oversized Sanders mascot blurting out KFC marketing slogans. “I am Colonel Sanders! I am everywhere!” – it’s something from a Black Mirror-style corporate-controlled nightmare.

The idea had potential. Infiltrating inebriated festival-goers with immersive advertising for salty fried chicken isn't a wild concept. While crass and blatant, tapping into popular culture to monetise fast food has worked before, but only if done with irony and self-awareness, and without appearing to try too hard. Look at Greggs’ raves last year.

Next-time, maybe, just maybe, employ someone with an ounce of cultural understanding to pull off such a grand stunt.
After enthusing about a Trivial Pursuit Hotel we weren’t expecting to impressed by ANOTHER stunt taking the form of holiday accommodation so soon. Enter Airbnb; the home-letting agency which is just becoming big enough to attract the kind of scrutiny which make you more vulnerable reputationally.

They’ve had a good week though, partnering with no less salubrious a collaborator than the Louvre museum in Paris to offer a night staying there as a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip. This is great oxygen for Airbnb, applying their primary offering, accommodation, to a tourist destination so globally famous that it can’t but highlight their apparent desire to expand into full service holiday curation.

What’s in it for the Louvre is less clear (unless it was money); we can’t imagine they need the publicity, and partnering with Airbnb isn’t as straight up millennial cool as as if they’d, for example, booked Christine & The Queens to do a SOFAR Sounds in there.

In any case the gimmick fulfilled the one cardinal requirement of a publicity stunt and generated spectacular images, which all-but guarantee a decent media spread.


London wankers that we are we’re a bit behind the curve with this one; a couple of weeks ago the British Ironworks Centre revealed an 8m high tribute to the victims of knife crime; an angel sculpted from confiscated knives.

It’s a beautiful work of art and its symbolism is powerful in its simplicity. It’s apparently coming to London and feels like a profound and necessary symbol of peace in the midst of what increasingly feels like an epidemic of knife crime tragedy. Expect its arrival in the capital to pack an emotional punch.


There’s just no resisting the lure of the gram, even for the Royals. It’s a place full of shiny, beautiful imagery; a place for people to share memories and incredible moments; it’s a place for educating, empowering, learning and discovering.

On the other hand, it’s a platform that fuels negativity and jealousy, where the pressure to achieve the unattainable is constant, it’s an addictive lifestyle where your existence is justified by likes and followers.

The Sussexes’ desire to make a positive impact via Instagram is clear: their feed so far shows off their charitable work on the ground and in communities making a difference. They want to inspire and create awareness of serious social issues.

And, with the Palace’s recently publication of its “Social Media Community Guidelines” - what is clear is that they will not tolerate trolling. Although, vocal on the subject as they are, it’s unlikely to have much of an effect due to the ease with which social media trolls can still remain anonymous.

Unfortunately for the nosy among us, it would be royally irresponsible to flaunt the SoHo house lifestyle on @sussexroyal, and there will almost certainly be no 5-star holiday poses by infinity pools.

But, while their images depict good deeds, they’re still glossy, preened and posed even when supposedly candid, and although they’ve flung in a few slightly less polished throwback images they’re unlikely to get much braver.

Even if the Sussexes represent a more modern Royal couple, more connected to the people; we’re also unlikely to see real-life snaps of baby-induced sleepless nights and drool-soaked clothes, after all they represent the Queen (not to mention the lack of privacy they have already).

Whatever you think, there’s no denying the draw of this power couple who seamlessly bridge the gap between royalty and celebrity. Their influence is powerful: they’ve already been acknowledged by Guinness World Records for reaching one million followers in under 6 hours, outdoing South Korean K-Pop singer Kan Daniel by 5 hours. We can’t help but wonder how long it will be until @sussexroyal gathers a larger following than @kensingtonroyal, but we don’t want to #fuelthefire.

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