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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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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Tommy Robinson | Heck x Boris | Memes | Podcast Boom

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

It's hard to make sense of our crazy world. On the one hand, studies have shown us this week that influencers are losing their influence, then you hear that said influencers are flogging their own bathwater for 30 bucks a go - words escape us sometimes...

Here at Borkowski, we try to condense the weekly news cycle down to bite-sized chunks. Here goes nothing!
 
The Ballard of Tommy Robinson

The great gift and curse of the internet is that it has put likeminded people in touch with one another. And as a result, we have learned a few things. It turns out that far more people than we thought love pictures of cute cats, videos of people falling over and – perhaps inevitably – racism.
 
As old political coalitions are breaking down, new digital movements are springing up in their place. Take Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson. In his short career, he has managed to gather together a broad coalition of supporters from the overtly racist, to ‘common-sense’ middle Englanders, through to those who simply believe his schtick: that he is an innocent victim of a system too lenient on sex offenders.
 
He’s tapped into a cultural fissure that’s been growing for decades, namely the idea that ‘political correctness’ has prevented criticism of certain races or religions. It’s a strategy that’s won him broad support, and it has been completely enabled by the internet, which destroys nuance and encourages totality of opinion. When his supporters attack journalists, we can see the destruction this is having on civil discourse.
 
But the fascinating thing about Tommy Robinson is that a few years ago he was a nobody from Luton, a joke. He would be invited on respectable panel shows to discuss his opinions and was often applauded but rarely taken seriously. Now his image is one of a serious, if dangerous, public figure. When he is released from prison he will return as leader of a street movement that has grown beyond all expectations. Anyone who aspires to prominence in today’s culture has to understand how the internet enabled this to happen. By uniting unlikely bedfellows under a narrow issue, Tommy Robinson has exceeded all expectations.
 
Oh, Heck: When Stunts Go Wrong

The art of the publicity stunt is a fine thing. Sausage-makers Heck managed to get one such stunt catastrophically wrong this week.

Piggy-backing on the media attention of Boris Johnson’s campaign to lead the Conservative Party, they released a range of ‘Boris Bangers’, featuring his unmistakable blonde fringe on the packet. They even went so far as to invite Johnson for a photo opportunity with said sausages. Being Boris, he enthusiastically went along to their Yorkshire factory to take part in the stunt.

But many critics of Johnson did not react kindly, launching #BoycottHeck on Twitter. Soon it was a proxy for the ongoing Brexit war, with Remainers and Leavers fighting it out online.

Heck had unexpectedly waded into a toxic debate that they were completely unprepared for. This is the cardinal sin of politically-minded stunts. Sometimes businesses can explit the news agenda to great effect. But here we’re talking about Boris Johnson and Brexit. Each is arguably the most divisive Conservative politician and electoral event in decades. That particular story cannot be exploited without a great deal of careful thinking and, very importantly, without a willingness to wade into the story. Heck’s greatest problem was their unwillingness to ‘specifically endorse any candidate’, as their statement admitted. They failed to understand the nature of Johnson’s particular brand of celebrity, seeing him as just another prominent politician, rather than what he is: a saviour for 52% of the electorate and a charlatan to the other 48.

Though some manage successfully, brands and politics are a dangerous mix. The adage is wrong: not all publicity is good publicity. Good PR is about building not just buzz, but happiness and enthusiasm around a brand’s story. By half-engaging with a man loathed by half the country, and loved by the other, Heck made a Faustian pact: They were willing to alienate their consumers and have their message lost in the media noise, all for a brief spell at the top of the news agenda, and ultimately for the wrong reasons.
 
Are Pointless Memes making a Comeback?

In a week where a T-Rex costume race made international headlines it probably won’t come as a surprise to many that pointless yet funny content, although now often overshadowed in the public consciousness by robot-generated gibberish or political extremism, still dominates a large part of the internet.
 
But there’s a certain type of shareable viral meme, popular in the late 00s and early 10s, that feels very dated: you’d probably forgotten about planking, ice bucket challenge, and the Harlem Shake. Which is why it was surprising to see a series of ‘bottle-cap challenge’ videos flooding the internet in which a skilled individual uses a combination of physical prowess, coordination, and flair to remove a cap from a bottle in one fell swoop; whether by kicking (Jason Statham is thought to be the source of the trend), throwing a rugby ball or, in Mariah Carey’s case, singing a G#7.
 
The celebs flocked to do it, showing how relatable and down to earth they are with a series of (often) professionally produced and painstakingly stage-managed videos and this – along with such trends as Greg James’ ubiquitous Partridgism ‘Are You Well? I Thought You Were’ – signals the re-emergence of the inane meme?
 
It’s possible – we all need a mindless laugh. If this kind of viral morsel does regain popularity you can bet that hot on its heels will be a series of brands with expensive attempts to join in which slightly miss the point, smack of desperation and arrive a little too late.

The Podcast Revolution

The podcast: an accessible, innovative and low-cost way to share information and tell stories. Podcasting has been growing at an exponential rate for several years – both in the volume of shows being produced and the sheer number of consumers – which has recently seen Spotify jump on the bandwagon after officially separating podcasts and music in premium users’ libraries.

To add fuel to the fire, a recent study commissioned by 4DC showed that Podcast listeners outspend non-podcast listeners in every area, and millennial listeners outspend their peers by as much as 179%. With high-spending listeners flocking and constantly adding to this podcasting boom, colossal brands are never far behind, breathing down their necks. For instance, tech brands like Netflix and Microsoft have joined in, while podcast communities have grown up around high-profile TV shows like Love Island or Game of Thrones. These companies know they can exploit their customer base with targeted adverts, cashing in on a receptive audience.

Anyone with a morsel of an audience or platform is leveraging for podcast gain. Take the defunct DJ Danny Baker (previous trend topic after he was sacked for tweeting the royal baby depicted as a chimpanzee). He has signaled his return to broadcasting, set for 2020 with a new podcast structured using the same elements as his previous BBC Radio 5 Live show.

Ultimately, we can now consume our favourite things in some form ALL THE TIME – this is only increased by social media, as people increasingly use that while watching/listening. This culture of consumption is a perfect environment for podcasts to thrive.

And for the love of god, please steer clear from Info Wars!

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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Alex from Glasto | Young Vic controversy | Robert the Bruce | Taylor Swift

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

Stormzy was the big winner from Glastonbury this week (despite what our founder Mark Borkowski saw as a failure to capitalise on the symbolism of the event) but let's take a look at what else was happening on and off of Worthy Farm. 
 
Alex from Glasto: Classic moment or PR stunt?
We've talked about Dave before on these trends and rate him highly both as a musician and as a budding master of self-promotion. But the rapper has found himself sharing a Glastonbury limelight with a 15 year-old bumbag enthusiast after pulling him out of the crowd for an explosive guest appearance. It was too perfect. But was it a set up? We asked competing Borkies to deliver each side of the argument:

CLASSIC MOMENT

Teenager Alex Mann – Glasto punter turned viral sensation – was plucked from the crowd midway through Dave’s set, delivering a flawless performance of song Thiago Silva – nailing the lyrics while oozing charisma and charm.

Cue the so-called wokies (TM Mark Borkowski) and veteran cynics attempting to drown a wonderful moment in a deluge of “reality”.

“PR STUNT” - they proclaim. I don’t buy it, and here’s why.

This isn’t a new trick and boy can it backfire. Last year, Kendrick Lamar pulled a fan from the crowd to sing "M.A.A.D City," only to cause a media storm when the fan dropped an "N-bomb".

In this instance, Alex’s story only brought positive press, one of the feel-good showbiz stories of the year.

Had it been a stunt, Dave’s team would’ve seized this moment had a plan. There would’ve been a single released immediately and interviews pre-organised to capitalise. You can’t miss your mark. Memes can snowball and launch careers: remember Big Shaq? The speed of the single release after the initial viral moment bought him a year of fame.

Instead, Alex has been the star, not Dave. Verified on social media, fashion and modelling deals in the works, even rumours of a record deal.

Alex will eventually fade into obscurity. There might be a novelty single down the road but he’s not talented enough to have any lasting fame because he’s just a teenager that was plucked from a crowd at random and given his 15 minutes.

STUNT

What a brilliant stunt.

Sorry to be a cynic but - come on guys- this was just too good to be true: The PSG shirt, eager Alex’s position on a mate’s shoulders, so close to the stage, the bum bag and floppy hat so he didn’t look too rock’n’roll, the gauche puppy-dog demeanour giving way fluidly to a near-faultless performance. This was a pre-planned production of genius. 

It was so well produced that it’s almost impossible to rumble it as a stunt, one factor aside: Dave’s face.

Future Mercury-winning, festival-headlining superstar he may be, but Denzel Washington he is not. The patter in the build-up had the nature of something scripted but the smoking gun was the total and utter lack of surprise from the rapper as it was revealed that Alex knew the lyrics, knew how to use a microphone, didn’t freeze up, and was actually pretty good.

Surely, were that not a stunt, he’d have been gobsmacked?

Admittedly the PR impact of the stunt was helped by outside factors: Thiago’s tweet – whose virality I believe was entirely organic and spontaneous - helped turbocharge the tale.

I’m not even mad at Dave. This was glorious feel-goodery. Stunt or not, when the residue of an action is so positive, few look back and feel duped.
 
Tree controversy lacks humanity that sets theatre apart

Theatre is often ahead of other artforms in terms of fostering a spirit of inclusivity, collaboration and humanity.

So the industry was rocked this week when writers Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley published a letter claiming to have been instrumental to the creation of Tree (a musical based on Idris Elba’s concept album Mi Mandela, coming to the Young Vic this month) only to be semi-ghosted and then dumped from the project in a manner which lacked clarity, honesty and empathy (to put it mildly).

Kwame Kwei-Armah, the Young Vic’s feted artistic director – now credited as co-creator and director of Treerefuted the allegations claiming that the change in the project’s authorship was a natural development and blaming the pair’s grievance on a refusal to engage with that process (with a veiled pop at their original script in there as well if you read closely).

Idris Elba produced a briefer statement brusquely dismissing Tori and Sarah’s claims that they had been brusquely dismissed from the project. It was a little tone deaf.

It’s all a bit of a mess to be honest. The competing accounts are so inconsistent that it’s impossible to know the truth of the matter as outsiders

One thing to consider though is that theatre is a particularly empathetic and humane industry – the whole thing is an attempt to understand human nature and that means that theatre-makers approach each other (and audiences) with a degree of emotional intelligence and duty of care you wouldn’t come across often in, say, film or dance music. Certain parties in this sorry incident seem not to have held themselves to these standards, and therein lies the risk of becoming an industry pariah.

Cybernats seek Bruce Boost

Something of a stooshie erupted north of the border this week when it was revealed that the new Robert The Bruce film wasn’t picked up for distribution by Cineworld. In a lightning bolt of opportunism, former SNP leader Alex Salmond joined lead actor Angus Macfadyen on the vanguard of those demanding the film receive a release.

Needless to say this was seized upon by the Cybernats and repackaged as a conspiracy to keep Scots from learning about their heritage in such an inspiring form that it might lead to an 'upswell in patriotic sentiment' – with some nastier connotations thrown in.  

Ultimately Cineworld relented and their campaign was successful – although box office figures have been more modest. But the real winner here is Alex Salmond and a breed of Scottish independence supporters who feeds on the narrative that the Scots are an oppressed minority. In that context a friendly neighbourhood conspiracy theory which underlines their point was nothing shot of a banquet, and another example of how easily a shark-like cynic can manipulate a news agenda as long as they have  a baying mob at their behest.

Sympathy vote for Taylor Swift?

Taylor Swift is back. Two new singles and an album scheduled for October signal that the machine is running at full steam.

But as her star continues to rise to galaxies of fame rarely explored, Taylor has become embroiled in another media story to which her response amounts to ‘poor me’.

Should we feel sorry for her? Yes and no…

The most recent drama saw her try to purchase her music catalogue and royalties by buying out her former label Big Machine Record. The nemesis in this story, Scooter Braun, has acquired Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group — and with it the rights to Taylor Swift’s first six albums.

As a result, Taylor has poured her heart out on social media targeting her fans directly, with the hashtag #standwithtaylor trending to vast levels of sympathy: a PR maestro strikes again.

Here’s the thing: judging this story purely within the context of the music industry you shouldn’t fell that sorry for her. This isn’t a unique position; this type of rights dispute and outcome is nothing new – it occurs frequently among independent artists and, sometimes, legends like Prince.

And remember, Taylor has come out on the other end of it to become one of the most successful recording artists in the world. She has massively benefited from her industry backing.

Where it’s possible to have sympathy is when considering the fact that artists are so rarely afforded the opportunity to own their own music.

Record labels control their artists, capitalising predatorially on the lack of rules and regulations protecting them.

Whether you like Taylor or not, this is manipulative and demoralising for any artist who lands in a similar situation. When it comes to ownership and control of the music you’ve created under a label, sadly, you’re going to be a loser.
 
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