March

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Cabinet C-19 Outbreak, Dylan And Disinformation

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

We're back to the normal format as we try and reduce the mention of COVID-19. Turns out it's harder than we thought...


COVID-19 & the Cost and Rewards of Leadership

When Theodore Roosevelt said “If there is not the war, you don't get the great general; if there is not a great occasion, you don't get a great statesman; if Lincoln had lived in a time of peace, no one would have known his name” he was taking the top-down view of the ‘rally around the flag affect’ that politicians’ experience during traumatic event. After 9/11 Bush 43’s rating went from a 51.9% approval rating to 88.3% in a handful of days. When the chips are down, the incumbent often benefits.
 
In the midst of this terrible crisis, leaders across the world are enjoying this affect. MacronMerkel have both seen bumps, Johnson has seen a surge and even politicians who have mishandled their response have seen rises. Even Trump is at the beginning of his own jump. It will be fascinating to see whether this sudden popularity will weather the upcoming months of boredom and economic collapse.
 
The 2020 Presidential Election is fast approaching and a case could be made that this is the most important democratic election the world has ever seen, such is the faltering nature of democracy and the limited time we have to deal with the environment. Will Trump be rewarded by the American electorate for his strongman posturing at a time of genuine danger? Or will he be punished for the inability of the American healthcare system to cope with this pandemic? So far, Trump has bent political reality, but can he bend reality itself


Bob Dylan Releases an Epitaph for a Century

Bowie had Blackstar, Cohen had You Want It Darker and now Dylan has ‘Murder Most Foul’. But Dylan isn’t writing his own eulogy over an album, he is writing one for a century in a song. This is a ballad to what was lost and what saved us from despair. Told through one 17-minute ballad, Dylan talks us through the moment where we began to feel the world tilting off of its axis, and implicitly traces a line from the murder of the President who began Washington’s relationship with Hollywood, to the election of the reality TV President. 
 
From that shattering pain, it becomes a long and glorious eulogy to the artists who have helped mend and heal Western culture, and being released at midnight during the opening waves of the Coronavirus it is an apt, sad and stirring call to what we let slip through our fingers and what still grasp to.


Social Media Genius

In the midst of coronavirus gloom, Tim Send, head of security at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, provided us all with the wholesome content we’ve been missing. Charged with managing social media while the museum is closed, Tim introduced himself with a friendly headshot and a folksy turn of phrase, describing himself as “new to this but excited.”
 
It’s fair to say he didn’t quite get how it all worked at first, using the words “hashtag John Wayne” in place of a hashtag proper. It was a welcome reminder of social media’s potential to make genuine connections in these troubling times. Corporate social media managers might even learn a thing or two from Tim and remember that the most compelling social media content is that with an honest human touch.


Disinfect Your Meme Spreading 

Whilst memes have been a huge source of comfort during indefinite isolation periods, the spread of viral content during remote-working-season has been astonishing. Particularly medical information/advice from so-called experts i.e. "a friend of a friend" or "my aunt's colleague's neighbour". It turns out that everyone is within 2-metres of a medical professional at all times.
 
Viral hoaxes and misinformation spread at such rapid rates amongst friendship circles and family WhatsApp groups, it has almost become a race - who can share the fastest announcement/expertise/tips to beat the spread of the virus.
 
According to the BBC, the two most effective methods to quell the spread of misinformation is to “stop and think” and “check your source”. It feels slightly dystopian that lessons we were taught at school aren’t being applied to the vast majority of adults distributing medical advice.
 
Please remember the most reliable and trusted sources of information remain public health bodies like the NHS and WHO. And approach the most recent viral ‘announcement’ with a pinch of salt and check the source!
 

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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: COVID-19 Dominated News Agenda

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

Over the past few weeks we’ve been handpicking Corona-free new stories to analyse, trying to keep our Trends quarantined, as far away from the dreaded COVID-19 as possible.

‘Twas a valiant effort, but alas Borkowski has succumbed to the virus dominated news agenda. We’ve abandoned our Somerset House offices to set up shop remotely, getting stuck into Microsoft Teams. Sadly, this is going to be a slightly different (brief) chapter of the Trends...

It's Not All Doom & Gloom

The cheery folks at Borkowski have launched a brand-new social channel, condensing the hectic, dreary news agenda and bringing you the best COVID-19 memes, virals, funnies and trends out there. Make sure you follow @CoronaVIRAL3 for some laughs in these strange times.

Obsession With Bad News 

It’s hard to ignore the despondent rolling news reporting death tolls and confirmed cases, whist being encouraged to self-isolate and distance ourselves to contain the spread of the virus. Bad news travels fast and it’s important to switch-off sometimes. To quote Mark Borkowski, “keep safe out there and please do not borrow worry”. Mark shares some thoughts on the current situation, click here to read MEASURE FOR MEASURE.


Viral Trends

Despite the need for positivity, when out-of-touch celebrities try to bring some cheer, it can often smack of inauthenticity. Streams of celebrities are creating their own reality tv shows during quarantine. Whether it’s Chris Martin using Instagram Live to perform new music or Gal Gadot sparking a cast of celebs to come together and sing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. It’s hard not to cringe at these corny, attention-grabbing stunts. Cynical? Perhaps…
 
Though take note, this is a golden time for influencers, celebs capitalising on social media and home entertainment as we continue to self-isolate.

Stay Tuned

Borkowski will be hosting some alternative ways to stay connected with each other. Over the next few weeks we will be staging a virtual happy hour, connecting friends and anyone keen to join-in for a chat and a laugh whilst raising a glass.

 We encourage everyone to do the same! It’s important to stay connected with our peers and reach out to those that might be struggling in these lonely times. Keep an eye out for Borky events and webinars coming soon. If you’re interested, let us know via hello@borkowski.co.uk and we’ll keep you updated with any new developments.
 
Our regular instalment of the Trends will resume next week. We will endeavour to keep it separate to COVID-19. For now stay safe and remember to switch off the news and social media once in a while.
 

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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: 100% quarantined with no mention of coronavirus (except that one)

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

Obviously COVID-19 has been the ONLY thing in the news this week but luckily we've managed to keep our Trends quarantined and can happily confirm that the below commentary on the timelessness of prankster stunts, another theatre scandal, the second age of influencers and the 'fight fire with fire' approach to fake news. 

The Timelessness of the Prankster Stunt

Prank-based publicity stunts are timeless and this week we've seen a couple which have captured enough imagination to shine through certain higher profile events (see above, this doesn't count as a mention). 

Infamous prankster Oobah Butler's latest work involved moulding himself in the image of Andy Warhol, as a response to the upcoming Tate Modern exhibition of the artist's work, opening this week. The escapade saw him 'exhibit' a topical pastiche of Warhol’s famous Campbell’s soup can, replacing it with a product that has exploded into the public’s consciousness over the last few weeks, a face mask, which he presented in in a glass box on the street.

Butler's coronation as king of the millennial pranksters came when he tricked the British public into believing that the hottest new restaurant in London was his garden shed, having previously gained a more niche level of recognition for creating sham fashion label 'Georgio Peviani', with a persona to match, which he showcased at Paris Fashion Week in 2017. With his latest stunt he's cemented his position as lord of the high-concept prank and continues to blur the lines between smartarse mischief and performance art. 

This week also saw everyone's favourite ex-Royals the Sussexes fooled into thinking that they were talking to Gretta Thunberg on the phone when it was actually a prank call orchestrated by a pair of Russian media personalities. The sheer audacity of pulling off such a stunt in the current climate of pandemic, knife-edge West-Russia relations and against the tragic backdrop of the last royal prank call made headlines which will do its perpetrators no harm whatsoever. 

On this evidence, the puerile prank as a publicity vehicle is going absolutely nowhere.


Wreckfast on Pluto

Another scandal hit the theatre world this week, after a male cisgender actor was cast to play a transgender woman in a new musical production of Breakfast on Pluto. The decision prompted transgender actress Kate O’Donnell to pull out of the play, while a number of prominent performers and campaigners penned an open letter arguing that casting choices are “failing the next generation of trans performers.”
 
After 2019’s controversies around misbehaviour in immersive theatre and the dropping of 2 female writers from a high-profile project, it seems that this is just the latest in a long line of failings within the theatre establishment.
 
But that reading is a little simplistic. Theatre, after all, sits right at the boundary of sensitive cultural issues. Few other cultural industries make such consistent efforts to push the envelope of accessibility. But as in every other industry, we are now seeing the social sensitivities of performers and fans far outpacing that of higher powers.
 
It’s a valuable reminder that powerful communications is about more than trying to stamp your narrative on the world. By listening to your audience and staff, and adapting your behaviour accordingly, you can kill off a crisis well before it rears its ugly head.


Fake News: Fighting Fire with Fire pt. 3

Whether bots are being deployed by the Russian government to spark fake news or used to increase Instagram influencers’ followers count, inflating their ‘influence,’ their use is rampant across the internet.
 
Tech experts have been predicting for several years that facial recognition, bots and smart hacking tools will be deployed and aimed to dismantle and topple both consumers and businesses. Whilst this is largely true, could social media users spot irregular patterns in the comment section and bizarre language, undermining a bot's integrity?
 
This week, thousands of nearly identical messages of support for Boris Johnson were posted to Facebook pages stirring up concerns that Boris’s campaign team had paid for bots, prompting concerns bots were being used to sway voters.
 
However the BBC spoke to real people, both for and against Brexit, who posted these suspected bot comments.
 
It turns out that Boris’s campaign team weren’t behind this. In fact, members from Fight4Brexit were appearing to mimic ‘bot’ language to wind up ‘lefties’.
 
To confuse things further, in retaliation, the ‘lefties’ responded with fake bot code to appear as “malfunctioning bots”, reading:
 
//"brilliant fantastic"
&name=”Doris”
Code:syntax/error/
 
This has been presented as the latest attempt to fight fire with fire in the battle against Fake News (we previously discussed those of Elizabeth Warren and Martin Lewis). But when actual people are pretending to be bots, it muddies the water and could be used to the bots advantage furthering their impact.
 
With the proliferation of fake new and 'bot warfare', the addition of social media users cynically mimicking bots be another signal that we are entering into dangerous times.


Forged in the Fyre: A New Influencer age? 

For a festival which never happened, the ill-fated (and oft-cited in this newsletter) Fyre Festival has proven influential to say the least, becoming the byword for disastrous cultural projects driven by entitled millennial hubris, and also as a crucial moment of seed change in influencer marketing.
 
But its latest legacy this week was something of an amusing surprise, generating international headlines and ample social media chatter: Andy King, the one professional sane adult in the whole fiasco – whose willingness to perform a sex act in lieu of paying a customs charge was the defining symbol of the festival’s descent into insanity- is now FULLY PREPARED to launch a speaking tour of the UK.
 
The irony of course is that this death knell for the first age of influencers has created a whole slew of new ones, with Andy, one of the more popular characters to emerge, now looking to make the transition from Meme to media personality. He’s an affable, articulate guy but so intense was our fascination with Fyre that there isn’t much new detail he can reveal; he’s going to need another topic if he wants to remain part of the conversation much longer.  
 
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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends - Comedy Special: Spitting Image | Netflix | Hugo Boss/Joe Lycett | Public Enemy

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

We're maintaining our vow not to mention a certain illness whose primary symptom seems to be total domination of news outlets the world over. Instead we've got a bit of a Comedy Special this week with some room for more 'rock star' high jinks.


Spitting Image: A Pale Imitation?

The return of legendary satirical puppet show Spitting Image - on Britbox after over 20-years in the televisual wilderness- has split opinion. Consensus is sliding into the environs of the negativity heaped on the streaming service’s launch, slowed only fractionally by the nation’s cuddly nostalgia for the original series.

On the surface, this was a reasonable punt by Britbox’s execs for whom cuddly nostalgia is the main chance of domestic success (buttressed by a uniquely small-town-boomer rejection of the idea that some television doesn’t age well socially or politically).
 
But, as we’ve discussed before (around the return of Gavin and Stacey), a comedy reboot can only be successful if enough of the premise and the humour on which it is built have survived. Political satire does not fare well under this hypothesis.

To outrun the Mr Blobby-ish destructive incompetence of our political reality, modern satire has to be unrecognisably brutal compared to the original Spitting Image. Armando Iannucci’s venomous nihilism still cuts it, but we’ve entered an age when even a Chris Morris film can be yawned away as ‘muted’. Same goes for the live scene; Jordan Brookes’ reigning Edinburgh Comedy Award winning show is rife with suicide, incest and apocalypse. God help anything too much lighter.

If Spitting Image isn’t shockingly edgy and surgically incisive then it’ll surely suffer the same demise as another tragically Eurydicean comic resurrection, Yes Minister.


Netflix is in on the Joke

Last year Netflix’s gradual transition from small screen ubiquity to major player in the events world kicked into gear with a range of own-brand cinemas, confirming most people’s suspicion that the world’s newest major studio is ripping up the cinematic rulebook.
 
The big guns are now trained on the live space, with this week's announcement of Netflix's first comedy festival in LA. This is significant both in terms of media giants injecting their delicious, syrupy content into our real lives, and utterly transforming a live comedy scene which lacks a truly dominant force.
 
On one hand, Netflix is unfussily making its content available outside of our bedrooms and living rooms (alongside the cinema and the comedy they allowed Secret Cinema to fiddle with their Stranger Things IP) - fulfilling their target demographic’s dual desires to discover more experiential cultural activities and to NEVER STOP WATCHING NETFLIX.
 
On the other, Netflix already has enough money to outright buy the Edinburgh Fringe – the incumbent world-biggest comedy festival, and dwarfs the current ‘giants’ of the industry like Live Nation. They have to produce their comedy specials anyway so might as well cash in by selling tickets to the live events. If the model works, and Netflix grabs enough land to establish a serious headstart over its fellow media giants, this could change the face of live comedy permanently.


Who's the Boss?

Comedian Joe Lycett has risen to highest echelons of his trade thanks to a gilded combination of being a genuinely nice guy and a master of the self-promotion stunt.
 
His latest was to legally change his own name to Hugo Boss to protest the fashion behemoth’s decision to send a cease-and-desist notice to Boss Brewing – a beer company which shares no easily discernible brand similarities other than a couple of tenuously named beers.
 
The caper made headlines around the world, even inspiring a ‘hilarious’ series of sub-stunts in which people changed their names to Joe Lycett, and has surely added another layer of gloss to the comedian’s already very healthy public image. But – borrowing our government’s distinctive style of streamrollering mockingly over criticism- Hugo Boss’ blackslappingly patronising response dismissed the protest out-of-hand, revealing that Boss Brewing had already (after parting with significant legal fees) consented to change the names of two of their beers to keep the big beast at bay.
 
Still, at least more people know who Boss Brewing are now…and Joe Lycett’s next tour will almost definitely sell out. Every cloud…

Drake adds youthful touch to 'Ageing Shock Jock' Brigade
 
As Spotify attempts to increase profits by devising new methods to force artists and labels to pay them money for promoting their music on the platform, Kendrick Lamar has hinted at an alternative to the streaming giants' dominance, with the cryptic launch of 'pgLang': “pgLang is multilingual. Our community speaks music, film, television, art, books, and podcasts

It’s unclear what exactly pgLang will do but it’s whipping up hype with an exciting launch video featuring Jorja Smith, Florence Welch and Kendrick himself, proving that sometimes less is more when attempting to generate excitement.
 
Kendrick’s subtlety seems to elude Drake, after the rapper released a brand-new song referencing Michael Jackson and the child molestation allegations. We’ve previously written about Wiley, Eminem and Green Day’s ageing shock jock tactics, and now the trend seems to be spreading to younger artists closer to their commercial peak. Why? Maybe because the others, while taking a slagging off, are making headlines.
 
On that very topic, hip-hop royalty Public Enemy had a vintage bust-up, firing Flavor Flav over an apparent internal clash over their decision to perform at a Bernie Sanders rally. Petty, petulant, of no moral substance, but we talked about it. While that's the stock public response, expect more of the old guard to follow suit. 

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