Borkowski Weekly Media Trends 28-10-22
Kan Ye Believe It? | Elon Flips the Bird | Qatar's World Cup PR Ploy Backfiring? | Taylor & Disney x Body Positivity | Made.com Collapse
Kan Ye Believe It?
Clearly our ruminations on Kanye’s potential cancellation last week have reverberated around the globe as a spate of partners moved to distance themselves from the rapper and new predators loomed: Adidas followed Balenciaga out the door, MRC dropped documentary plans, Peloton shelved his music, Spotify is thinking about following suit, his ‘school’ closed down and then CNN ran an exposé about his alleged Nazi sympathy… To paraphrase the man himself: ‘That that don’t kill me can only [DESTROY MY CAREER]’.
The Free Speech Absolutist Flips the Bird
Going once, going twice, sold to the highest bidder for what may be the $44bn business deal of the year. Elon Musk has induced a dramatic series of events leading up to his buy-out of Twitter. In true Elon fashion, the billionaire entrepreneur took to twitter headquarters in person to hail the dawn of a new era for the popular social media app by tweeting “The bird is freed”. Musk has already made his mark on Twitter HQ by firing the chief executive, chief financial officer, head of legal, policy and safety, and the general counsel. Suffice to say there was no room for a gradual transition here.
In a similar way to Mark Zuckerberg’s takeovers of social apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, the news of Musk taking over Twitter was not received lightly. Users weren’t afraid to question the motives and likely consequences of Musk’s hostile takeover, raising the question of whether this was essentially an advertising deal, except instead of buying space or content, Musk’s shrine to himself and his own products will be the entire platform.
These public concerns were addressed by Musk in his ‘letter to advertisers’ where he briefly talks about his intentions for the acquisition. He said:
“There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far-right wing and far-left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society…Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!”
It’s safe to say that Elon’s trajectory for innovating an already established app is to impose his own conception of freedom speech and censorship, where users who were originally banned for what was deemed to be prejudicial or inciting content will no longer be exiled, possibly including Donald Trump. How this will help avoid a ‘free-for-all hellscape’ remains to be seen...
Just like most of Musk’s plans from self-driving cars to colonising Mars, it’s hard to believe that Musk’s ambition to create a ‘Super App’ won’t succeed in at least keeping the world’s most expensive ego in the limelight. But how it’s perceived to the average non verified users who keep the app on its feet is a different matter. The app will either change the concept of how we use social media for the rest of time, or it will unlock a flood of chaos and disruption which could have a serious impact on society itself. We’ve got our popcorn.
The UK foreign secretary made himself a pariah of the international LGBTQ community this week, and all it takes is the FIFA world cup and some financially inspired cultural relativism.
Earlier this week, James Cleverly urged the gay fans who will be travelling to Qatar for the World Cup to ‘be respectful’ of the country’s homophobic sensibilities. Gary Lineker was quick to criticise Cleverly’s message as a somewhat condescending advice to ‘not do anything gay’, so that the fans may remain safe in a country which criminalises LGBTQ people and which adopts Sharia law, whereby same sex sexual activity can be penalised by a maximum penalty of death by stoning.
Ah, the gulf states. The West loves to do business with them. While they have no intentions of modernising the regressive laws concerning women and queer people, they do have a budget to splash out on major events so that the Western world forgets, for a minute, that what countries such as the UK claim to be their values stand very much at odds with those of conservative Islamic states. In face of an unavoidable reputation crisis among the countries the gulf states wish to do business with, reaching for soft power tools seems a reasonable option. The UAE spotted this potential early when they built a Louvre-branded gallery in Abu Dhabi. In exchange for a chunky fee, France bestowed upon the UAE a bit of its credibility as a cultural heritage centre (the gaffe with the potentially fake Da Vinci painting notwithstanding). The Qatari World Cup is really no different, if not potentially more effective at bringing large numbers of people in at once. And the gay fans will still come, even if begrudgingly.
It is not surprising that the West keeps on playing the gulf states’ game. But while the UK is at it, the appeals to adjust our supposed collective values and not offend the Qatari with two men kissing are an embarrassing admission of weakness. We can’t protect you from what happens there, Cleverly seems to say, and the possibility doesn’t matter enough for us to be raising issues. To the LGBTQ people in this country, it sends a message beyond just the World Cup. It shows that to this government they are worthy of supporting only insofar as a stronger (richer) party is not involved.
Disney and Taylor’s Swift Action on Body Positivity
After our trend a few weeks ago about the proliferation of moves by classic and family-friendly IP to court a more progressive audience (what certain commentators saw as ‘woke washing’) by conspicuously upping their racial diversity and LGBTQ representation.
But life moves fast and the current virtue-signal du jour appears to be body positivity. Firstly, the usually unflappably shrewd Taylor Swift made a blunder that briefly derailed her album promo juggernaut by including a visual gag in a music video that saw a set of scales read as ‘Fat’ and led to accusations of fat shaming.
Decisive as always team Taylor removed the offending scene within 48 hours and the crisis was contained but not before igniting a culture war flare-up between enemies of body shaming and free speech absolutists.
Ever on the zeitgeist the conversation happened to coincide with Disney’s release of a short film about body dysmorphia featuring a ‘plus size’ heroine, a move some speculate to be an attempt to undo their legacy of larger characters only being villains or sidekicks in their previous animated output:
While some have criticised the introduction of a plus size heroine with a story that explicitly draws attention to her weight, the move has generally been seen as a sincere attempt to embrace body positivity. Overall it’s a win for the Mouse House bolstered by the even more encouraging news that being fat isn’t illegal in any of their key growth markets...
On Wednesday Made.com announced it would stop taking new orders after it failed to secure new funding, or find a buyer.
The news comes less than two years after Made listed on the London stock market with a valuation of £775m. Shares slumped 93% on Tuesday to 0.5p per share, bringing its value down below £2m. Quite the tumble.
The company promising quality furniture at a reliable price targeting Millennials and Gen Z did well to start with but with a Global Supply Crisis, and import costs through the roof, impatient Millenials and Gen Z were not happy with the long lead times for delivery. A generation used to next-day delivery moved away from made.com, and as the cost of living consumed the incomes of many there was no saving light in sight for made.com.
But who is actually at fault? There will be many investors angry at the management of the company. And in the past day or so we have seen a number of the co-founder's seak out blaming the current management for its demise.
The reputational impact on management is immense when their company goes from an IPO star to a bust within two years and the co-founders of made.com know just that.
In reality with a world in turmoil, a cost of living crisis and a business model which doesn't function in the supply chain chaos of the '20s, while management may have made wrong calls, the business was probably doomed.
The biggest reputation looser is probably the London Stock Exchange, in the post-Brexit world, as the City of London fights harder than ever for its top dog spot, IPOs in London are not having a smooth ride. Deliveroo Tanked on IPO, Made.com is on the verge of bankruptcy, and the government is in a long-running battle to get UK microchip designer Arm to list hereafter hedging towards the US for their Listing. If London wants to be the global financial capital it's going to need to turn around its poor IPO performance before it's too late.