Discover more from Media Trends and Insights by Borkowski
Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Britney's Back, X is vexed & MORE
PLUS: Borkowski 'Future of TV Production' event at the Ivy Club || Maggie Smith & why age is in vogue || The Rock's Nightmares in Wax
🎬🥐Lights, Camera, Croissants🎬🥐
After a pandemic-induced intermission, we're thrilled to bring back our celebrated Breakfast series at The Ivy Club. Picture this: the clinking of cappuccino cups, the rustle of croissants, and the sweet symphony of creative minds buzzing. Our grand return stars not one but two titans of the entertainment industry, Stephen Garrett and J Blakeson, as they explore the evolution of the entertainment world and the secrets to crafting a hit in this modern age.
Stephen is the production genius behind 'The Night Manager' and 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,' while J Blakeson masterminded 'Gunpowder' starring Kit Harrington, 'The Disappearance of Alice Creed' with Eddie Marsan, and 'I Care A Lot', featuring a Golden-Globe-award-winning lead performance from Rosamund Pike. Together, Stephen and J have conspired on Disney+'s upcoming heist extravaganza, 'Culprits,' primed to pull off the ultimate heist—stealing all the buzz this autumn.
Join us for a morning of insightful conversations as we delve into the intricacies of the entertainment world, discussing the evolution of production, the impact of streaming, and the exciting journey behind 'Culprits.' This promises to be a breakfast for the books.
Tuesday 7th November
08:30 - 09:30 with time to discuss
The Club at the Ivy, 9 West St, London WC2H 9NE
Stronger than Yesterday: Britney Reclaims Her Story
On Tuesday, Britney Spears’ long-awaited autobiography, "The Woman In Me," finally hit the shelves to fevered demand. A series of delays linked to legal disputes have only heightened the book's buzz, with the ‘brutally honest’ memoir selling half a million copies on its first day alone.
Even with the lawyers’ redactions, the book is replete with salacious revelations. *PARTIAL SPOILERS FOLLOW*
Her alcoholic father’s mood swings, drinking cocktails with her mother at 13, the whole suite of people who kept her imprisoned under a conservatorship for years. However, it's the bombshell accusations against Justin Timberlake, her first love and half of the iconic noughties duo, that steal the spotlight. Having split in 2002, Timberlake released the smash hit “Cry Me A River”, in which he suggested the ‘schoolgirl next door’ was actually a sinister harlet who had viciously cheated on him. So began Spears’ descent as Justin’s star soared. Spears’ memoir completely inverts the narrative. She alleges Justin “slept around” throughout their relationship, and even pressured her into an abortion aged 19. “Justin definitely wasn’t happy about the pregnancy. He said we weren’t ready to have a baby in our lives, that we were way too young … If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it.” Cue Britney screaming on her bathroom floor through a horrific home abortion, because Justin didn’t want any hospitals leaking the story. Given this was let through by JT’s lawyers, speculation has intensified about what was removed.
Rumours abound that Justin has already cancelled tour dates for next year, and may even push back his album release.
But the memoir isn't solely a tirade against those who wronged her. Madonna, in particular, comes off extremely well, having taken Britney under her wing after the explosive split from Timberlake. "Madonna’s supreme confidence helped me see a lot about my situation with fresh eyes. I think she probably had some intuitive sense of what I was going through." Oprah, Paris Hilton, Donatella Versace and Elton John all come off well too.
But the real winner is, deservedly, Britney. From the nadir of being the star attraction at the world’s fame zoo in 2007, Spears slowly began to win people to her side as global awareness of the dark side of the media grew. The #FreeBritney movement, initially dismissed as some crazy fandom’s conspiracy, slowly garnered her more support as people woke up to the harrowing reality of her conservatorship. This autobiography stands as the pinnacle of her journey — more than a celebrity exposé, it serves as a powerful testament to the resilience required to escape the sinister side of fame. And for Britney, this marks the moment of reclaiming her narrative, wresting her story from the many who exploited her, to finally, authentically, tell it herself.
X Marks the Rot: Usage Decline Sparks Concerns
Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter in October 2022 promised excitement and innovation, but the reality has been anything but smooth sailing. X is facing a crisis with its most active users, or as Musk calls them: "heavy tweeters." They're down since the pandemic, and these users generate 90% of all tweets and half of global revenue. X's daily active users began declining in May, and downloads dropped after the app rebranded to X in July.
Here are the numbers: App downloads for X plummeted by about 38% globally from October 2022 to September 2023 and usage declined significantly, with a 14.8% global drop in monthly active Android users and a 17.8% decrease among U.S. mobile users.
But this decline may not be because existing users are leaving but rather due to a shortage of new users, possibly because the Twitter brand name disappeared from app stores, with Instagram Threads' advertising using the term "Twitter" adding to the complexity.
Furthermore, topics on X are undergoing a transformation, with a surge in discussions about cryptocurrency and "not safe for work" (NSFW) content, signalling a shift in user interests and content trends. As traditional Twitter interests like news and celebrities lose traction, it's unsurprising that this is less appealing for advertisers, given that these topics may not align with their brand values or target audiences.
Musk's ownership has reshaped Twitter into "X," a move that caught many by surprise. The sudden rebrand, along with concerns about content moderation, amid warnings of a wave of disinformation, led to a significant drop in advertising revenue, with US advertising revenue falling by 60%. Advertisers have understandably become more cautious, and X's standing in the digital advertising landscape has taken a hit. To reduce reliance on advertising, Musk introduced X Premium, a subscription service that Borkowski has been trialling [report to come soon!]
Elon Musk's impact on X has been substantial, but the big question remains: Over a year ago, Musk tweeted: “Is Twitter dying?” The question remains, but what we know already, is that the heaviest tweeters, vital to its business, have been in "absolute decline" since the pandemic began, an internal researcher wrote. It underscores a huge challenge for Elon Musk and X.
Maggie Smith gets Loewe
Maggie Smith made her debut as the new face of Spanish fashion house Loewe this week, in a series of photographs by Juergen Teller that made their way across the internet, from fashion press to Instagram’s Love Of Huns. The pictures combine both Teller’s trademark simplicity and sense of irony with Smith’s unique, almost caustic public persona – a perfect fit for a brand that, in recent years, has met luxury with elements of the surreal and ambiguous.
2023 has seen brands and publishers turn to older celebrities with increasing frequency – Vanessa Redgrave for Burberry, Charlotte Rampling for Massimo Dutti, and Miriam Margolyes and Harriet Walter in British Vogue are merely a handful of examples. The trend in womenswear can be traced back to Joan Didion’s 2015 Celine campaign, also shot by Teller; in menswear, John Waters appeared for Saint Laurent, and, in perhaps the original and most absurd example, Mikhail Gorbachev posed for Louis Vuitton in 2007.
In an industry famed for its prioritisation of youth and beauty, fashion’s turn to old guard of celebrity is perhaps surprising, but it forms part of the ongoing push for diversification amongst brand representatives. It now would be unfathomable to produce the kind of homogenous runway shows and ad campaigns that were commonplace twenty years ago. Age is wisdom, and having actresses like Redgrave and Smith as modern-day models conveys a sincerity and depth of experience in a time where culture finds itself increasingly shallow and ephemeral. It helps, of course, that such images are tailor made to be shared by younger generations on social media, with Smith’s campaign going instantly viral.
But, in a cost-of-living crisis, luxury brands are also inevitably asking themselves just who is buying their product. These campaigns have two currencies: their online value, where they are shared and reshared with captions declaring them ‘instantly iconic’, and their very real business value. Over 50s have more disposable income, as well as being those who have grown up with Smith and her work. If anyone is buying a £2,000 Loewe handbag, it’s not the Gen Z-ers posting the photographs – it’s their grandparents.
Wax Dwayne causes Max. Pain…
Musée Grévin, the French Madame Tussauds pretender, this week fell foul to one of the gravest threats to reputation of the modern age: becoming a meme.
A new model of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson depicted the half-black, half-Polynesian action movie superstar with pale, white skin, drawing derision from all corners of the internet and media.
The problem for the Musée Grévin is that an internet joke inspires herd mentality, the ensuing likes and shares attract clout-chasers who put their own spin on it, and the joke quickly becomes a meme.
Eventually enough people are exposed to the meme that some start to point out genuine issues underlying the comedy, and suddenly the meme has spiralled into a serious PR crisis; in this case accusations of ‘white-washing’.
Johnson himself threw the museum a PR bone by responding to the meme with typical good humour, but also affirmed the skin tone issues and indicated that his team would be asking the museum to resolve them.
Musée Grévin scrambled their crack team and released an updated ‘Dwayne Johnson’ pic that, while probably not enough of an improvement to kill the meme entirely, should help avoid a full-on racism scandal that would genuinely endanger their future existence.