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The communications briefing : Week ending 11th of Jan 2019

Welcome to the first of a new series of PRmoment features that aims to give our readers a summary of the most important news, trends and developments for communications people.

Our thanks to Early Morning Media for helping to put together this briefing.


Brexiteers hit out at HSBC ad campaign
HSBC has defended its new advertising campaign, amidst criticism that it is “anti-Brexit”. The “We are not an island” campaign is a continuation of the global bank’s “Together we thrive” campaign which celebrates the UK’s diversity and multiculturalism; it references how much Britons enjoy drinking coffee from Colombia, assembling flat-pack furniture from Sweden and using mobile phones and tablets from Korea. MEP and former UKIP spokesman Patrick O’Flynn tweeted that the campaign was “really odd and ideologically aggressive.” In response, a spokesman for the bank said: “We believe that the people, communities and businesses in the UK thrive most when connected and open... we are reinforcing our strong belief that the things that make us quintessentially British are the things that make us inescapably international. JWT, the agency behind the campaign, said the work was in response to the current “atmosphere” and to remind people that we are all global citizens “whatever the political climate”.
Sky News   BBC News    The Times   The New European

Mastercard to drop name from logo
As consumers increasingly use mobile devices for payments, Mastercard is to launch a new branding campaign which will see its name disappear from its logo, leaving only the interlocking red and yellow circles associated with the brand. In doing so, the firm joins companies such as Apple, Nike and Target, which have previously adopted similarly visuals-based branding. Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, noted that the firm had carried out almost two years of research across the globe before committing to the move. Debbie Millman, chair of the Masters in Branding programme at the School of Visual Arts, remarked that not many brands could afford to abandon their names: “The only brands that are able to do this have developed a logo with global recognition over decades”.
Wall Street Journal   Vox

Juul takes on regulators with new TV campaign
E-cigarette start-up Juul has confirmed that it is planning a TV advertising campaign in the US featuring ex-smokers who used the firm’s products to help them give up tobacco. This represents a new avenue for the company, which has previously focused on social media channels such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. This follows a raid by the Food and Drug Administration on the firm’s headquarters last November amidst a crackdown on the vaping industry, and Juul’s accepting a $12.8bn investment from Altria in exchange for a 35% stake in December. The FDA’s Scott Gottlieb said he plans to summon executives to explain themselves after the latter move. Elizabeth Crisp Crawford, a communications professor at North Dakota State University, said of Juul’s TV campaign: “It’s either a diversion or some kind of PR move.”

Snowflakes…. your Army needs you!
The Army is launching a new recruitment drive aimed at young people addicted to phones and gaming, as well as so-called snowflakes, in a bid to attract members of Generation Z, those born approximately between mid-1990s to the early 2000s. Major General Paul Nanson says the “Your army needs you” campaign has been designed to show that the organisation “sees people differently” and understands their “need for a bigger sense of purpose”. Critics have said this and recent campaigns could make the Army appear “soft”, whilst defence secretary Gavin Williamson praised the latest move as “a powerful call to action that appeals to those seeking to make a difference as part of an innovative and inclusive team”.
Huffington Post

Bosch prepares for an IoT future
Robert Bosch, the world's biggest auto-parts supplier, is plunging deeper into a new world of internet-based technologies and vehicle services, and has launched a new “internet of things” identity campaign at CES. Built around an advertising effort involving internet videos and viral messages that attempts to present the German company in a cheerful and humorous light as a purveyor of internet solutions, including vehicles that communicate with their owners and with other vehicles.
Automotive News Europe


Last year’s trends in PR agency acquisitions
Arch Stevens and Rich Jachetti, managing partner and senior partner respectively at The Stevens Group, review the PR agency acquisition marketplace in 2018, noting that it “took new twists and turns this past year from subordinating the tired old valuation-driven accountancy model of yesteryear and transforming it into a multi-layered process replete with new and vibrant acquisition models”. Alongside a desire amongst buyers for PR agencies with 21st century integrated marketing services strategies and capabilities, they note that private equity firms increased their interest in the sector; the re-emergence of individual entrepreneurs looking for investors in new PR holding companies; and intense competition amongst agency owners to acquire firms in lucrative growth categories such as pharmaceutical and healthcare, crisis management, and financial services.
O'Dwyer PR


Egypt hires US PR firm
An undisclosed US public relations firm has been hired by Egypt to improve its image abroad, with government officials hoping to see increased investment in the country as a result. However, opponents of the regime have said the move is an attempt to cover up economic hardship and human rights abuses. Egyptian minister of investment and international cooperation Sahar Nasr said the PR firm will help Egypt to “publish articles indicating that [P

president Sisi’s] policies have managed to bring about security in the country… shedding light on the investment environment and promoting investment opportunities." Media figure and publisher Hisham Kassem noted that the PR firm will also co-ordinate Egyptian officials’ meetings with members of Congress and other US officials, allowing them the opportunity to communicate with the press and media figures there.


Macron's spin doctor to leave Elysee
Sylvain Fort, head of communications at the Elysee Palace, and the author of some of president Emmanuel Macron’s most important speeches, is stepping down from the role. “After two years and a half of relentless work serving the candidate and later our president, I wish to pursue other professional and personal projects, and above all dedicate more time to my family”, Fort told French news agency AFP.

Reputational Risk

Huawei staff punished for iPhone tweet blunder
Chinese telecommunications equipment supplier Huawei has punished two employees for New Year greetings sent on the smartphone maker’s official Twitter account using an iPhone. Although the tweet was quickly deleted, screenshots of the post were already being disseminated across a variety of social media platforms. In an internal memo, Huawei corporate senior-vice president Chen Lifang said the mistake had "caused damage to the Huawei brand." The memo noted that the two staffers had been demoted and had their salaries reduced. Huawei employs marketing company Sapient to handle its presence on social media.
Sky News  South China Morning Post   South China Morning Post

Clegg faces fake news task
Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook’s incoming head of global policy and communications, has been named by the Telegraphas one of the top names to watch in technology this year. Priorities for the former Liberal Democrat leader’s first weeks in the role include dealing with fake news on the site, the fallout from its record-breaking data breach, and reports that chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg ordered subordinates to carry out research on the financial interests of hedge fund billionaire George Soros, after he criticised the company in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Meanwhile, the FT’sHannah Kuchler says Facebook’s problems show little sign of abating in 2019, as politicians increasingly question the sheer size and influence of the company.
The Daily Telegraph   Financial Times

Prada apologises after products spark accusations of racism
Prada has said it will set up an advisory council on diversity issues after being forced to pull the Pradamalia monkey-like keychain figurines from its shelves over accusations of racism. "We would like to convey our deep regret and sincere apologies for the Pradamalia products that were offensive. They have been removed from the market and will not be sold”, it said in a statement. "Going forward, we pledge to improve our diversity training and will immediately form an advisory council to guide our efforts on diversity, inclusion and culture”. The figurines, featured prominently in the window display of its Soho store in New York, sparked outrage for their exaggerated red lips that brought blackface caricatures to mind.
France 24


Amazon to deliver free samples to customers
Amazon customers are to receive free samples of products selected for them based on their shopping histories, in a move which could raise privacy concerns relating to data mining and detailed digital user profiles. The firm says of the move: "Amazon surprises select customers with samples that we think will be delightful and helpful… It's like Amazon's product recommendations, but real, so you can try, smell, feel and taste the latest products. There is no obligation to purchase or review the product and you can opt out at any time." This comes as Amazon increases its market share of the advertising industry.

Online advertisers want blockchain to fight fraud
Brands believe blockchain technology can help them fight fraud in online advertising. IBM and Toyota are amongst those piloting blockchain-based ad platforms. Blockchain technology can uncover ad performance discrepancies and enable advertisers and publishers to know how many clicks an ad is really getting, says attorneys. “Blockchain dramatically reduces the incidence of fraud,” said Matthew Savare, a digital advertising attorney at law firm Lowenstein Sandler LLP.
Bloomberg Law


Singer’s app hits bum note
Taylor Swift’s decision to close down her Swift Life smartphone app next month is due in part to its forums becoming overrun by users leaving messages riddled with hatred, bigotry and homophobia, according to one PR expert. Buzz Carter of Bulldog Digital Mediasaid Ms Swift’s advisors would have been behind the app’s closure. “In this day and age celebrities have been pushed into a corner when they are almost required to “disavow” any controversial parts of their audience”. Robin Gandy director of brand PR and talent management firm AgenC, has suggested that the app was “always part of a wider idea”, a pilot scheme demonstrating that there are millions of fans “who would definitely pay for this type of access” to their heroine.

This briefing has been prepared by Early Morning Media.  If you are interested in a customised bespoke news briefing for you or your client across any vertical, please contact

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