The Brand Move Roundup – June 29, 2020

We’re tracking the notable brand moves & highlighting the companies who are tackling this challenge successfully.

Three months ago, when the gravity of the situation became clear, we started daily reporting on how brands were dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. What’s now becoming clear is that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption. So we made the decision to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid the latest crises in an anxious world. Our goal remains the same: to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.

Starbucks is the latest company to say it will pause advertising on “all social media platforms” and promises to have discussions internally and with media partners and civil rights organizations to stop the spread of hate speech. The company will continue to post on social media without paid promotion, it announced. “We believe in bringing communities together, both in person and online, and we stand against hate speech,” the company said. “We believe more must be done to create welcoming and inclusive online communities, and we believe both business leaders and policy makers need to come together to affect real change.” Starbucks is the latest major advertiser to make such an announcement amid a boycott that began with Facebook but is now hitting other social media platforms. Starbucks said though it is pausing advertising, it isn’t joining the #StopHateForProfit boycott campaign, which kicked off earlier this month.

The Coca-Cola Company is also to stop running paid ads on all social media platforms amid an industry-wide call for brands to reevaluate where they spend their ad dollars. “There is no place for racism in the world, and there is no place for racism on social media,” CEO and chairman James Quincey said. The beverage company will pause all international paid social media advertising for the next 30 days to “reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed,” Quincey said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether its decision would include organic posts on those websites or if it would still use the platforms’ insights from previous campaigns or ad tech. The company also didn’t name any social media platforms, but Quincey said Coca-Cola expects “greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners.”

Unilever is to stop advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S. through the end of 2020. The CPG giant, which owns several brands in the food and personal care space, such as Dove, Magnum, Axe, Lipton and Vaseline, is one of the world’s largest advertisers. It is the largest company to pull away from Facebook advertising since calls for a boycott began earlier this month. “Given our responsibility framework and the polarized atmosphere in the U.S., we have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.,” the company said. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society. We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary. The complexities of the current cultural landscape have placed a renewed responsibility on brands to learn, respond and act to drive a trusted and safe digital ecosystem.” The company said it will shift the dollars it had planned to spend on these platforms to other media. The ban currently only applies to Unilever’s U.S. ad spend; global will not be affected. Unilever is the first major advertiser to indicate its boycott of Facebook will last until the end of 2020, well beyond the July timeframe for the #StopHateForProfit campaign.

Spirits giant Diageo has also said it will be pausing paid advertising globally on “major social media platforms” beginning in July.

In total, more than 100 marketers including Levi’s, Patagonia, REI, Lending Club and The North Face have announced their intention to pause Facebook ad spend during the month of July, joining the #StopHateForProfit campaign, The group of organizations behind it includes the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense, which have asked “large Facebook advertisers to show they will not support a company that puts profit over safety.” As a result, $56 billion has been wiped off Facebook’s market value. The platform’s stock price plunged by more than 8 percent, with shares expected to cost $212.50 a piece when markets open this week, down from $235 when the markets closed. The downturn has also taken $7.2 billion off of Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth.

Chinese technology giant Tencent is rolling out a live-streaming service similar to Amazon’s Twitch in the U.S., making a rare foray into American social media. China’s largest company has been quietly testing a mobile-focused streaming network via an affiliate in the U.S. since at least March. Initially called Madcat and now branded Trovo Live, the new service closely resembles Twitch in its appearance and functionality. Beyond Tencent’s own portfolio of popular games like Fortnite and PUBG Mobile, Trovo also spotlights marquee titles like Grand Theft Auto and Destiny 2. This week, it detailed plans on its website to entice and reward creators with a $30 million partnership program starting in July. Tencent dominates gaming and social media in its domestic market and may be one of the few companies with the resources to challenge Twitch. But the WeChat operator has met with mixed results in its efforts to build online users abroad and Trovo has gone largely unnoticed outside the gaming community. Its best-attended live streams have only a few dozen viewers at a time, though its Discord chat channel numbers more than 5,000 members. It has attracted some experienced creators from Twitch, YouTube and Microsoft’s soon-to-be-defunct Mixer platform. Tencent has been actively expanding its online streaming assets in recent months, having spent $263 million in April to buy control of China’s Twitch equivalent Huya and this week acquiring content and technology from struggling Southeast Asian outfit iFlix. Like Twitch, Trovo sports a carousel showcase of live channels, sidebars for chat with other viewers and channel recommendations highlighting the most popular active creators. It also has paid subscriptions and rewards that let viewers support their favored streamers. Another Twitch similarity is the tiered partnership program designed to encourage gamers to join and evangelize the service.

Google has announced a new initiative which could be a crucial first step towards more co-operation between currently-struggling traditional media operations and tech platforms. In a blog post, Brad Bender, Google’s VP in charge of news, said the firm was creating a new licensing program to support the industry. He said it would help publishers monetize content and would start in Australia, Brazil and Germany before being rolled out globally. One of the most striking elements is that Google will pay to give readers using its Google News or Google Discover (the personalized feed seen by Android mobile users) free access to some paywalled articles. Mr Bender said this will help participating sites to expand their readership while still getting paid for the content. The publisher of Australian titles including InQueensland and InDaily will be one of the first to take part. Managing director Paul Hamra said: “With local news under stress, finding new channels and new audiences for our premium content, in safe and curated environments, is a high priority.”

Food directory app EatOkra, which connects users with Black-owned cuisine in their area, has been boosted by a wave of new social media followers and high scores on app stores, and has received over 5,000 applications from restaurants hoping to be listed on its service. The app saw a more than 4,000% increase in daily downloads by new users between May 28 and June 4, according to Apptopia. “We went from about 500 restaurants that we had to process to about 5,100 in less than 30 days,” founder Anthony Edwards said, describing the process as “high-anxiety.” Before now, the app had been doubling its user base every year and was downloaded 12,000 times in 2019. So far this year, it has already received over 100,000 downloads. As the Black Lives Matter movement has swelled, supporters began scouring the internet for Black-owned businesses to support, mobilizing behind a familiar slogan: “Buy Black.” EatOkra’s mission is to connect users with Black-owned restaurants in their area. It’s not a delivery service; it explicitly points users toward apps like DoorDash or Seamless when restaurants have that option. But its simple, green-and-white interface boasts categories not typically found on mainstream delivery apps — like “Soul Food,” “African Cuisine” and “Caribbean Cuisine” — and gives prime real estate to restaurants that are often overlooked on other food services. It currently has more than 2,600 restaurants listed across more than a dozen cities. Edwards, who has a computer science degree and works as the chief technology officer at a construction management software company, co-founded EatOkra with his wife, Janique Edwards, in 2016. The two came up with the idea shortly after they moved to Brooklyn as they scoured their neighborhood for food that felt “familiar.” “We were looking for Black-owned businesses – barbecue or soul food or something like that,” Anthony Edwards said. “We started Googling and a lot of things came up, but there was no central source … We saw that as a big void.”

A month after immersive online game Fortnite premiered a trailer for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film, Tenet, the director is heading back to the game with a full-length feature. Players will be treated to an in-game movie night featuring one of three Christopher Nolan movies; Batman Begins, Inception, and The Prestige, depending on which region they play Fortnite in. The event, which will be called Movie Nite, will take place at Fortnite’s new Party Royale island on the big screen. This will be the first time that Fortnite has moved from trailers to showing full movies, however, with developer Epic’s many partnerships, from DC and Warner Bros to Marvel and Disney, Movie Nites could become a regular attraction in Fortnite, especially with real-world theaters still struggling to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

World Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team will run an all-black livery on their cars this season in a defiant message against racism. The reigning constructors’ champions have traditionally raced in silver but will adopt the new color scheme for the delayed 2020 season which begins in Austria this weekend. Hamilton has been vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement and said he was overcome with rage following the killing of George Floyd by a white policeman. He attended an anti-racism march in London this month. “It’s so important that we seize this moment and use it to educate ourselves whether you are an individual, brand or company to make real meaningful changes when it comes to ensuring equality and inclusivity,” Hamilton said. “I have personally experienced racism in my life and seen my family and friends experience racism, and I am speaking from the heart when I appeal for change.” Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas will wear black overalls this year. The “End Racism” message will feature on both cars. Hamilton said: “We want to build a legacy that goes beyond sport and if we can be the leaders and can start building more diversity within our own business, it will send such a strong message and give others the confidence to begin a dialogue about how they can implement change.”