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Earned First

Earlier this year, our colleagues at IPG Mediabrands and Twitter conducted a
study on how culturally relevant communications impact decision-making and, to that end, what relevance means for consumers today. The study found that “cultural relevance” accounts for 25% of purchase decisions. The findings also stressed that while the meaning of culture is somewhat subjective, consumer definitions are evolving, with 83% citing “something other than” traditional measures such as language, religion and cuisines. Among the other attributes, “inclusion” is deemed imperative by 50% of the general population and 60% of Twitter users.

While advertising and media remain part of the equation, achieving relevance in culture and people's lives is earned first. No matter how much news, research, advertising or expertise is put out into the world, if it's not rooted in the context and interests of the public — it just doesn't work. Even worse — irrelevant, self-serving material can become, in effect, cultural pollution. 
An element of our “We Solve" mission is decoding what’s beneficial for clients by determining what's additive to the people they serve. In today's form-flexible, polarized and often mistrusted media environment — that’s easier said than done. 
Brands who successfully take on this challenge often have authentic links to the cause — as seen in the recent 
climate strike, the push for voter registration, and the demand for governments to do more about cybersecurity threats. 

Recent work shared here shows how we’re adapting to the changing cultural brief:

Bringing niche culture to the masses: That Lot was approached by BBC Radio 1 to create a podcast that represents UK Drag Culture for BBC’s new audio platform, BBC Sounds. Our approach? Enlist the talents of one of London’s most prolific drag hosts, Glyn Fussell, to produce a bold series that Bustle claimed is "Here to Slay 2019." The show resonates with the existing drag scene while appealing to an enthusiastic new audience, previously unfamiliar with the niche culture. We also created a series of bespoke social media assets that stretched the reach of Drag Queen's Den even further.  
Leveraging tech for good: Consumers are increasingly concerned with how brands can use tech to create meaningful change for those in need. Recognizing that cold winters in Sweden are a significant problem for the nation’s increasing homeless population, Clear Channel wanted to help by demonstrating the possibilities of its digital screens and its commitment to social good. Temporary shelters open up all around Stockholm when temperatures drop below -7 degrees Celsius, but too few know they exist and where they’re located. Fueled by data – weather, distance, time and availability – we helped Clear Channel’s digital billboards direct people to the closest open shelter. More cities are now looking to use their emergency system.
Acknowledging concerns: Problems ranging from content fatigue to misinformation to data privacy have people worried about how tech can work against them. HSBC wanted to help consumers prepare for these realities with the warning that online fraud has become incredibly advanced. We used deep fake technology and partnered with a well-known TV personality to create a convincing video that shows just how easy it is to be duped online. Our reveal video reassured fans the story was false, and showed off the sophisticated deep fake technology that made it possible. By speaking to very real consumer concerns related to emerging tech, the video generated over 5.2 million views on HSBC UK channels and an additional 110,000 organic views on Rachel's Instagram. 
Contributing to a powerful movement: One of the largest issues we face in society today is lack of inclusion — rooted in centuries of racism, mistreatment, immigration policy and beyond. While we still have a long way to go, movements around the world have formed to put an end to inequality. As the leading family history company, Ancestry wanted to do its part to share a significant piece of American history related to this goal. When nearly 100,000 slaves escaped to the North via the Underground Railroad, they gained their freedom but lost much of their history. So Ancestry researchers analyzed hundreds of thousands of family records of those who escaped to construct family trees. In a short-form documentary called Railroad Ties, which premiered at Sundance, we revealed how a group of strangers finally realized lost truths and family connections.

We all have countless stories competing for our attention every day — and being in culture is the difference between cutting through the noise and adding to it.

Chris Perry 

As always, if you find this newsletter valuable I would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them here.
What We're Reading
Leadership Instincts 
It’s Greta’s World but it’s Still Burning. The Extraordinary Rise of a 16-year-old, and her Hail Mary Climate Movement
By David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine

A 16-year-old Swedish girl with Asperger’s became the unlikely leader of a historical movement. By resonating with the group that has the most to lose, Great Thunberg united young people around the world to take action and tapped into the spirit of the times.  

Media Forensics
The Story Behind the Viral Graphic that Electrified the Climate Movement
By Ed Hawkins, Fast Company

The climate stripes illustrate the global average temperature for every year since 1850 in the form of a colored stripe. The graphic translates complex data into an easily accessible format that transcends language and needs almost no context to explain it. The data visualization tool has since gone viral as a symbol of the movement — as seen on posters, on placards in the youth climate strikes and on banners and T-shirts around the world. 

Media Forensics
Why Can’t We Agree on What’s True Any More?
By William Davies, The Guardian

Technology encourages us to believe we can all have first-hand access to the ‘real’ facts — but we live in a time of hardening cultural and political divides. If there is one thing on which everyone can agree, it's that the news and information we receive is biased. And unless we can find a remedy to this problem, we need to figure out how to navigate in a post-truth world. 

Content Experience
‘Close Friends,’ for a Monthly Fee
By Kaitlyn Tiffany
, The Atlantic

Instagram's "Close Friends" feature was introduced in November 2018 as a way to help users deal with context collapse — the uncomfortable reality that not everything a person might post will be received the same way by everyone who could stumble across it. But influencers have started selling access to that list, and their most "exclusive" content, for a monthly fee. 

Platform Dominance
The YouTube Revolution in Knowledge Transfer
By Samo Burja
, Medium

Modern video media may shorten attention spans and distract from longer-form means of communication, such as written articles or books, but its simple cultural relevance rooted in helping others learn basic skills is often overlooked. YouTube allows for the preservation and spread of knowledge that might otherwise have been lost.  

Leadership Instincts
The Power of Questions
By Shane Parrish, Farnam Street

As a society, we tend to focus a lot on answers. We tend to give less prestige to questions. Everyone has them. They’re easy. It’s the answers that take the work. But this mindset overlooks the power of questions. Getting to cultural relevance, truth, and solutions, is always about asking good questions.

Media Forensics
This Year’s Hottest Cultural Trend is Lemons
By Paola de Varona, The Outline

Lemons have long been considered aspirational and symbolic, but they've also recently become the preferred accessory of influencers — popping up everywhere from New York Fashion Week, to interior design, to wearable jewelry.

Emerging Technology
The Surprising Success of the App that Allows you to get Celebrities Like Gilbert Gottfried To Say Almost Anything
By Vice News and Digg

The Cameo app has a simple premise — have normies pay celebrities money to say something. How does it work and why is it becoming a phenomenon?

Deep Take
Ken Burns — A Master Filmmaker on Creative Process, the Long Game, and the Noumenal
By The Tim Ferriss Show
Master filmmaker, historian and American, Ken Burns, details his creative process behind making media that matters. When picking a topic for a project, he describes knowing stories are culturally relevant when "they’re complex, they represent challenge, opportunity and difficulty."
Copyright © 2019 Weber Shandwick

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