Things of Internet: My favourite "brand campaign" of 2021

Things of Internet
Things of Internet: My favourite "brand campaign" of 2021
By Deepak / Chuck • Issue #81 • View online
One aphorism from my days in advertising that stuck with me is: Create acts, not ads. Brands should focus more on what they do, rather than what they say. While the latter could mean ads or #SomeUselessSocialMediaHashtag, the former could mean anything from a new product line to something inspiring leadership did.
It makes sense - Tata is considered one of India’s most admired brand because of… What exactly? Certainly not the ads. All that nation-building, ethics, doing good by employees, and all that? Yep. Acts. Similarly, Tesla - I can’t recall a single ad, but who would argue it’s among the biggest brands in the world (or as the Dean of Valuation calls it, the “story stock”)?
Acts are the acid test for a company because they go beyond mere lip service. Ads are things the marketing team controls. To be sure, yes, sometimes communication alone can change a company’s fortune (Old Spice, anyone?). But it’s beaten out by acts.
For example, any brand can put up a post saying Black Lives Matter. But if they don’t mean it or demonstrate it, they will get pilloried, and rightly so. On the other hand, outspoken ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s will go on protest marches and come out with new flavours to support legislation. Acts build a brand, especially in this day and age where everything a capitalist entity does is observed with scrutiny.
Which brings me to my favourite brand activity from 2021. It didn’t make the “best of ads” lists, and is unlikely to be a winner at the Cannes Creativity Festival either. Because it wasn’t a “marketing” case. But when the dust settles and the history of this company is written, its “act” in August 2021 will be a chapter by itself.

Airbnb hosts 20,000 Afghan refugees
Even in a year of crises, the scale and long-term impact of the Taliban takeover of a once-vibrant country is hard to calculate. As Afghans desperately fled their homes, Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, announced this.
Brian Chesky
Starting today, Airbnb will begin housing 20,000 Afghan refugees globally for free.
This is not mere charity on the company’s part. After all, thousands of hosts themselves are involved. What a way to truly build community and feel stronger to the brand’s mission (and humanity). I could go on and on about this, but I’d rather direct you to this and this.
It’s led to heartwarming stories like this and this and this. However, as can be expected, there were cynics - even among those who’d have liked to volunteer.
My own take is that it was a brilliant act on the company’s part. Where I feel they failed, however, was not amplifying updates beyond their news site. Where are the refugees now? What’s their status? Why is a company, so adept at storytelling, not publishing more stories of something that is inherently so story-friendly? That might quell some of the criticism, after all.
Time will tell as to whether this act will truly have an impact. But for now, I salute one of the companies I called the most innovative of the 21st century. If you’re still sneering thinking it’s all about the PR, relax. Brands have won “for good” awards for doing a lot less through manipulated hashtag campaigns.
The updates section
  • Microsoft bought gaming giant Activation Blizzard! Definitely a shot in its metaverse (or at least gaming) plans. So that’s right, LinkedIn and Call of Duty are now owned by the same company. Bring on the memes!
Trung Phan 🇨🇦
**BREAKING** Microsoft announces Excel integration with Call of Duty
  • However, that’s going to add to anti-trust fire
  • Amazon’s opening an “algorithm-based fashion store” in LA.
  • How does Meta plan to make money off the Metaverse? Virtual goods, personalised advertising and “sponsored object appearances”, it would seem. They’ll be using facial expressions, pupil activity (!) and a lot more.
  • The UK government’s planning a publicity blitz against end-to-end encryption.
  • Guess who else is releasing their own cryptocurrency? Walmart. They’re also applying for some patents to bring shopping into the metaverse. You might remember that video from 2017, one assumes what we’ll see now is going to be a tad bigger than that.
  • Samsung ousts Intel as the top chip seller in 2021.
  • a16z’s first investment in Africa is a gaming company.
  • Wendy’s National Roast Day tweets are high-risk, high-reward and certainly the edgiest thing a brand does on social media. Here’s everything from this year. Basically, Wendy’s invites people to be roasted by them. Lots of brands get in on the action too. It’s all hilarious. Here’s my favourite, which happened to paywalled ad publication The Drum.
The reads section
The recommendations section: Taskmaster
Over the last year, my wife and I have been hooked to this hilarious, outrageous British comedy show called Taskmaster, where a comically “mean” taskmaster sets comedians random tasks and… Honestly, it’s the best thing we’ve watched all year. We binged all 12 seasons easily. It’s light viewing, mostly nonsense, utterly ROFLMAO inducing, and all that with British accents. I recommend Season 4. Enjoy.
Taskmaster - Series 4, Episode 1 'A Fat Bald White Man'
Taskmaster - Series 4, Episode 1 'A Fat Bald White Man'
I came across this
See you next week!
What did you think of the Airbnb “act”? Stunt or noble? Either way, I hope you enjoy Taskmaster. Give it a try, seriously. Unless you’re furiously finishing Call of Duty before they integrate Powerpoint into it (hey, that’d be fun!).
See you next week with more things from the internet, people!
Did you enjoy this issue?
Deepak / Chuck
By Deepak / Chuck

A weekly newsletter with some cool digital stuff. Something a brand did, a nice new app feature, something from the world of entertainment, an occasional editorial... Ideal for those who are in marketing, or simply love the internet and trivia. Every issue also includes something from the archives. It'll be insightful / useful / fun. Hopefully all three!

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