We’ve been busy this week - from playing in the metaverse to exploring new expectations on influencers and activists. This 52INSIGHTS is a roundup of some of the big conversations happening this week.
TRANSFORMATION /// NFT’S & THE METAVERSE IN 2022
For our creative team’s ‘F*ck it Friday’ this week we’ve entered the Metaverse! We thought long and hard on how THINKHOUSE could show up in the metaverse. What would our global, innovative, disruptive, thumb stopping, engaging [insert other marketing words here] strategy be? And then we were like f*ck it, let’s just get a car and drive it around our office. Check it out here.
Gen Alpha are also getting ahead of virtual trends. This week, twelve year old Benyamin Ahmed from London has made headlines after making £290,000 during the school holidays, after creating a series of pixelated artworks called Weird Whales and selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Benyamin has been coding since he was five years old after being taught by his software developer father. Fully embracing the blockchain NFT universe, he is keeping his earnings in Ethereum. These skills are being introduced into education systems with early adopters getting started for the future ahead.
In the fashion world, there is a huge drive from educational institutions to introduce more 3D design and upskilling the next generation of designers. This week H&M introduced a competition to win a digital outfit in partnership with Dress X and fronted by Gen Z favourite Maisie Williams. The outfits you might not necessarily wear while running to grab some milk (but also great if you do, excellent choice), so with the expected increase in virtual fashion being integral to metaverse development, this activation from H&M is relevant as the way they’ve connected with people is simple - just name the product and we will help you with the rest.
While the topic of Metaverse and NFTs can be quite polarising and more and more questions around web3 development, one thing is clear. With young creatives being at the forefront of building and creating things, how brands work with creatives will evolve even more. There’s space to play even more and think wider creatively as opportunities increase and the skills to create these digital forms are becoming even more a part of our education systems.
FAME /// MOLLY MAE & NEW INFLUENCER EXPECTATIONS
Influencer and reality TV Star Molly Mae has been called out for her somewhat ‘privileged’ opinions on career opportunities - and has been losing followers since she aired those opinions on a prominent podcast. We’ve talked about her in 52INSIGHTS before, when we looked into the trend of celebrity creative directors causing young people to question many seemingly symbolic appointments based purely on fame, not qualification.
“The expectations placed on mainstream influencers has changed in recent years and they are now expected to have an understanding of the world around them, specifically in relation to their own circumstance and privilege, so that they can appropriately speak on wider issues such as economic inequality and sustainability without causing offense or coming across completely tone deaf. These are areas no longer reserved for activist influencers or influencers specialising in certain areas, it is now the standard expectation of anyone with a following.” Lucy Carroll, PR & Advocacy Account Manager, THINKHOUSE
Recently, on the Diary of CEO podcast, Mae was asked about her career progression. She talked about everyone having "the same 24 hours in a day" and that in her opinion, if you want something badly enough, you can achieve it irrespective of your financial situation. For many people this is not a true reality; there are countless structural systems and hurdles in place that do not consider race, health, gender, social class, sexuality, mental health, or disability. The thinking was described as ‘tone-deaf’ by her fans and the media, having expressed no consideration for her position and wealth (or, crucially, for the many people working at the brand she is involved with PLT). While there is mixed noise and chatter around Molly Mae’s role in this, one of the bigger questions to be asked is why companies like PLT (who are known for their poor working conditions, low pay and hugely negative fast fashion environmental impact) are still getting away with this?
It has also opened up a bigger conversation around what we expect from influencers. Younger audiences want creators to have a more holistic understanding of the brands and systems that they are making their money from. When it comes to the creator landscape we seem to be caught up in a cancel-culture-driven, monotonous cycle - an influencer scandal happens, leading to a viral call out moment and media frenzy followed by a performative influencer apology with little accountability. Then all is seemingly forgotten until the next blunder and audiences are left asking where real accountability and change can happen.
PLANET /// DON’T LOOK UP & CLIMATE ACTIVIST IMPERFECTION
We saw some brilliant climate conversation on the back of Cop26 last November, but we were absolutely not ready for the explosion of cultural commentary and debate in December when Netflix’s ‘Don’t Look Up’ was released. If you haven’t seen it, the premise is that a planet-killing comet is hurtling toward Earth and the story follows scientists desperately trying to communicate the dangers to inspire media, political and corporate leaders to adequately respond - a metaphor for the climate crisis. It’s now the second biggest Netflix film of all time, with over 321 MILLION viewing hours. The reaction is polarised. Many media (a key target of criticism in the film) found it ‘preachy’ or ‘crass’ as a comedy, but climate activists and scientists have broadly felt ‘seen’, deeming it a brilliant reflection of true experiences. What we absolutely love about all of this is how the movie has used humour to bring climate into mainstream conversation and cultural limelight. In social media content, the star studded cast are all expressing the importance of urgent climate action and there’s even a website where people can go to explore how they can take action. While certainly a film is not going to be the cure to our challenges, we say YES to more fun and imaginative ways to explore the reality of what we’re facing and urging new kinds of responses.
Alongside this conversation, youth climate activists have been voicing out online around the realities of their jobs. Many young people who are vocal in this space find themselves subject to criticism (especially online) if they don’t appear to be leading perfectly sustainable lives. Their key message was around imperfection and empathy for being human.
“It’s how I’ve introduced myself for years, age brandished in front: “15, 16, 22-year-old climate activist.” … Perhaps it’s not the label that bothers me, but the identity baggage it comes with. In groups of fellow “youth Activists”, I often feel that I’m not radical enough. If I voice an opinion that deviates just 5% from the collective, I fear I’ll be framed as some kind of infiltrator or sympathiser “to the other side”...When I returned to Indonesia to see my dad for the first time in 3 years, he asked me if I wasn’t a hypocrite for calling myself an Activist while flying on planes.” Clover Hogan
“If I don’t “act like an activist” all the time, it’s because I’m not 🤗 I’m a full person - who likes to have fun but also care for the earth. I am not always “on” and refuse to keep doing that in 2022 or trying to appear that way online ♥️💫 allow educators, creators, and advocates to be humans… I’m a person. A whole being that’s imperfect and nuanced, like all of us ✨ We aren’t just one aspect of our being.” Green Girl Leah
What struck us most was how these young people are lifting the veil behind the strong, resilient caricatures and expectations placed on those challenging the status quo. There is a clear hunger for more balanced, softer and complex considerations of people who engage in this work. Appreciation for rest and recovery post-Cop26 (and away from social media) is something they’ve also been extremely vocal about - burnt out people won’t be able to save a burning planet!
The climate conversation continues to heat up - as do criticisms of communications and instances of greenwashing - among all audiences. As many of us look to engage with people through creative communications about transforming our businesses and inspiring positive behaviour change, heavy lifting needs to be done in the background to ensure positive impact on the environment and real change in how things are done. As young activists lead the way in being more transparent in their own lives, audiences are getting more curious than ever about the realities behind the brands, products, services and people they engage with.
Influencers will never be clued into everything, but their audiences are demanding more. When working with partners, collaborate on aligning on messaging so you don’t end up in trouble. There is an opportunity too for brands to lead the charge and build an understanding of social and environmental responsibility into contracts with influencers - so that they can voice out about positive action being taken and be well versed on hot, important, topics (also so that brands can understand what their collaborators perspectives are on current topics).
New digital mediums are becoming the norm and are rich territory for innovation. Getting experimental in these relatively early days can be really fun and serve to set you apart and get you fitter for the next era of the web. Collaborating with younger creators who are literate in this space is a great opportunity!
If your brand is talking about sustainability, you need to be prepared to offer transparency - to lift the veil like never before on things like ops, systems and process. The path ahead isn’t all smooth sailing 24/7, but it’s one of the greatest briefs we’ll ever sink our teeth into as creatives.
If you’re interested in more on climate topics this week, Laura Costello, Strategy Director, Purpose & Planet at THINKHOUSE was on a webinar this week about building a sustainable future with business and you can watch back here. We also loved this piece from our Purpose Disruptor friends in the UK.