What in the World—Week of April 5

Brands respond to voter restriction efforts
Brands are pushing back against U.S. voter restriction efforts in Texas and Georgia, with American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Dell and Coca-Cola all issuing strongly worded statements voicing their opposition. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said that proposed changes are “unacceptable” and do not match the company’s values. The airline is the largest employer in Georgia. Coca-Cola issued a similarly worded statement, and on the weekend Major League Baseball announced it would move its 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta. Predictably, their actions have also led to calls for boycotts of brands including Coca-Cola (which some have dubbed “Woke-a-Cola”). According to Forbes, some Republican lawmakers in Georgia have asked for Coca-Cola products to be removed from their office, while former president Donald Trump called for a boycott of all the “woke companies that are interfering with our Free and Fair (caps his) elections.”

U.S. lawmakers looking into ad auctions
U.S. lawmakers are looking into programmatic advertising amid concerns that its user-targeting capabilities could pose a risk to national security. According to The Wall Street Journalthe information gathered through online ad auctions—such as a person’s location, browsing history and demographics—can be packaged by data brokers and resold to companies and governments. The data has already been used by government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and IRS, and there is concern it could be exploited by foreign governments who might use it to inform and “supercharge” hacking, blackmail and influence political campaigns. A group of U.S. senators recently sent a letter to companies including AT&T, Index Exchange, Google, Twitter and PubMatic asking them what steps they are taking to ensure that companies joining auctions are doing so for the sole purpose of buying advertising. They also asked companies to provide the names of all foreign clients who had access to user data through auctions over the past three years.

The box office returns with a (minor) roar
There’s been endless speculation about the future of movie theatres during the pandemic, but Godzilla vs. Kong’s US$48.5 million opening weekend suggests that people haven’t entirely lost their enthusiasm for big-budget blockbusters. According to The New York Times, the movie’s take from 3,064 North American theatres was by far the largest turnout for a movie since the pandemic began. Mary Parent, vice-chair and head of worldwide production for Legendary Entertainment, said the weekend box office was a signal that people are “ready for emotional release, to experience that human connectivity—laughing together, getting scared together—and complete transportation that only movie theatres can provide.” The movie also raked in $236.9 million internationally. The weekend take prompted its distributor, Warner Bros., to issue a press release boasting “Big movies are back with our kaiju-sized opening!”

GM called out by Black-owned media over ad spend
General Motors has pledged to spend 4% of its U.S. budget with Black-owned media by next year, and 8% by 2025, according to the Detroit Free Press. The auto giant was singled out in newspaper ads last week for underspending in Black-owned media and for refusing to meet with Black media owners including Byron Allen and Ice Cube. The ad, which ran in the Free Press and The Wall Street Journal, said GM spends less than 0.5% of its ad budget with Black-owned media—“not to be confused with Black Targeted Media,” said the ad— though African Americans make up 14% of the population. The ad also said the media owners want to meet with GM CEO Mary Barra, not chief marketing officer Deborah Wahl. In response, GM said it spends 2% of its advertising with Black-owned media and would increase its spending to reach the new targets. However, after reportedly agreeing that Barra would meet with the executives, GM said it would postpone, opting for a series of smaller meetings over the next few weeks. “There was no reason to cancel the meeting. Zero, nada,” Allen told the Free Press. “[T]hey want to have smaller group meetings… That is called divide and conquer, which isn’t going to work.”

Machado leaving fast food for videogaming
Fernando Machado, one of the industry’s best-known marketers, is leaving Restaurant Brands International—parent company of Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeyes—for gaming company Activision Blizzard, says Forbes. Machado joined Burger King in 2014, was promoted to CMO in 2017 and RBI CMO in 2020. During his time with the company, Machado earned a reputation for greenlighting many attention-grabbing, award-winning ideas, campaigns and stunts, particularly for the Burger King brand. They included Whopper Detour and last year’s Moldy Whopper and, less auspiciously, BK’s recent “Women belong in the Kitchen” mess on Twitter. RBI said that Paloma Azulay, former head of Tim Hortons marketing, will be promoted to RBI’s global chief brand officer. “One of the great things that Fernando did for us is attract and grow strong marketing talent within the RBI organization,” a spokesperson told Forbes. “Today, we are fortunate to have exceptional home-market CMOs in Hope Bagozzi, Ellie Doty and Bruno Cardinali, and all three have built strong marketing teams at Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeyes.”

David Brown