What in the World—Week of June 27

Mastercard releases album
Mastercard released a new streaming album called “Priceless,” with each song featuring the melody of its two-year-old sonic brand identity. Launching on Spotify, with other platforms to follow, the album features 10 songs from musicians around the world. Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer, said that the album “takes our innovative sonic branding approach to an even higher, unmatched level.” Mastercard worked with Beatclub, the music creator platform developed by Timbaland, to produce the album, working with up-and-coming artists from countries including the U.K., Lebanon, Sweden, Algeria, and India. The payment company introduced its sonic audio identity in 2019, and has previously used it to create a song and a TikTok campaign. According to Marketing Dive, sonic branding remains central to Mastercard’s overall branding, as audio marketing continues to grow.

Amazon’s Alexa could replicate the voice of lost loved ones
I hear dead people… Amazon is working on new technology that will enable its Alexa voice assistant to replicate the voices of people based on less than one minute of recorded speech. In a recent Amazon presentation, Rohit Prasad, SVP and head scientist of Alexa AI, said the most-likely use would be for the voices of dead loved ones. “While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss it can definitely make their memories last,” he said, according to Mashable. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that there are security concerns around such deep-fake technology. “You’re not going to remember that you’re talking to the depths of Amazon… and its data-harvesting services if it’s speaking with your grandmother or your grandfather’s voice or that of a lost loved one,” said Tama Leaver, a professor of internet studies at Curtin University in Australia. Prashad, however, believes enabling Alexa to sound like, say, a departed grandmother, could help it build greater trust with users by infusing artificial intelligence with the “human attributes of empathy and affect.”

Lebron James is taking his talents to Interpublic
Interpublic Group has formed a new joint venture with Lebron James’ content and production company SpringHill Company to connect diverse creators with IPG clients. “We are really good at finding and developing diverse talent, and with that, create amazing opportunities for brands to create authentic stories,” Devin Johnson, president of SpringHill, told Variety. “I don’t think there’s any limit to the kinds of categories or brands we can work with.” Interpublic CEO Philippe Krakowsky said working with SpringHill Company will “spark important, and sometimes difficult, conversations, elevate voices that need to be heard and help our clients connect with new creative perspectives and purpose-driven projects.” Financial terms were not disclosed, and while Springhill can work with non-IPG agencies and brands, it can’t form any other similar joint ventures.

There’s something fishy about this plane
Forget swimming upstream, these salmon are riding the jet stream. Scandinavian seafood company Bakkafrost has purchased its own Boeing 757 jet so it can get its product across the Atlantic Ocean and onto the plates of U.S. customers faster. According to The Guardian, Bakkafrost is converting the jet into a “flying fridge” capable of carrying 35 tonnes of fresh salmon from the Faroe Isles—an archipelago that sits between Scotland and Iceland—to New Jersey. The move has angered climate activists, who say that flying products to the U.S. produces 17 times more CO2 emissions than travel by boat. Bakkafrost CEO Regin Jacobsen, however, counters that the move can help it reduce emissions from air freight by 45%, since it currently flies salmon to the U.S. via London’s Heathrow Airport—increasing travel time and requiring large amounts of ice to keep the fish chilled. Jacobsen said it will help the company meet its commitment to cutting its carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, and to net zero by 2050. He also noted that air freight accounts for a small amount of its total exports, with thousands of tonnes moved by sea every week.

FTC orders Harley-Davidson to follow right-to-repair rules
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has taken action against Harley-Davidson and Westinghouse for “illegally restricting” customers’ rights to repair purchased products. The FTC has ordered the companies to remove terms in their warranties conveying that a warranty is void if a customer uses independent dealers for parts or repairs. “Consumers deserve choices when it comes to repairing their products, and independent dealers deserve a chance to compete,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “These orders require Harley and Westinghouse to fix their warranties, come clean with consumers, and ensure fair competition with independent providers. Other companies that squelch consumers’ right to repair should take notice.” According to The Verge, the FTC and some state legislatures have advocated for right-to-repair policies, along with companies like iFixit that have created campaigns aimed at pressuring hardware companies like Apple into supporting independent repairs

David Brown