What in the World—Week of November 28

Luxury brands have become a youthful pursuit
Teens used to pursue the latest fashions from The Gap, Nike and Abercombie & Fitch, but today’s millennials and Gen Zs are increasingly being drawn to luxury brands like Gucci and Balenciaga. It’s the result of what Quartz describes as a “bold, decades-long shift to open up luxury shopper’s base to younger customers.”

Citing research from Bain & Co. and Italian luxury goods association Altagamma, Quartz reports that millennials and Gen Z made up 40% of North American luxury shoppers in 2019, and 44% globally, and those numbers could reach as high as 70% by 2025.

This increased fluency in designer goods is being spurred by fashion resale sites, the rise of social media, and brands themselves meeting them where they live—such as categories like sneakers and kidswear. Luxury is also increasingly prevalent in culture, with Bank of America’s analysis of Billboard Hot 100 year-end singles finding that mentions of luxury brands and products in songs has shot up since the early 2000s.

Kardashian calls out Balenciaga 
Balenciaga brand ambassador Kim Kardashian says she is “disgusted and outraged” by a controversial holiday ad campaign by the luxury brand, which featured children holding plush bear bags in which the teddies appeared to be dressed in bondage gear.

The brand has since taken down all the advertising, and said it plans to sue production company North Six, Inc. and a set designer for using “unapproved items” during the shoot. It also addressed another ad for its Hourglass Handbag which displayed what it called “unsettling documents,” which refers to a Supreme Court case on child pornography laws.

USA Today reported that Kardashian is currently reassessing her relationship with the company, which has more than 14 million followers on Instagram, and has completely scrubbed its channel of content. (It also issued an apology on Monday.)

Dentsu HQ raided in Tokyo Olympics investigation
Japanese prosecutors raided the head office of Dentsu in Japan on Friday, part of a far-reaching corruption investigation related to the Tokyo Olympics, reports Reuters. The advertising holding company dominates marketing and PR in Japan, and played a key role in Tokyo landing the games, and subsequently managing domestic sponsorships.

But in recent months, Dentsu has been at the centre of a widening scandal, with a former executive jailed for accepting bribes from businesses that wanted to become Olympic sponsors. He is alleged to have received more than 190 million yen, or about US$1.4 million.

“The latest investigation centers around bid-rigging for places to be picked for test events,” according to Reuters, citing other Japanese media. “The test events started in 2018, spanning various sports including sailing and weightlifting, to prepare for the Olympics. Being chosen for test events is critical to being picked for actual Olympic venues.”

The Athletic to double women’s sports coverage
Thanks to a new partnership with Google, The Athletic—the digital sports media start-up acquired by The New York Times early this year—plans to double its coverage of women’s professional sports.

It is looking to hire new journalists to focus on women’s sports, starting with the WNBA and soccer ahead of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. While advertisers have been slow to support women’s sports in the past, there has been “a sizable uptick this year in brands showing interest,” The Athletic’s chief commercial officer, Seb Tomich, told Axios.

Aside from written articles on The Athletic, the deal could include podcasts and newsletters, and will eventually expand to include other sports like golf, tennis and hockey. The move is expected to help boost readership and revenue from the Times’ female readership. While The Athletic launched with subscriptions as its only source of revenue, it introduced advertising to the site in September.

New Honda Sony EV could come with a built-in PS5
Back in March, Honda and Sony announced that they were teaming up to develop electric vehicles for sale as early as 2025. And according to news reports, those cars may come with a PlayStation 5 included in the cars themselves.

Honda and Sony want to develop a car as hardware that will “cater to the entertainment and network” they want to offer, said Yasuhide Mizuno, chair of Sony Honda Mobility. “Effectively, its electric vehicle is intended to be a content consumption device on wheels,” explains The Verge.

That includes making the cars fully autonomous. “To enjoy the space in your car, you have to make it a space where you don’t need to drive,” said Izumi Kawanishi, president of the joint venture. This is also where Sony can contribute: while Honda has a long history of building cars, Sony brings some of the sensor expertise and other technology needed for autonomous driving.

—Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Chris Powell