What in the World—Week of March 6

A trashy new campaign from United

United Airlines has announced a new partnership with a TV star whose personal life has always been a mess and who’s known for being a grouch on set. Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch is the airline’s first ever Chief Trash Officer, starring in a new consumer education campaign about sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Oscar will appear in 30 pieces of video, digital and OOH content.

SAF is made from used cooking oil and agricultural waste, and could one day be made from household trash. As an alternative to conventional jet fuel, SAF reduces greenhouse gas emissions. “From banana peels to fryer grease, Oscar is uniquely qualified to help us explain why trash could be the treasure that fuels the jets of the future,” said United’s chief communications officer, Josh Earnest.

Powerade’s new star, gets into new trouble

Powerade’s new endorsement deal with Ja Morant has gotten off to a not-great start. The problem? The rising NBA star, who plays with the Memphis Grizzlies, posted a video on Instagram Live late Friday in which he appears to be holding a gun in a nightclub. Morant is set to appear in $10 million ad campaign for a relaunch of the Coca-Cola brand, just ahead of the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament. Executives reportedly said the campaign would be “the biggest marketing blitz in the brand’s 36-year history,” as it seeks to close the gap on PepsiCo-owned category frontrunner Gatorade.

Aside from the ads, Powerade has a new formulation and packaging. The Instagram video, which led to a two-game suspension by the Grizzlies, is not the first time Morant has been in trouble: in January, it was alleged someone in a car with Morant pointed the laser sight of a gun at members of the Indiana Pacers, and on Wednesday, the day the deal with Powerade was announced, The Washington Post published a story claiming Morant punched a teenager during a pickup basketball game.

Senators ask Meta to leave kids out of metaverse

Two U.S. Senators have formally written Meta asking it not to market its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds to youth 13 to 17. The letter is in response to a Wall Street Journal report that Facebook’s parent company would expand to younger users because of retention problems with its current 18+ user base.

Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal called Meta’s plan “unacceptable” in light of the company’s “record of failure to protect children and teens,” reported CNN. “Your plans to imminently pull these young people into an under-researched, potentially dangerous virtual realm with consequences for their physical and mental health is unacceptable,” they wrote, adding: “Any strategy to invite young users into a digital space rife with potential harms should not be driven by a goal to maximize profit.”

Toblerone is no longer Swiss enough

The famously triangular chocolate bar Toblerone has to remove the famous Matterhorn from its packaging, and replace the line “of Switzerland” to “established in Switzerland.” The changes follow a decision by parent company Mondelez to shift some production from Switzerland to Slovakia, a move which effectively violates the strict “Swissness.” Since 2017, businesses have had to meet strict criteria to use Swiss symbols or call themselves Swiss-made—the government claims Swiss branding can add as much as 50% to the value of luxury goods, reported NPR.

For food, 80% of raw materials must come from Switzerland and 100% for milk and dairy, while all essential processing must be done in the country. A Mondelez spokesperson told a Swiss newspaper that the company will replace the Matterhorn with a “modernized and streamlined mountain logo” that still matches the iconic “triangular aesthetic,” while the BBC reported the packaging will include a “distinctive new Toblerone typeface and logo that draw further inspiration from the Toblerone archives and the inclusion of our founder, Tobler’s, signature.”

Gucci begins campaign with Elliot Page

Gucci released a new campaign for its Guilty fragrance starring Canadian actor Elliot Page, along with Ozark star Julia Garner and rapper Asap Rocky last week. In typical fragrance advertising fashion, the anchor spot mashes up quixotic takes on everyday moments—Page watering flowers, and Rocky reading the newspaper—with more sultry scenes of prolonged eye contact and near kisses.

“A world of open-hearted bliss,” is how the luxury fashion brand described the campaign. “In this space of imagination, they celebrate the countless iterations of love, embodying self-acceptance and showing how openness unleashes the purest form of expression.” While Out simply called it “the kind of polyamorous throuple we’d love to be a part of.” Canadian actor Page, who came out as transgender in 2020, told Elle that this is the first ad campaign he’d ever done. Page also stars in the upcoming fourth and final season of The Umbrella Academy. Page began the show before he transitioned, and the show’s creators decided his character would also transition.

David Brown