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25th October 2019
Signal Editors

Signal AI Weekly PR News Roundup 25 October 2019

Here we take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly, in the PR news this week:

Uniqlo caught in South Korea ad scandal

Uniqlo, the Japanese retail giant, has been caught up in an advertising scandal in South Korea. The ad in question features 98-year-old US businesswoman and fashion icon, Iris Apfel. A big name in South Korea, as Uniqlo argued on Monday after accusations of whitewashing colonial history were levelled at the brand.

The commercial, advertising Uniqlo fleeces, had Apfel in conversation with fashion designer Kheris Rogers, 85 years her junior. The premise of the ad – summed up in Apfel’s last line, “Oh my god, I can’t remember that far back” – has sparked the controversy. Albeit due to some questionable subtitling.

The Korean arm of Uniqlo subtitled the South Korean version of the ad innacurately. With Apfel claiming that she “can’t remember things that happened more than 80 years ago.”

To the uninformed, the slight change in phrase bears little meaning. However, there has been fervent connections made to the legacy of Tokyo’s 20th-century expansionism. Despite both being US allies, Japan and South Korea have a deeply strained relationship due to Japan’s colonial expansion into Korea. Colonial rule that ended in 1939, exactly the year the South Korean version of the ad implies.

This implication is suggestive of the Korean ‘comfort women’, whom were forces to be sex slaves for the Japanese forces during World War II. And while the connection may seem like a stretch, it has been felt widely across South Korea; resulting in the pulling of the ad despite Uniqlo’s success in Korea.

Source: Japan’s Uniqlo pulls ad after South Korean fury, The Telegraph (21 October 2019).

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Macy’s makes Bloomingdale’s fur-free

On Monday, Macy’s announced that the retail company and its subsidiary, Bloomingdale’s, are planning to stop selling fur. The fur-free policy will being in February 2021 and will involve both private brands and brand partners. Fur will be removed from any outlet stores the brands own, such as Backstage and The Outlet. And all fur restoration salons will be closed down. Having said that the stores will continue to sell ethically sourced cowhide and sheepskin – used by brands such as UGG. 

The news come as no surprise and it seems that Macy’s is following the steps of other luxury brands. Chanel, Gucci, Armani and Versace have all started phasing out fur from their clothing. US cities have also followed the trend; San Francisco and Los Angeles have banned fur sales, and New York City is considering the ban. California has also become the first state to ban animal fur, beginning in 2023.

Macy’s spokesperson explained that they have been following customer trends and the no fur policy is consistent with consumers’ opinions in the marketplace.  

The announcement was received with mixed responses from animal right activists. Some of them championed Macy’s move while others speculated that the brand’s current business model is no longer commercially successful for them. US sales have been on the decline, having dropped 25% in the last 20 years. Furthermore, fur production has also seen a drastic decrease.

Observers on social media appeared to see through the brand as well.

The question is, will other big brands and department stores follow suit? And is the adoption of far away fur-free policies simply PR stunts?

Source: Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s to stop selling fur, NBC News (22 October 2019).

Political or real jungle in the jam-packed underground?

It’s PR time at the zoo. The Times and The Sunday Times transformed Westminster underground station into a jungle on Tuesday. The flora and fauna PR stunt was undertaken as part of the newspaper’s ‘Politics Tamed’ campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to underscore their commitment to inform their readers during these “confusing political times”.

The lush, foliage-filled day at Westminster tube station and the wider-campaign – Westminster obviously chosen due to it’s location near the houses of Parliament – were created in partnership with News UK’s in-house agency Pulse Creative. The green takeover also saw the station rebranded to ‘Westminster Jungle’, a call back to the advert released earlier this year portraying politicians as animals in ‘Westminster Zoo’.

Yes, it is an advertising campaign by a British broadsheet. But there’s some satiric truth in the literal portrayal of the animalistic nature of British politicians.

Source: The Times transforms Westminster tube into a jungle to underscore politics credentials, The Drum (22 October 2019).

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Ogilvy oozing PR confidence with roster of new senior hires

Times they are a changing at Ogilvy, as their recent senior hires suggest. The famous advertising and marketing agency have confidently stepped into the realm of PR and influence, and it seems as though there’s no stopping them.

Anna Carter and Toby Conlon join as client partners. With Carter joining Ogilvy UK’s integrated Walgreens Boots Alliance team after five years a Golin – and a minor flirtation with freelancing. Conlon, on the other hand, has moved from Archetype to lead Ogilvy’s cross-agency reputation offering.

Further senior hires include two new business directors, Rosey Stones and Rosie Conboy. Although confusingly both called Rosie/ey, their paths to Ogilvy couldn’t have been more different. Conboy, also joining from Golin, is handling the agency’s Bacardi portfolio and Talk.Global veteran Stones working with some of Ogilvy’s biggest retail, commercial, and ecommerce brands.

Source: Ogilvy builds PR and influence team with a series of senior hires, PRWeek (22 October 2019).

Tune in next week for another Signal AI news roundup of the top PR news of the week. But for now, you can find out more about us here.