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National PR Firm Taps 1st Black Female Leader

By April 14, 2021 August 1st, 2021 No Comments

Edelman – a leading global PR firm – has named Lisa Osborne Ross as its new U.S. CEO, who becomes the first Black woman to lead a large global agency.

Ross will begin her new post May 3 at the firm, which boasts $540 million in U.S. revenue, 13 offices and more than 2,300 employees across the nation. She was previously U.S. chief operating officer of Edelman.

She will report to Matthew Harrington, global president and chief operating officer. Edelman’s current U.S. president and CEO, Russell Dubner, has been named global vice chairman and chair of the newly formed Edelman Trust Institute.

Edelman has already undergone changes. Under Harrington, Dubner and CEO Richard Edelman, half of the new hires the firm has made in the last year have been diverse candidates, bringing the total to 27% of the U.S. workforce and 15% of leadership. The company is on track to hit its goals of 30% and 20%, respectively, by next year. 

That momentum was not only integral to Ross’ ascension but also drew her into the fold in the first place. She joined as president of the Washington, D.C. office four years ago, after a career at APCO Worldwide, Ogilvy and in the Clinton administration.

The company has also been undergoing an expansion of its capabilities and offerings. Ross led Edelman’s COVID task force and helped establish its racial justice task force after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd last year. The group has counseled more than 400 clients on addressing diversity and systemic racism.

Dubner has spent the last 29 years at Edelman, and in his new role, he will oversee growth investments, alliances and partnerships and the Edelman Trust Institute.

In 2019, Edelman was ranked No. 4 on Ad Age’s Agency A-List, thanks in large part to the kind of strong creative work traditionally the domain of ad agencies—and made by some 600 creatives hired by the firm, up from just 25 when Dubner took the reins at CEO.

Streaming Subscriptions to Rise in 2021

People aren’t cancelling their video-streaming subscriptions as we emerge from the pandemic.

Americans will add 50 million net new video subscriptions this year, according to analysts at UBS. That’s up from a 47 million increase in 2020.

New streaming entrants, more cord-cutting, and more big film releases going to streaming are all pushing that number higher.

The majority of net additions will come from four services, according to UBS. Walt Disney and ViacomCBS will each add eight million to their flagship streaming banners, Disney+ and Paramount+. AT&T and Discovery will add seven million net new subscribers to HBO Max and Discovery+, respectively.

Disney already has nearly  40 million U.S. subscribers for Disney+, but there’s still room for growth. With an expanding slate of original content and a very competitive price – even after a price hike last month – it’s sure to keep growing.

Amazon’s Share of Digital Advertising Tops 10%

Amazon’s share of the U.S. digital advertising market rose from 7.8% in 2019 to 10.3% in 2020, according to a new eMarketer report.

Amazon’s U.S. ad revenue leapt 52.5%, to $15.73 billion last year, per the estimates, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

While Google and Facebook still commanded estimated 28.9% and 25.2% shares, Amazon’s gains are expected to continue, with its share projected at 11.9% in 2022 and 12.8% in 2023.

The pandemic-driven surge in ecommerce last year accelerated Amazon’s already up trending advertising, and search in particular.

While Amazon took a small amount of share from Facebook, it is competing primarily with Google. Google’s share of total U.S. digital ad spending is projected to decline to 26.6% by 2023, from 28.9% in 2020, according to eMarketer.

In mid 2020, eMarketer projected that Google’s U.S. digital ad revenue would for the first time actually decline in 2020, to $39.58 billion from $41.8 billion in 2019.

Some traditional shopper marketing budget dollars were likely shifted to sponsored products search and other ads on Amazon’s site, which accounted for 90% of its total ad revenue, per the report.

The projections call for Amazon’s search ad revenue to grow to $14.53 billion this year, or 19% of total U.S. search ad spending – up from 13.3% in 2019. Google’s 2021 share of search is projected at 56.8%.

Amazon’s gains are expected to grow as advertisers rely more heavily on Amazon and other first party-data-driven ecommerce platforms due to Google’s phasing out of cookies.

Amazon also generates ad revenue through its Fire TV devices, ad-supported streamer IMDb TV, the live gaming platform Twitch, and ads sold on other platforms through its advertising technology.

Shocked Mic: ‘Voltswagen’ April Fools’ Joke Jolts the World

Volkswagen of America recently issued false statements saying it would change its brand name to “Voltswagen,” to stress its commitment to electric vehicles, only to reverse course and admit that the supposed name change was an April Fools’ joke.

A company spokesman confirmed to media outlets that the statement had been a pre-April Fools’ Day joke after insisting the news release was legitimate and the name change accurate. The company’s false statement was distributed numerous times, saying the brand-name change reflected a shift to more battery-electric vehicles.

Volkswagen’s intentionally fake release, highly unusual for a major public company, coincided with its efforts to repair its image as it tries to recover from a 2015 scandal in which it cheated on government emissions tests and allowed diesel-powered vehicles to illegally pollute the air.

In that scandal, Volkswagen admitted that about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide were fitted with the deceptive software. The software reduced nitrogen oxide emissions when the cars were placed on a test machine but allowed higher emissions and improved engine performance during normal driving. The scandal cost Volkswagen $35 billion in fines and civil settlements and led to the recall of millions of vehicles.

The company’s fake news release, leaked Monday, March 29 and then repeated in a mass e-mail to reporters the next day, resulted in articles about the name change in multiple media outlets, including The Associated Press.

In falsely announcing a name change, the company went beyond telling reporters that its news release was legitimate.

The stunt hasn’t dented the automaker’s reputation, though.

Despite a wave of negative headlines, Volkswagen is not any worse off with everyday consumers – but the automaker also did not help itself by pretending to rename itself “Voltswagen,” according to a new poll.

Fifty-nine percent of consumers who were aware of the stunt said it did not change their opinion of the brand, according to the Ad Age-Harris Poll. Just 20% think better of VW, while 21% said they now hold a worse opinion of the brand.

The poll found that 19% of respondents were more likely to buy a VW after learning of the prank, but 69% said it had no impact on their decision.

Only 12% stated that it would make them less likely to buy a VW.

The poll reveals a division on whether brands of any kind should participate in April Fools’ Day pranks: 54% said they should not, while 46% said they should. For those who said yes, the most commonly cited reason was “it’s a creative way for brands to advertise.” The naysayers said the pranks “create confusion for customers.”

But younger people are apparently more into the jokes – 64% of millennials and 61% of Gen Zers say brands should partake in April Fools’ Day, but only 38% of Gen Xers and 35% of baby boomers agree.

Lighten up, folks!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

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