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Volume 316

Shhh. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Relax. Now open them again because it’s time to read some coolsh*t. This week, we’ve got grimy meditation, subterranean stalking and 2021's hottest meme merch. Plus, we talk brand bravery in our latest Next Gen Insight Report.

Bern After Memeing.

In case you missed it, some sort of inauguration happened last week. It was a genuinely momentous event, but the real winner – besides Garth Brooks, whose agent somehow managed to fluke him on to the line-up – was a certain Senator from Vermont by the name of Bernie Sanders. Amongst all the pomp and circumstance sat a very chilly-looking Bernie dressed in a parka and mittens. Sounds fairly innocuous, but the internet ran with it. This week, I’ve seen him plopped down outside Trump Tower, on top of Everest, and, my personal favourite, submitting Conor McGregor with a perfectly executed rear-naked choke. And now Bernie’s jumped on the bandwagon himself, releasing his very own line of sweatshirts featuring the iconic image. He flogged them for $45 a pop and sold out immediately in all sizes. Hmm, doesn’t sound too much like a socialist Utopia to me. I definitely don’t recall Engels saying, “The state is nothing but an instrument of oppression of one class by another – and go cop that lit merch yo”. But quell your outrage and put down your sickle, as he’s only gone and donated all proceeds to Meals on Wheels Vermont. Hats off to him. Mittens, too.

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I don’t know about you, but when I’m struggling to sleep, there’s one thing that always sorts me out. It’s not counting sheep, it’s not a warm glass of milk, and it’s not a Valium – it’s Grime MCs. You too? How crazy. Obviously, I’m being ever-so-slightly sarcastic. Having Stormzy spit ‘Shut Up” right in your ear doesn’t exactly scream soothing. It literally screams ‘shut up’. But Channel 4 are flipping expectations on their heads with their new animated series ‘Rap Therapy’, featuring some of the UK’s leading rappers, MCs and singers talking candidly about mental health and the importance of mindfulness. As well as recounting their own first-hand experiences, they share some rudimentary meditation techniques for improving wellbeing. Which is basically just ASMR, but much less creepy. In this particular example, D Double E transports us to a tranquil beach in Jamaica. The crashing of the waves, the singing of the birds, the whistle of a gentle sea breeze; it is indeed incredibly soothing. At first – but then I started imagining someone playing the steel drums. Now I can’t sleep, and I want a roti and a cocktail.

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Nature is weird. And so are people. In that way, we’re quite the pair. First up: nature – why’s it weird? Well, loads of ways, obviously. Typhoons, tsunamis, that fish with the lightbulb dangling from its head – need I go on? But specifically, this week, because it decided to perfectly recreate a beloved Sesame Street character in geode form. Geologist Mike Bowers discovered the rock last week in Rio Grande Do Sul, Brazil, and the uncanny resemblance to the Cookie Monster is undeniable. Big gaping mouth, blue face, empty eyes – either it’s the Cookie Monster or it’s Nigel Farage choking on some foie gras. But why are people weird? Because some strange souls are trying to buy it for over $10,000. Now that really is the definition of ‘f*ck you money’. Housing the homeless? ‘Pfft, pass.’ Hungry children? ‘Yeah, right, what else you got?’. Rock that looks a bit like the Cookie Monster? ‘Darling, fetch my cheque book!’.

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Check the Hard Drive.

Lockdown hobbies can come in all sorts of forms. Baking’s a decent one, getting healthy is always good, can’t go wrong with a bit of reading, aprendiendo un lenguaje es bueno, etc. etc. – you get the gist. But why do all hobbies have to be so bloody useful? Why are we all wasting time trying to improve ourselves, when we could just be building a great big f*ck off tunnel? Unable to stomach any more dry, dusty, home-baked scones, that’s precisely what Max Siedentopf did. All good, nothing untoward here, Officer. But as you get closer, things get creepier. And you start to realise why Max chose to name his work ‘Tribute’. Plastered along the walls of the tunnel, from top to bottom, is a nightmarish panoply of selfies of the one and only, Kim Kardashian. The word ‘why?’ probably comes to mind at this point. The answer: to pay “the ultimate homage to this 21st century icon”. Siedentopf claims that KKW is absolutely comparable to icons of the past such as Marilyn Monroe and the Mona Lisa, and has had a greater impact on contemporary visual culture than anyone else. Granted, that may well be true – but I still think someone should keep an eye on this fella.

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Hunch Hacks.

I wasn’t sure about Alexa at first. The idea of having a device on my bedside table listening at all times just didn’t really appeal to me. And yes, I know they say it only listens when you say ‘Alexa’, but come on, it’s time to grow up – she’s always listening. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but all I know is that since I got an Alexa for Christmas, my sponsored ad suggestions have been unreal. So overall, it’s fair to say that I’m an Alexa convert. Even if it is slightly depressing that the person who I’ve spoken to most in the last month lives in a glowing orb next to my lamp. But Amazon are stepping it up a level with their new ‘Hunches’ feature, which uses machine learning to study your habits and allow Alexa to start acting of her own volition. Now Alexa can switch lights off, turn on the heating and do the hoovering, all without you even asking. I also reckon it might have a ‘hunch’ that you desperately need to buy some new garden furniture. Don’t have your card handy? No worries, Alexa will take care of that too. Does this feel like a slippery slope? Yes. Are we building a post-human society? Undoubtedly. Am I all for it anyway? You bet.

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Gen Z: Bravery, or Bullsh*t?

Last but certainly not least, we’ve just released our latest Next Gen insight report, Gen Z: Bravery or Bullshit?

Complacency kills and brands must be brave in order to survive. But much of what adland deems to be “brave” never escapes the echo chamber. Now, a new generation are calling bullsh*t on brands that promise and don’t deliver.

We’ve taken a look at how, when it comes to Next Gen consumers, the biggest risk for brands is not taking one.

Read the Report