Coronavirus Scare Halts Mobile World Congress; Brand Visibility in an Election Year: Thursday’s First Things First

Plus, the fried chicken footwear you didn't know you needed

A Barcelona sign
Mobile World Congress is typically attended by more than 100,000 people. Getty Images
Headshot of Jess Zafarris

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Mobile World Congress Canceled After Coronavirus Scares Off Major Companies

Organizers of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona announced today that this year’s conference will be canceled after more than two dozen companies pulled out due to concerns about the global coronavirus outbreak. Typically attended by more than 100,000 people, the late-February event has been the wireless industry’s biggest trade show for more than three decades. But this year’s event was already facing the prospect of a much-diminished crowd as a wave of major companies including Facebook, AT&T and Nokia said this week that they would no longer be attending for fear of exposing employees to the respiratory disease.

Read more: And with the death toll rising, the Mobile World Congress isn’t the only international conference responding to the virus.

How Brands Can Maintain Visibility During an Election Year

In an op-ed for Adweek, executive director at VCU Brandcenter Vann Graves describes how brands have always struggled to maintain market visibility during election seasons. The media space becomes invaded by political messaging, and this has only intensified in 2020’s unique political climate. U.S. voters are more politically charged than at any other time in recent history, throwing the polarization of the electorate into even sharper focus. Both the gap between the political parties and between generational values has become a chasm, leaving little middle ground for brands to occupy, which means that some brands dodge politics altogether. But how can a brand express its commitment to the social responsibility required by its younger consumers while still keeping the loyalty of its older ones?

Read more: It can be a difficult balance to achieve, and the key lies in these strategies.

Unilever to Halt Kid-Targeted Marketing on All Food and Beverage Products

Unilever, which owns Popsicle and Good Humor, announced that it would stop advertising food and beverages to kids under 12 in traditional media, and marketing to under 13 in social media. The decision is based on childhood obesity concerns. Moving forward, the multinational company will root the marketing efforts for kid-friendly food and beverage products in a new, three-pillar approach focused on assisting parents and caregivers in choosing healthy options for children. To that end, Unilever says its kid-range food and beverage products will be responsibly communicated, sold and developed, as well as subject to more than a dozen new principles outlining marketing and product strategies.

Read more: Could these new strategies kill off ice cream trucks?

iHeart Media Rolls Out New Ad Marketplace for Podcasts

Chasing industry trends, iHeart Media is about to become the latest audio company to release a custom ad network. Executives say iHeartPodcast AdSuite will tempt brands and potential partners—and set the company apart from its competitors—with a unique array of ad formats across platforms and custom tools. The new options are available to longtime advertisers, or what iHeart Media calls “premium brands,” immediately, with the goal of making real-time dashboards available to all brands by the third quarter of the year. Included in iHeartMedia’s products is a quick snapshot of audience insights, dubbed AdSuite Insights, and iHeartPodcast TakeOver, letting advertisers appear as the first ad in every iHeartPodcast that day.

Read more: It also comes at a time when the podcasting battle between iHeart and Spotify is heating up.

Best of the Rest:

Ad of the Day: KFC and Crocs Have Joined Forces to Create the Ultimate Fried Chicken Footwear

If you were hoping someone would ask you “Do I smell chicken?” alongside “Where did you get your shoes?”, then Crocs finally has the footwear for you. In partnership with KFC, the brand is releasing two new, co-branded versions of its clogs—including one with removable, chicken-scented Jibbitz charms that look like drumsticks.

Agencies Share How Leadership Can Promote a Fair, Supportive and Encouraging Environment for All Employees Year-Round

“I think it’s extremely important for companies to create environments where their employees can show up as their authentic selves. This helps employees live better lives, be more productive, bring forth the best innovative ideas and build more authentic connections with each other.”

—Corean Canty, chief operating officer, Goodway Group

“As an industry, we’ve started to talk the talk, and we’ve started the education on why diversity is business critical (e.g., enhanced creativity and greater quality outputs). And we even started to walk the walk: hiring diverse candidates, casting diverse talent, celebrating diversity in our work, and bidding diverse directors and photographers with much more intention and purpose.

In our quest for parity, there is more drilling down below the surface that we need to do. And in my opinion, more deep discussions need to be had and more allyship-in-action is needed to achieve greater levels of inclusion and belonging for marginalized groups.”

—Hana Visaya, senior project manager, RPA Advertising

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@JessZafarris Jess Zafarris is an audience engagement editor at Adweek.