It was a busy week across social this week, from Instagram rolling out and testing new features, to Netflix reportedly working on a new video game offering on the platform. We break down all these stories and more to get you up to speed with the latest industry news, so let’s get straight into it!
Is Lil Nas X Going To Prison…. Nah It’s Industry Baby
Lil Nas X has been trending across social media over the past week due to headlines suggesting the artist could be going to jail in light of the Nike controversy over the ‘Satan Shoe’. The shoes were modified Nike Air Max 97s made by art collective MSCHF in collaboration with the music artist, featuring an inverted cross, pentagram and a drop of human blood in the sole. The custom shoes were marketing tools, sold alongside the release of Lil Nas X’s song ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’- with the shoes selling out in less than a minute.
Only 666 pairs were ever made but were not authorised by Nike, the company then sued MSCHF, claiming the shoes likely caused confusion/dilution and created an erroneous association between the art collective and Nike. Now, Lil Nas X is making light of the controversy, using the headlines to promote his new song, ‘Industry Baby’. #FreeLilNasX has been trending on Twitter and the artist has been posting about an upcoming court appearance on Twitter and TikTok. Ultimately, this all led to the artist releasing a courtroom sketch on YouTube titled, ‘Lil Nas X – Industry Baby (Prelude)’. The sketch played out a courtroom scene about the Nike ‘Satan Shoe’, and almost every character was played by Lil Nas X. At the end of the sketch, the artist gets sentenced to time in prison and then announces the release of his new song – which is produced by Kanye West.
This is a great example of an artist using the internet to troll and take advantage of negative headlines to further his own career, turning narratives cultivated by news outlets into marketing strategies. Lil Nas X is one of the few artists to be so involved personally in the marketing of his music, shown through the volume of content being produce through his social channels to communicate directly with his fans in a way that feels authentic to the artist.
Is Netflix’s New Frontier Video Games?
Netflix has recently hired Mike Verdu as VP of game development to oversee plans to launch video games on the platform from next year. Mike Verdu is no stranger to the gaming industry, as a former Facebook and Electronic Arts executive. At Facebook, Verdu worked as VP of AR and VR content, helping to bring games to the Oculus VR headsets. At Electronic Arts, the industry veteran served as SVP of EA Mobile, working on game titles such as Star Wars and The Sims.
The move to video games comes as Netflix looks to branch out beyond just movies and TV show streaming. The platform has already launched an online store this year, marking a key step in the diversification of the brand. It is reported that the addition of video games to Netflix will come at no extra cost to subscribers, strengthening the argument for paying for a monthly membership over emerging competitors such as Disney + and Amazon Prime Video.
According to the Netflix Q2 earnings report, the company did not experience any huge jumps in subscriber growth due to difficulties creating hit shows during COVID. In the US and Canada, Netflix actually lost 400,000 subscribers – which is the first time the streaming giant lost subscribers in those markets since Q2 of 2019. Therefore, exploring new ways to engage subscribers through a video game category comes at the right time, as Netflix feels the heat from its competition!
Ben & Jerry’s Take A Stand
Ben & Jerry’s has long been a brand that put social causes at the heart of the brand. In the latest move, the ice cream brand has decided not to renew its contract with its licensee in Israel. This was due to the fact the brand felt that renewing would be inconsistent with their values. This will mean Israel won’t be able to distribute the ice cream in Israeli-occupied areas. The brand has instead decided to sell in Israel under a different arrangement.
The response from Israeli politicians was one of anger, stating that the ice cream brand and its parent company, Unilever was taking an “anti-Israel step”. The Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, went as far as to get on the phone with Unilever’s CEO and make it clear that the move would have “serious consequences, legal and otherwise”.
Ben & Jerry’s have come under increased pressure to take a stand on behalf of Palestinians, being a brand so vocal when it comes to social causes. However, the move has caused a huge amount of criticism, dominating the news in Israel. The political establishment in Israel even went as far as to call the company “antisemitic”.
BBC Radio 1Xtra Launches The ‘Pressed’ Podcast
On Friday the 23rd July, BBC Radio 1Xtra launched a brand new podcast that will run as a twelve-episode series named ‘Pressed’. The podcast will “speak to Gen-Z weekly about what is happening on the timeline and all things adulting as social media influencers Mariam Musa, Nella Rose and Adeola Patronne unapologetically share their own thoughts and ask audiences what has them ‘pressed’ each week”.
With podcast listenership in the UK increasing year on year, this is another example of how platforms like the BBC are attracting new audiences by contracting influencer talent. The BBC is looking to convert the combined followings of all three influencers from both Instagram and YouTube to podcast listeners on BBC Sounds.
This partnership is evidence of a shift to engage Gen Z audiences through podcasts and follows the trend of podcast platforms investing in social media talent as we’ve seen with a huge exclusivity deal between Spotify and Alexandra Cooper.
Faze Clan Moves In On Podcast
FaZe Rug, also known as Brian Awadis, is the most followed and viewed FaZe Clan member in the organisation. For those who haven’t heard of FaZe Clan, it is essentially an esports and entertainment organisation, with a number of members from around the world with hyper-loyal fanbases and a HQ in Los Angeles. Recently it was announced that FaZe Rug would be launching a new podcast called ‘All Grown Up’.
The podcast will be hosted with his friend and videographer, and will showcase the two sharing personal stories around themes of mental health and the reality of social media. Special guests will also appear throughout the series and will launch July 18th on all major podcast platforms – as well as a video podcast on YouTube.
It is also reported that FaZe Clan is currently working on a number of other podcast projects due to the dominance of this format taking hold among creators. We’ve already seen the success of Logan Paul’s podcast ‘Impaulsive’, and other creators have already diversified their formats to accommodate for the popularity of creator podcasts. This also comes at a time when more platforms are making way for podcast and audio content – with audio formats being cited as the next big shift in the digital experience through social.
The KSI & Logan Paul Podcast
KSI and Logan Paul have long been opponents, going back and forth on social media, most notably headlining two very successfully boxing matches that have helped usher in a new generation of fans to the world of boxing.
However, the two finally put aside their beef and have come together for a number of projects in the UK. Not too long ago there was speculation of a Sidemen and Logan Paul collaboration, which finally came to fruition this week in a YouTube video titled, “Sidemen Extreme Fishing vs Logan Paul”. The Sidemen are essentially a collective of KSI’s closest friends who are also very successful creators in their own right, all coming together under a channel named ‘The Sidemen’ which pulls in millions of views on a weekly basis. KSI also announced that Logan was involved in The KSI Show – a digital event around the release of his new studio album. Finally, the collaboration ended with a podcast where the two creators talked about their journey from adversaries to friends, resulting in social media going wild creating memes reacting to the end of the ‘internet drama’.
Both the Sidemen video and the podcast, which was published on Logan’s ‘Impaulsive’ podcast channel, has now collectively amassed nearly 17 million views – proving to be the collaboration that both their fans never saw coming but also something they always wanted to happen.
BTS & YouTube Shorts
YouTube’s Shorts was recently made available in all regions and the platform have now announced a Shorts dance challenge in collaboration with the popular K-pop band, BTS.
YouTube will be encouraging BTS fans to post Shorts between July the 23rd to August the 14th, replicating the dance moves from the ‘Permission to Dance’ music video. BTS will then be selecting their favourite Shorts to be included in an official compilation video.
The collaboration with BTS is a huge opportunity for the platform to get users to adopt the use of Shorts to interact with challenges, which has become a popular element of how users engage across TikTok. It is also a calculated move to start with a dance challenge, due to this being the most defining content trend across TikTok that has given rise to some of the biggest creators on the platform, such as Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio. In addition to this, BTS are one of the top 5 most-viewed artists on YouTube this year and have a huge global following of dedicated fans that are extremely active across social – making the collaboration a huge opportunity to launch an interactive challenge through the short-form video feature.
Instagram Tests New Collaboration Feature
Instagram has launched a test feature, enabling users to post collaborative updates in feed and Reels content. The option is being named “Collab”, allowing two users to be shown as two profile bubbles on posts to signify a partnership.
As explained by Instagram’s VP of product:
“Collaborating is a huge part of how people connect on Instagram. To make that easier, we’re testing a new way for people to co-author on Feed posts and Reels, called Collab. From the tagging screen, you can now invite another account to be a collaborator on the post or Reel. If they accept, both accounts will appear in the post or Reel header, and it will be shared to both sets of followers.”
Each collaborator will have access to post stats and a single stream of comments will be available on each Collab update. This test could help maximise engagement and help increase the reach of content. This format could also help support content shared by influencers and brands, helping to post content on both accounts and benefit from the shared exposure. This new option is currently in testing with select accounts in the UK and India, but could prove to be a very exciting feature for a future global rollout.
Instagram’s New Sensitive Content Control Option
Instagram has added a new way to help users manage content that is recommended to them through a ‘Sensitive Content Control’, which is located under the account settings on the app. The new control will provide three options for restricting content that include:
Only those over the age of 18 will be able to select the ‘Allow’ option, removing restrictions on the displayed content. In addition, all users are set to ‘Limit’ on the rollout of the feature, meaning users will have to go into their settings if they wish to remove any restrictions on content that is recommended to them.
Instagram has been working on ways to identify and limit the reach of borderline content, this process involves content moderators labelling borderline content and then training AI systems to automatically identify such content. Like any system, this won’t be perfect and some fear that content that is classified as art or activism may be restricted through this automated process and new content control.
TikTok’s Spark Ads
TikTok has a new ad option named ‘Spark Ads’, enabling brands to sponsor already trending organic content that aligns with their offerings. Brands will essentially get an association boost without having to create any content or commission a creator.
Through the new ad option, brands can identify existing organic videos that might align with a current brand campaign, brands can then reach out to the creators and use their videos for paid activity. A brand will be able boost organic posts or content created by influencers and convert them into In-Feed Ads or TopView ads – helping to maximise the brand reach of content with videos already performing well for audiences on the platform. The added benefit of the ad option is putting paid behind existing content that can also have a targeted focus.
Spark Ads aligns with TikTok’s tagline “Make TikToks Not Ads”, as it helps boost native TikTok content that doesn’t feel like the overly commercialised ad content seen on other social platforms. This is particularly important as TikTok’s core audience is Gen Z, who are notorious for having ad blindness due to growing up in a digital age filled with intrusive ad content such as pop-ups and banner ads.
Snapchat’s 3D Avatars
Snapchat is adding 3D Bitmoji avatars to the app, helping to elevate your virtual character within the platform. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new characters will include over 1,200 different combinations of facial expressions, poses, backgrounds and gestures.
This addition will be interesting for the capabilities of fashion brands. In the past Snapchat has partnered with the likes of Adidas and Ralph Lauren, making available virtual items that users can dress their Bitmoji characters in. As more people spend the majority of their time online, a virtual persona is becoming an appealing part of the experience. Early websites and social platforms experimented with fully customisable avatars, but Snap is one of the larger social platforms that fully invested in the capabilities of online avatars through Bitmoji. Snapchat will soon have the opportunity to build out a fully shoppable experience, making Bitmoji items buyable through the app.
What is also interesting is the fact 70% of Snap users already have linked their Bitmoji avatar to their account, and Gen Z (who make up the majority of Snaps user base) are driven by personalised and customisable experiences. Offering further ways to customise their online persona could be a huge opportunity for the platform to strengthen brand partnerships and generate more revenue through in-app purchases.