Brands Pivot After SXSW Cancellation; Working from Home Without Losing Your Mind: Wednesday’s First Things First

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Welcome to First Things First, Adweek’s new daily resource for marketers. We’ll be publishing the content to First Things First on each morning (like this post), but if you prefer that it come straight to your inbox, you can sign up for the email here.

How Are Brands With Activations Coping After South by Southwest’s Cancellation?

For the first time in its 34-year history, South by Southwest was canceled over concerns about coronavirus. While some major brands had already pulled out, many more were not planning to—and the decision spells financial loss for brands that put a massive amount of time, effort and money into what are often elaborate SXSW projects. But some brands and their agency partners are planning to find new ways to reach consumers while still maintaining the themes and narratives they had planned for their SXSW activations.

Read more: Learn how brands are planning to pivot, and what experiential pros say are the best ways to leverage SXSW activations more safely.

Ad-Tech Companies Say They Aren’t Hurting Despite Prevalent Coronavirus Blacklisting

Thanks to strict advertiser blacklists, news publishers have historically struggled to monetize open inventory on so-called “hard news,” and coronavirus coverage is no exception. Advertisers have blacklisted “coronavirus,” and the term was the second-most blocked keyword on news sites in February. The ad-tech companies powering publishers’ sites, however, are finding it’s mostly business as usual. Cushioned by their diversified client list, ad-tech firms said they haven’t felt a notable hit to their bottom lines despite news outlets seeing lower CPMs on their coverage of the virus.

Read more: News sites that are dedicating more and more coverage to the epidemic are seeing a drop in CPMs, but the drop can be difficult to attribute to the term.

Life in the Time of Coronavirus Quarantines

As the coronavirus spreads, canceled events and a stock market crash aren’t the only things impacting businesses. Workers around the world, from employees at Twitter and Apple to the city of Seattle, are adjusting to staying home, and offices are scrambling to find ways to quickly adapt to remote operations. If you aren’t used to working from home, it can seem like a vacation at first. But remote work can be isolating and full of distractions, too.

Adweek put together a handy guide to staying sane and productive when you’re forced to work from home.

Some American companies may be sending workers home, but people in China are enduring “the largest quarantine in human history.” To cope, they’ve turned to livestreams and shopping. Even in early February, the number of livestreams on Alibaba’s Taobao Live platform had more than doubled from the same time last year. In one particularly unusual trend, viewers are asking livestreamers to visit restaurants and stream themselves eating so they can vicariously enjoy the dining experience. Plus, people are looking to stay fit at home and buying exercise equipment.

Here’s what else quarantined people in China are doing with their time.

More in Coronavirus News:

  • America’s airlines want travelers to know their planes are sanitized and ready to fly despite the outbreak. Over the past week, almost every major airline has sent a letter to ticketed travelers and members of their loyalty programs emphasizing that airlines are still perfectly safe. However, Delta Airlines and American Airlines will be making drastic cuts to their domestic and international capacity.
  • D.C.’s Environmental Film Festival, originally planned for March 12-22, will go virtual beginning next week and screen select films online, and Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival was postponed and delayed until October.
  • Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden canceled rallies set for this evening in Cleveland.
  • Keep up with the latest coronavirus news by checking our tracker, with real-time updates of the latest cancellations, developments and impacts on advertising and marketing.

Burger King’s Fernando Machado: 5 Lessons We Learned by Unleashing the Moldy Whopper

There’s a lot to unpack here. Burger King CMO Fernando Machado had the marketing community’s attention a few weeks ago with the release of the brand’s Moldy Whopper campaign. In the aftermath, Machado wrote about what the brand learned from the campaign. Some of his key takeaways and data:

  • In his view, a good CMO needs to be doing two things at the same time. First, you need to drive sales. He doubts any CMO will last too long if the brand is tanking in sales. Second, you need to make your brand “future-proof.”
  • Positive and neutral sentiments were aligned with previous campaigns, despite reports that suggested the public reacted negatively to it.
  • On Facebook, there were almost 1.4 million total minutes viewed on the Moldy Whopper video, and 39% of total viewers watched all 45 seconds of the video. Burger King typically sees users start to drop off at around 4 seconds into a video.
  • The awareness around Burger King having no artificial ingredients is 5x higher among people who saw Moldy Whopper than among those who didn’t see Moldy Whopper.

Read: On top of a number of insights, Machado shared 5 lessons that the brand learned from the stunt.

Best of the Rest: Today’s Top News & Highlights

Ad of the Day: How Apple Filmed a 5-Hour Ad on an iPhone 11 Pro in a Single Take Without Recharging

To illustrate the battery life of the iPhone 11 ProApple and agency TBWAMedia Arts Lab London today unveiled an unprecedented epic of an ad, clocking in at 5 hours, 19 minutes and 28 seconds—all filmed on the smartphone in a single take without ever recharging the battery. The ad takes viewers on a meandering and rich tour of the sprawling Hermitage museum in Russia. You can get a flavor of the project with this trailer, which compacts the longer film’s tour a more manageable 90 seconds, but we highly recommend taking the time to watch more of the full video.

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