Tops and Flops of the Week: Branson, Beckham, Admiral, Budweiser, Doncaster and more

The PRWeek team picks its comms masterstrokes and missteps of the past seven days.

Tops of the Week

Admiral

Brands publicising things they are doing to proactively help the public during the crisis, version 167. Hats off to Admiral – this one worked a treat.

The insurance company is giving an automatic £25 refund to all its customers in the coming weeks for each car and van covered by Admiral on 20 April, a total of 4.4m vehicles.

"We’re giving our customers the refund to reflect that there have been fewer cars on the road during the lockdown and we expect this to result in fewer claims," Admiral stated.

A host of positive headlines followed about the insurer refunding £110m-worth of premiums.

What raises 'purpose' marketing around the crisis from a nice bit of publicity into something with wider resonance? Originality. Admiral was the first major player in its sector to adopt this policy, which provided a decent news angle and portrayed the firm as an industry leader doing the right thing.

John Harrington, UK editor

Budweiser

The US beer giant Budweiser won plaudits for reinventing its famous ‘Whassup’ ad for coronavirus times.

The spot stars Dwyane Wade, Gabrielle Union, Candace Parker, Chris Bosh and DJ D-Nice on a group video chat asking each other ‘Wasssssupp’. The phrase was immortalised in 1999 when Budweiser’s original ad came out.

What’s nice about this one is the touching end when they ask each other if they are “staying safe” during quarantine. It’s Budweiser’s second impressive creative in the past month. Its moving ‘One Team’ spot sought to bring ‘red’ and ‘blue’ America together to fight the pandemic.

It’s very difficult to get these sorts of spots right without coming across as contrived, so I’m toasting Budweiser’s effort.

Arvind Hickman, news editor

Doncaster Council

Doncaster Council’s Twitter feed has been getting a lot of love this week, from people living far beyond the town's boundaries. But what has caught people’s attention? Along with all the usual information you would expect from a local authority, Doncaster Council’s outstanding social media team has delved into the realms of history, comedy and popular culture – often to discuss the current crisis and its myriad effects, but with a deft touch.

If the main purpose of social media within a public sector comms team is to engage people with content and give that organisation a human face, Doncaster Council is winning on every front. Keep it up, folks.

Ian Griggs, associate editor

Flops of the Week

Government’s response to the media

Last weekend’s Sunday Times article, critiquing what it described as missed opportunities in the Government’s early response to the pandemic, marked a shift in tone from the British media.

Until last weekend, mainstream media outlets appeared keen to be seen as being supportive of the Government; dutifully repeating key messages, expressing sympathy for the Prime Minister and giving decision-makers breathing room rather than adding to the pressure.

The mood has changed and the Government can now expect tougher questioning, as the audiences of media outlets increasingly demand they hold ministers to account.

The energy and resources which the Government asked its comms teams to pour into a 2,000-word, rambling response to the Sunday Times on Monday – along with tetchy replies to other critical articles – was a waste.

If the Government feels the media is no longer being supportive, it would do better to answer the questions it has been asked, stop being evasive and re-engage media outlets (all of them) by explaining its strategy.

It’s not the role of journalists to be blindly supportive. They are there to help hold our decision-makers to account and to act as one of several pillars of a functioning democracy. It was ever thus, even at moments of similar peril in history.

Ian Griggs

Sir Richard Branson

PRWeek has called out veteran corporate mavericks acting like dinosaurs before, but this week Virgin’s boss, Sir Richard Branson, took it to a new level.

In the UK, he released a statement explaining the reasons why Virgin Atlantic needed a government ‘commercial loan’ and even offered to use his luxury private Caribbean island as collateral. That’s all well and good, but when Branson didn’t get his way in Australia, he took to social media to blame the government for not bailing it out.

Virgin Australia has reported annual losses for seven straight years, is loaded with sky-high debt, and none of its wealthy owners, including Branson (who holds a 10 per cent stake), but also those in Dubai, China and Singapore, contributed a dollar to save it. The public backlash has been fierce and warranted.

Arvind Hickman

Victoria Beckham

From one perspective, I have some sympathy for Victoria Beckham, who was savaged by the media after putting 25 employees of her VB fashion label on furlough. Critics accuse the former Spice Girl of needlessly taking taxpayers' money from the Government when, as a multimillionaire, she should be digging into her own pockets.

It's becoming a familar tale, and it's fair to ask why Beckham should be singled out for criticism when many other wealthy people are doing the same. One problem is the charge of hypocrisy after she appeared on One World: Together At Home to raise money for frontline health workers.

Piers Morgan tweeted: "Sorry, but this makes me puke. If you care this much about the NHS, @victoriabeckham – then why are you taking taxpayer money the NHS desperately needs – and you DON’T need – to furlough your staff & prop up your failing business?"

Beckham responded saying she has forgone her own salary and that staff have been given "enhanced packages". The Sun also quotes "friends" saying Beckham thinks the criticism has been "unfair" and she is "really upset".

In the current climate, that's unlikely to generate much sympathy, and it's a shame Beckham didn't try to win back the narrative with, for example, a heartfelt video explaining the situation and what she is doing to help.

John Harrington

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