T-Mobile Launches $10.7 Billion Initiative To Give Free Internet Access To 10 Million Student Households

T-Mobile has launched a $10.7 billion initiative called Project 10Million to make internet connectivity more accessible to underserved student households navigating remote online learning. The company has partnered with school districts across the nation to offer free mobile hotspots, 100GB of free high-speed data for five years, plus access to at-cost laptops and tablets—valued at about $500 per student household. Unlimited data options for school districts to pass on to eligible students at no cost are also available as part of the program’s expansion.

In a 10-minute video posted to the company’s YouTube account, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert explained how Project 10Million started, noting that even before the pandemic, more than 9 million of America’s 56 million school-age kids lacked access to internet connectivity. As a result, students are unable to complete after-school assignments and receive lower grades. Researchers predict students with poor or no connectivity can lose up to 14 months of learning over time compared to their peers with internet access, also known as the “COVID Slide” effect.

“Just in New York alone, T-Mobile is helping more than 350,000 students with iPads and data as they start their virtual classes. We’ve also partnered with the California Department of Education and Apple to connect another million students as they go back to school and start virtual learning,” Mike Katz, executive vice president of T-Mobile for business, said in the video.

At the start of the pandemic, T-Mobile observed virtual learners were using about 33GB of data per month. Since then, the company has connected 1.6 million students across 3,100 school districts with free or highly subsidized services, according to Sievert.

T-mobile first announced Project 10Million in November 2019 in anticipation of its merger with Sprint. The initiative marks the third and final element of T-Mobile’s 1.0 5G for Good commitments that the company announced before the merger was approved. In March, the company launched T-Mobile Connect, which offers half-off of its lowest-priced plan. A few months later came ‘Connecting Heroes,’ a program that gives first responders free 5G access for a full decade.

Red Wing Shoe Company Launches #LaborDayOn Movement

This Labor Day, Red Wing Shoe Company is forgoing sales to help millions of Americans unemployed due to COVID-19 find jobs through an initiative called #LaborDayOn. The brand will transform its 525 Red Wing Shoe stores into job centers and turn its customer service line into a job search hotline.

Red Wing is calling on brands to do the same and post job openings with the hashtag #LaborDayOn. So far, over 50 brands have pledged to use their own marketing channels to promote openings, including Burger King, General Mills, Johnsonville, Land O’ Lakes, New Balance, Polaris, Sleep Number and more. On the campaign’s microsite, a toolkit that includes job listing and social media templates is available to download.

In addition to promoting #LaborDayOn via its social channels, Red Wing has created a video featuring clickable, open positions at Red Wing and affiliated trade partners.

Job seekers can gain free guidance and learn about job listings when they call the 800-RED-WING line on Labor Day.

“For 25 million unemployed Americans, this Labor Day won’t be a day off. So, we’re not taking one either,” reads the brand’s social media posts.

In March 2019, Red Wing opened its first-ever permanent flagship store in New York City, a 3,300-square-foot space featuring a boot repair and care bar, experts to help with fit, an interactive wall that pays tribute to tough jobs done while wearing Red Wing boots and an immersive boot construction display.

A few months later, in May, the brand launched a new work boot made from start to finish in its US facility for the first time in two decades after an arduous road to bring production home.

Recently, Red Wing has launched new boot styles to target women and younger generations.  

Barefoot Teams With Black Eyed Peas To Launch Charitable AR Music Experience

Barefoot has teamed up with the Black Eyed Peas to launch an augmented reality (AR) music experience called “Band Together” on the Barefoot Wine app that gives back to two non-profit organizations.

Barefoot is also collecting emails as part of a giveaway consumers can enter for a chance to win a virtual meet and greet with the Black Eyed Peas.

Starting today, when consumers scan the quick response (QR) code on “Band Together” store displays or the foot logo on select Barefoot products using the Barefoot app, they can enjoy a virtual AR performance by the Black Eyed Peas. 

In a 30-second video spot posted across Barefoot’s social channels, the group is shown as avatars performing an exclusive version of their newest single, “VIDA LOCA,” which they debuted at the 2020 MTV VMAs finale.

With each additional Barefoot product scanned, new parts of the “VIDA LOCA” song will be added until the full song is heard. Custom animated visuals of Black Eyed Peas will appear with each label scan.

For every label scan from now until the end of the “Band Together” campaign on December 31, Barefoot will donate $1 to the American Cancer Society and Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE), a non-profit that supports food and beverage service employees with kids— up to $100,000 total.

Products featuring the scannable AR music experience include the Barefoot Still Wines and Seltzers.

To enter for a chance to virtually meet the Black Eyed Peas, fans can either enter their email and zip code on the campaign website or follow @barefootwine and share their AR “Band Together” experience on Instagram or Twitter with the tags @barefootwine and #BFTxVidaLocaSweeps.

Barefoot’s parent company E. & J. Gallo Winery has seen a surge in sales since the pandemic as consumers host virtual celebrations and look for new ways to spend their time at home.

“The rise of virtual observances – happy hours, baby showers, birthdays and even weddings – means consumers are using technology in new ways while enjoying wine and spirits as a part of their connections. Several of our wineries are now engaging consumers through weekly virtual happy hours with winemakers and cooking demonstrations with chefs,” said Stephanie Gallo, Chief Marketing Officer, E. & J. Gallo.

Capitalizing on the increase in at-home cooking during lockdowns, E. & J. Gallo Winery launched a weekly cooking demo on Instagram Live called “Supper Series” hosted by the executive chefs of two separate California wineries.

From February 23 through May 2, when stay-at-home orders took effect, wine total dollar sales increased by 38 percent, with unit sales up by 32 percent, according to Catalina. In addition, 46 percent of wine buyers made a repeat purchase versus 36 percent a year ago.

US Consumer Confidence Reaches Six-Year Low As COVID-19 Worries Remount

As worries over COVID-19 remount, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index plunged to a reading of 84.8 in August, the lowest since May 2014. In July, the reading was 91.7.

The decline, which marks the second consecutive monthly decrease in consumer confidence reported by the Conference Board, is based on consumers’ assessment of the current labor market and incomes.

Consumer perception of the job market plummeted to a score of -3.7 in August, down from 2.2 in July—figures that reflect recent unemployment rates reported by the US Department of Labor.

From August 16 to August 22 alone, just over a million people applied for unemployment insurance. In total, about 27 million people are receiving some form of unemployment.

The grim outlook is in part due to the federal government canceling $600 weekly unemployment checks at the end of July.

Consumers also have doubts about their incomes, as the number of respondents anticipating an increase in pay dropped to 12.7 percent in August, down from 14.8 percent in July. Those who expect a decline in their income increased from 15.8 percent in July to 16.6 percent in August.

“This reinforces our view that a V-shaped recovery will not happen, the U.S. economy is unlikely to recover all of its lost output until mid-2022,” James Knightley, chief international economist at ING in New York, told Reuters.

The Conference Board’s data reinforce the findings of a consumer survey conducted by Dunnhumby, whose “Worry Index” reached 29 percent in August, up six percent from June and just below the 30% it reached at the pandemic’s start.

In addition, Dunnhumby’s survey revealed people’s concerns about the cost of food, with 42 percent saying they’ve noticed an increase in food prices since the beginning of the pandemic.

Despite a surge in online grocery shopping, in-store grocery trips account for 65 percent of all food trips, according to Dunnhumby. Still, 27 percent worry they could become exposed to COVID-19 while at the grocery store.

Listen In: What Can Hispanic Market Advertising Teach Us About Our Craft?

(Originally aired September 1st on LinkedIn Live.)

On the show today, we’re featuring a conversation between Ayzenberg’s Matt Bretz and VP of strategy and planning at Acento, Angelica Garcia.

Cross-cultural sensitivity is nothing new to Angelica Garcia. She shares highlights from her thirty-plus year career in the ad business and the ins-and-outs of Hispanic market advertising.

Her takeaway for marketers is that the often complicated task of reaching multi-generational and ethnically, linguistically, culturally diverse Hispanic audiences with the right message, is one we can learn from as it relates to our own craft.

About Listen In: Each week on Listen In, Bretz and a rotating cast of hosts from Ayzenberg interview experts in the field of marketing and advertising to explore uncharted territory together. The goal is to provide the a.network audience with actionable insights, enabling them to excel in their field.

Master P Launches Packaged Foods Line With A Purpose

Master P has launched a line of packaged foods with a purpose called Uncle P’s Louisiana Seasoned as an alternative to brands like Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima, who recently came under fire for their racist brand identities.

In March, the rapper and his partner, James Lindsey, created PJ Foods Company to encourage other black-owned companies to change the narrative and launch their own products.

Uncle P’s Louisiana Seasoned products include flavored rices, beans, syrup, oatmeal, grits and pancake mix.

A portion of profits from the Uncle P’s brand will go toward educating inner-city kids, helping elderly people in black communities and developing real estate in black neighborhoods, he told CNN. In addition, the brand has plans to create more job opportunities with upward mobility for black employees.

“When you look at Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, a lot of those products are mockeries of African-American people and couldn’t even feed our communities. With Uncle P, the more we make, the more we give. And the only way to give is by owning these products,” said Master P.

Black Lives Matter protests induced corporate America’s racial reckoning, which led brands like Uncle Ben’s, Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat and Mrs. Butterworth’s to update their brand packaging after many pointed out that their mascots and imagery have racist origins.

Major retailers and social media platforms alike have launched initiatives to promote black-owned brands as searches for black-owned companies have surged. For example, Sephora announced it will dedicate 15 percent of shelf space for black-owned brands. Pinterest debuted a Pinterest Shop collection featuring over 600 products from 20 black-owned beauty and fashion brands, while Facebook is making it easier to discover black-owned businesses by enabling page admins to self-identify and appear in the “Black-owned Businesses” subsection in the “Business Nearby” tab.

Listen In: How Do We Grow Black Leaders In Design And Advertising?

(Originally aired August 25th on LinkedIn Live.)

On the show today, we’re featuring a conversation between Ayzenberg’s Matt Bretz and co-founder and CCO of Pastilla Inc., Rudy Manning.

Rudy and Matt discuss BIPOC representation in the field of graphic design as well as Rudy’s path to commercial design. Rudy also discusses how his passion for design was sparked while in adolescence and explains his various initiatives, namely with Price School, to foster design awareness at an early age among black youth. Matt and Rudy then discuss how to make a difference in the local community of Pasadena by taking swift action, including a pledge to reconvene in six months to check on progress.

About Listen In: Each week on Listen In, Bretz and a rotating cast of hosts from Ayzenberg interview experts in the field of marketing and advertising to explore uncharted territory together. The goal is to provide the a.network audience with actionable insights, enabling them to excel in their field.

Gary Goodman’s Creative Picks: Create Bigger Waves

Gary Goodman here. We’re diverging from our normal programming to share a new voice and perspective this week.

Even if you don’t know Rob Matthews, you’ve certainly felt the waves created by his work at either Xbox or Nintendo as the former head of global integrated marketing at Xbox. He’s also the founder and managing partner of Swiftwater Group. Take it away Rob!

There are brands that create waves of change and those that simply ride the waves of others.

The brands that people love, the ones that change the world, create big waves. But that requires courage—to get out of the wake of others and find your own open water. Conviction—knowing who you are and why you matter. And a clear vision—one that will inspire others and create relevancy. 

The three campaigns highlighted below are radically different, yet they share a common attribute—they come from brands that create big waves in popular culture. As a marketer, I always try to find an intersection between strategy and imagination. Where the narrative rings true for my brand and product but also strikes an emotional chord with my audience. 

These campaigns find that intersection. They each remain true to their respective brands and will speak volumes to their fans. But they also tap into a bigger concept that everyone can relate to, regardless of whether or not you use their products. Two of them do it with a sense of bigness and scale. One does it more intimately. But all three tap into the current cultural ethos.

Apple: “Vertical Cinema”

Apple’s latest “shot on iPhone” campaign redefines the concept of cinema.  For years they have been rewriting the rules of photography, giving everyone with an iPhone the ability to take professional-quality images. Now they are doing the same with film. 

Historically, there has been a clear distinction between “shooting a video” and producing “cinematic film.” But their new campaign blurs the lines between the two. And for good reason, vertical video is rapidly growing as more people are using their phones to tell their stories. But Apple wanted to go beyond the six-to-ten-second videos that tend to dominate the vertical landscape. They set out to prove that their phones could produce Hollywood-quality cinema, while also pushing content creators to raise the bar.

The timing is not lost on me. As Hollywood struggles to come back to life, and the flow of new cinematic content slows, more and more people are turning to their phones for their video entertainment. Apple is leaning into that void by demonstrating that the historical concept of “cinema” is no longer valid. Previously defined by its wide-screen format and expansive canvas, cinema is now vertical. 

Why it matters: By leaning into their heritage with content creators and tastemakers, Apple is once again redefining a category and positioning themselves as the quality bar to beat. They have done this for years, dominating popular culture and driving mindshare far greater than their market share would dictate. This holds true today, with Apple coming in a distant second in share to Android globally. But market share has never stopped Apple from behaving like a leader. Which is why they continue to be the brand of choice for creators who take their craft seriously. 

The details: The 9-minute launch film was created by TBWA/Media Arts Lab and was directed by Academy Award-winning director, Damien Chazelle, whose previous works include Whiplash and La La Land. It takes viewers on a journey through numerous film genres and is packed with amazing stunts and camera techniques. All shot on iPhone.

Burger King: Safe Order Masks

I love a great stunt. Let me rephrase that—I love a great stunt that is done well. Burger King Belgium is about to launch a social campaign that caught my eye because of its authenticity. Now Burger King is no stranger to game-changing creativity and stunts that drive virality. But this one is a bit different because of how personal it is to their fans.

We have all seen a lot of marketing lately with face masks. And every brand is trying to figure out how to balance their need to market with a desire to be sensitive to the situation we are all going through. But few have found a way to do so with such a laser-sharp focus. 

As more and more people are moving about, interacting with others through a mask can be challenging. It is particularly difficult to talk or to be heard. I find myself constantly asking people to repeat themselves. I can only imagine how this is magnified for restaurant and hospitality workers. 

Burger King decided to have a little fun with the current state of human interaction, by creating masks with people’s orders written on the front. So instead of engaging in an awkward conversation, you simply pull up to a drive-thru wearing your mask. It is a great way to let the personality of their brand shine through, even in the face of a difficult situation. 

One thing I have learned over the years is this—fans use products, but they love brands. Burger King understands that and has created something here that not only ignites fan passion but also empowers their advocacy. Because the way you get one of these limited-edition face masks is to engage with their brand in social media. It is a great example of how you can create energy out of obstacles. 

Why it matters: This campaign brings emotion back into an otherwise emotionless experience. It is hard to interact with people without seeing 50% of their face. But it would be hard not to smile when wearing this mask. It brings life and energy back into Burger King stores and will create a massive wave of sharable moments for their brand.

The details: The campaign was developed by Burger King Belgium. Fans comment on social media to claim one of 500 masks featuring their order. The campaign will begin in early September. And while 500 seems like a low number, might I remind you that you are reading this in a newsletter written on the other side of the world from where this is happening. The number of masks is not the number that matters most. 

Nike: “You Can’t Stop Us”

Admittedly, I am a little late to the party on this one. This ad has been discussed for a few weeks now. The inspirational message is timely, and the editing is quite simply, brilliant. I have no doubt this will be an awards magnet in the coming year. But even though I love both the message and method, that is not why I included it here.

The beauty of this video is how its complexity is masked by its simplicity and flow. Having spent more than 25 years in marketing, I know how difficult it is to make something feel simple and elegant. But that is what sets Nike apart. They are experts at subtraction. Much like a sculptor that strips away anything that does not belong, Nike keeps only what is necessary for the narrative. And they resist the common urge to say more.  The result is powerful.

Athletes are very familiar with the concept of “flow”—when everything is in perfect balance, working the way it was designed and you are at your peak performance. But this is the first time I have seen the concept of flow brought to life in advertising. It is not something that is spoken about or perhaps even intended. But it is present nonetheless. The connection between one scene to the next. The relationship between one athlete and another. Disparate scenes from 24 sports pulled from decades of footage all coming together in perfect harmony.  

Why it matters: While others aim their marketing at their products, Nike aims theirs at life. Their narratives are through the lens of sport, but rarely about the sport itself. In a world that emphasizes our differences over the things we share in common, sport is a thread that binds us together. And even though there are far more things that unite us than divide us, we tend to shine a spotlight on the latter vs. the former. Nike understands the unifying power of sport and tackles tough issues using sport as a common language. Because movements require a starting point. 

The details: To create “You Can’t Stop Us,” Wieden+Kennedy went through 4,000 hours of footage to find the perfect scenes to stitch together. There are 24 different sports represented in the video that is eloquently narrated by soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

Robert Matthews is the founder and managing partner of Swiftwater Group and former head of global integrated marketing at Xbox. His company helps leaders “create bigger waves” for their businesses, brands and the world–building iconic brands people love, creating desire with modern storytelling and igniting fan passion to drive cultural relevancy.   

Forever 21 And 7-Eleven Launch Capsule Collection With AR Slurpee Hologram And TikTok Dance Challenge

Forever 21 and 7-Eleven just launched a 16-piece capsule collection featuring graphic hoodies and tie-dye shirts emblazoned with the 7-Eleven, Big Gulp and Slurpee logos. The merchandise is available to shop for a limited time on Forever 21’s website and app.

To promote the #F21X7ELEVEN collection, Forever 21 created an augmented reality-powered Slurpee hologram lens users can access on the Forever 21 app. Upon scanning the floor with their mobile phone then tapping the screen, a hologram of hip hop dancer Natalie Bebko dancing while drinking a Slurpee will appear. Fans can snap a picture with her then share it on social media.

In addition, the brand created a TikTok dance challenge urging users to show off their “best Big Gulp moves” in videos tagged with #F21X7ELEVENCHALLENGE.

F21 is giving consumers a chance to win $100 worth of apparel from the collection. To enter, they have to guess the difference between two similar photos of the collection in a carousel post on Forever 21’s Instagram, comment what the difference is, tag two friends and include the hashtag #f21sweepstakes. One winner will be announced on August 17.

The brand chose dance influencers to model the merchandise across TikTok and Instagram, including Bebko, or @nat_bat_, who has over half a million Instagram followers, and micro-influencers @itslilct and @alainiwalker.

In a 20-second video posted to Forever 21’s TikTok, where it has just over 7,000 followers, the influencers are shown wearing pieces from the collection while dancing in a 7-Eleven store, zooming around in a golf cart and enjoying Slurpees.

From hoodies to tees (both short and long-sleeve), the athleisure-inspired collection includes vintage renditions of 7-Eleven’s most popular logos against backgrounds of tie-dyed pastels, reds and whites. Prices range from $15 to $35.

The online-only collection comes as one of Forever 21’s parent companies, Simon Property Group, reported a decline in earnings and sales after its retail properties were closed for nearly 10,500 shopping days due to the pandemic.

Compared to last year’s income of $495.3 million, this year Simon Property Group reported profits of $254.2 million. Its revenues also took a hit in Q2, reaching $1.06 billion by the end of June, versus $1.4 billion in Q2 2019.

Planters Debuts New Peanut Jr. Mascot For A Contest It’s Running And Twitter Isn’t Thrilled

Planters has debuted yet another mascot named Peanut Jr., the grown-up version of Baby Nut—who originally appeared as a reincarnation of Mr. Peanut after the brand killed off Mr. Peanut in its 2020 Super Bowl ad—to launch a contest called #MakeMyBirthdayNuts. Now through August 24, Planters is giving people who celebrated or will celebrate their birthday in quarantine a chance to win $2,100 in cash.

In a 19-second video posted to his Twitter account, Peanut Jr. is shown handing his driver’s license to a bartender who confusedly asks:

“Wait, so you’re telling me you fell off a cliff, came back to life as a baby and now you’re 21?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s been a weird year,” Peanut Jr. responds.

Planters is giving three fans each $2,100 for sharing their dream birthday gift in 10 words or less on Twitter with the hashtags #MakeMyBirthdayNuts and #Sweepstakes and the @MrPeanut handle tagged. Planters is also giving away 200 prize packages that include branded merchandise.

The video, which has received 2.8 million views and 11,000 retweets in just a day, drew mixed reactions from Twitter. Users were quick to criticize Peanut Jr.’s birthday announcement for happening too soon after Baby Nut’s debut. One user said:

Another called Planters’ move “legitimately way too weird of a campaign.”

Others questioned Peanut Jr.’s decision to go to a bar in the middle of a pandemic.

In February, Planters ran a controversial Super Bowl ad showing its original mascot, the 104-year-old Mr. Peanut, sacrifice his life to save his commercial co-stars Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh. To date, the spot has over 7 million views on YouTube. Then, on Super Bowl day, the brand unveiled a new mascot: Baby Nut.

Peanut Jr.’s arrival comes on the heels of a strong Q2 for Planters’ parent company Kraft Heinz, which reported a 3.8 percent increase year-on-year in net sales to $6.6 billion. However, the company reported a net loss of $1.65 billion due to impairment charges, according to Kraft Heinz’s earnings report.

The company says 75 percent of new buyers since the pandemic started are buying products from its brands, including Planters, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Philadelphia, Ore-Ida and Capri Sun.