Each week, Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team stands at the intersection of people, culture and brands to bring you five stories that you can read in five minutes.

1. Pints of existentialism

Ice cream brand Halo Top released a new set of ads to run through the summer featuring an ice cream truck where, “[i]nstead of getting frozen treats, [kids] get nihilistic lectures on the harsh realities of our cold and indifferent world.” Why should you care? This ad campaign masterfully combines two things two things people want from brands in 2019: reality and humor. According to CEO and Founder, Justin Woolverton, “We created Halo Top to be able to eat ice cream as much as we wanted, and I believe everyone can relate to the need for ice cream after a rough day.” Halo Top adeptly identified that for their consumers, zeroing in on the realities of (and lack of sympathy for) a “rough day” was how they could be authentically and organically “real” with their customers. Most importantly, by using dark humor, they could relate to their target market by subtly highlighting the absurdity of their lives, but without pushing them to crawl into the fetal position and (as Adweek so bleakly put it) stare “into the dark abyss of our merciless and unforgiving reality.” [Adweek]

2. Digital detox comes for Netflix

Mintel is projecting the next trendy form of “digital detox” will be related to streaming services. Why should you care? In late January, Amanda Kooser renewed the conversation around bingeing tendencies enabled through streaming services in documenting her detox from Netflix. This conversation was ripe for renewal because losing hours, days, weekends, etc. to the never-ending supply of content on streaming services isn’t fundamentally different from losing time to scrolling through a social media feed. Throughout 2019 we expect to see people continue to renegotiate the prominence of technology in their lives and seek balance between analog and digital experiences (it’s one of our Top Trends for 2019 – hit us up if you want to learn more). While this may not become as popular as the “birdbox challenge,” a Netflix detox could be disruptive if people adjust their streaming behaviors similarly to how they’ve modified smartphone and social media use over the past year. [Mintel]

3. Captain Marvel’s war against trolls

Leading up to the release of Captain Marvel this weekend, Disney and Brie Larson (playing Captain Marvel) employed new campaign strategies to combat “review bombing” and sexist trolling. Why should you care? In the past couple of years, blockbuster films like Black Panther, the female-led reboot of Ghostbusters, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, were unprepared for the cruel trolling of lead characters on social media and coordinated campaigns to flood YouTube and Rotten Tomatoes with bad reviews before the film’s release. Traditionally, stars and studios have sought to ignore the comments and stay out of the conversation. For Captain Marvel, YouTube and Rotten Tomatoes have changed their algorithms and posting rules to limit the impacts of trolls. Brie Larson, outspoken on issues of equality, has used this as an opportunity to highlight women’s experiences in clever responses to trolls. Overall, brands should consider this as a guide for how to view other  brands in similar situations (in this case, studios releasing superhero movies featuring non-white, non-male actors) as a case study in mitigating risk for different types of public reception. [NBC]

4. Bodies of water with human rights

This week, a referendum passed in Toledo affording Lake Erie the same rights as a human. Why should you care? This referendum gives people the right to sue polluters on behalf of the lake (whereas before harm to the lake alone was not sufficient to sue). This is the first instance in the United States, but part of a handful of other similar cases throughout the world. Ultimately, it is unclear if the decision will stand, particularly with calls questioning its constitutionality. While we know Millennials and Gen Z (as a whole) are more environmentally conscious than other generations, a vote like this signals that support for sustainability may be growing across all generations. Brands, especially those currently silent on sustainability, should begin considering their position now so they can drive it rather than wait for the “rules” to change. [Smithsonian]

5. In surreal life on Instagram

Instagram is seeing a rise in face filters that are “glossy, metallic and surreal.” Why should you care? These filters are part of a beta test for Instagram (which ended in October 2018) where they opened development to users who crowd-sourced ideas, created the filters and then shared with their followers. Overall, the trendy filters “don’t perpetuate Kardashian-esque beauty standards, like contoured faces and manicured eyebrows. Instead, they’re more experimental.” Instead, creators noted they weren’t interested in making “Instagram influencers more beautiful”. Given these filters were crowd-sourced and trending, we think this suggests push back by users to move away from “perfecting their imperfections” on social media to being themselves in a fun, experimental, possibly theatrical way. As brands use Instagram to engage with their customers, monitoring this change in aesthetic will be important to identify subtle shifts in tone and presentation to remain approachable or relatable to their followers. [The Verge]

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