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. Alexa, get me The New York Times.

This week, The New York Times launched news briefings and quizzes designed specifically for voice technology platforms (currently available exclusively on an Alexa). Why should you care? They approached this beautifully. First, they studied how people were already using voice assistants and then redesigned their content delivery mechanisms around users’ habits. Second, they identified the right reporters and content to give their delivery a personal feel. For example, their “52 Places Traveler” series will be featured through this platform because they want it to “feel as if you’re catching up with a friend who is on an incredible journey.” Same content, but a new platform, with delivery aligned to current lifestyles/habits and personalized feel – just what people are looking for in 2019.  [The New York Times]

2. Marketing to men in the #metoo era

Gillette released a commercial this week revising its tagline of “The Best a Man Can Get” into a call to action challenging the norms of “toxic masculinity.” Why should you care? It is a challenging time for brands to find ways to be relevant. Not only are rules being rewritten, but people have less tolerance for (and a larger megaphone to call out) brands who appear to be exploiting a social movement while pretending to supporting it. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen brands attempt to tap into the cultural zeitgeist of different social movements with varying levels of success. Most of these recent ads, including this one, have elicited larger conversations, if not controversy. While we like this ad, we are fascinated by this new approach by brands who are launching ads knowing they will anger people and doing it anyway. This approach demands new business strategy, different metrics and new expectations on what “success” means. Overall, this is an interesting take for brands who have realized that in today’s polarized world they cannot appease everyone, so instead must choose who they truly want as their customers (and who they are willing to risk alienating). [Adweek]

3. Taking care of their own

The Canadian Air Traffic Controllers Association, in coordination with specific air towers across Canada, sent pizzas to their unpaid American counterparts at various airports to show solidarity during the partial shutdown. Why should you care? Sometimes it is just nice to have a little good news sprinkled in. Moreover, this is not the only instance of brands and individuals helping out federal workers who remain unpaid or furloughed during the longest government shutdown in history. These actions are indicative of a larger trend we’ve been monitoring this past year of where people are calling upon brands to step in when other institutions fail to act – whether that is setting their own environmental standards higher than required by law or giving furloughed workers deferments on their mortgages until the government reopens. [The Points Guy]

4. Hey Google, give me some privacy.

Project Alias has launched a device for Google Home devices to combat the constant recording needed to identify when you say “Hey Google.” Why should you care?  The device is a physical cap placed on top of a Google Home device and allows users to set their own “hotword” (as a substitute to “Hey Google”) to more selectively wake up the digital assistant. Between uses of the Google Home device, this cap will project white noise into the Google Home so it cannot hear what is being said. Now, if you are thinking, isn’t that cap just another device that will record everything you say? Project Alias says it isn’t, but since it has a microphone…yes, it certainly could be. While there may be ways to both have a digital assistant and privacy too (and this is something people want), it may be challenging to achieve. Plus, in a new world of technoskepticism, tech companies can no longer get by with a simple “trust us”…which applies to tech accessory companies too. [9to5Google]

5. Screen time – good, bad, or who knows?

Dr. Jordan Shapiro, a psychologist and philosopher at Temple University, recently published a book encouraging parents to embrace screen time and worry less about their kids being too connected. Why should you care? According the American Family Survey, conducted by Brigham Young and Desert News, too much screen time now ranks ahead of drugs, sex and bullying as the top worry for American parents. Shapiro’s perspective is an interesting counterpoint and unexpected departure from current mainstream conversation. Shapiro’s approach advocates balance and open discussions on the uses of tech, which aligns with the position we expect to expand over the next year. However, Shapiro also recommends having kids on social media at even younger ages (like 7 instead of 12 or 13) because it will enable children to build necessary online social skills and decorum, with the help of their parents, before hormones kick in. Although his recommendation rests on the seemingly flawed premise of adults having the necessary social skills for civil conversations online, the point is that negotiating the role technologies play in our lives will continue to evolve this year and for the foreseeable future. [NPR]

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