The Downside Of The Upside

It's been a while since I've written something truly upside down. So today, as we head into the first unofficial weekend of a summer that looks to be decidedly more normal than the one we had last year, I'd like to write about something downside up. Also, because we won't publish anything Monday, I figured I'd post an "RTBlog" as a bonus for readers today.

Let me begin by acknowledging that journalists -- especially this one -- love a good cliche. And sometimes we overuse them. But it's not necessarily because we are lazy. Sometimes, a cliche simply is the best archetype we have for expressing an idea. But that's the upside. The potentially dark downside is that the more people see them, the more preconditioned people are to accept them as the norm, even when it involves a pandemic.

I was struck by that this week when I read the headline on one of my colleague's stories, an article by Tanya Gazdik about a new "Bring Back Lockdown" PSA created by Ogilvy. The campaign for Change The Ref pointed out that school shootings went down (no surprise) during the pandemic, and Tanya's headline ironically pointed out the "upside" of it.



It was the 55th article MediaPost published over the past year describing the upside of a pandemic, and one of three that explicitly used it in its headline.

So it got me thinking. How many others focused on -- to use another cliche -- the "glass half full" aspect of the past year? A Google News query found about 34,000 articles referencing it. On the downside, only three were indexed on Google News, although MediaPost published 25 making note of the pandemic's downside.

Now if you're beginning to think I wrote this while in The Upside Down (stranger things have happened), the truth is I'm just always soul-searching for a balanced perspective in our coverage, and I also recently received a flurry of press pitches talking about various new upsides being revealed about the pandemic, including the fact that carbon emissions went down dramatically, and they're beginning to bounce back up once again -- along with mass shootings, traffic, and other negative behaviors that took a one-year hiatus.

One of my favorite recent upside pitches came from Oracle's data team this week, which passed along a study finding 86% of Americans believe their personality changed -- for the better -- during the pandemic.

"Nicer, more open personalities" emerged, the report says.

The report, based on a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults was fielded April 7-9, and also found something that, if true, should have some bearing on media and marketing pros: 70% of Americans said they read more (and learned more) during the pandemic.

The big question, of course, is how much and how quickly, we will revert back to old, downside ways of doing things, and evidence of rising carbon emissions, mass shootings, traffic, etc., certainly seems to suggest that for some things, it won't take very long.

From an industry point of view, I have to wonder how much other "upsides" -- like the acceleration of "digital transformation," the push for inclusion and diversity, the willingness of brands to take highly public stands on politically risky, but socially worthy positions and causes -- and especially, the shift toward "empathy," compassion and ethics -- will be sustainable.

Only time will tell. But I hope it doesn't take another pandemic for us to discover the upside once again.

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend.

4 comments about "The Downside Of The Upside".
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  1. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, May 28, 2021 at 11:34 a.m.

    RE:  Bring back the lockdown - I commented on this article as it's an example of good intentions, but bad execution.  School shootings were down, yet suicides and anxiety and mental disorders increased amongst kids and teens due to their inability to interact with peers. Add to that many educators believe that most kids are now about a year behind in learning. This message ignores major problems the lockdown created to push a political agenda.

    "the willingness of brands to take highly public stands on politically risky, but socially worthy positions and causes, and especially, the shift toward "empathy," compassion and ethics -- will be sustainable."

    That's a lot to put into one sentence - but it's debatable whehter or not brands taking political stands is sustainable.  Only time will tell. Research shows that a considerable number of fans are tuning out of pro sports due to politcal and social messaging, so it's hard to believe that any brands that continue to promote political and social agendas will not suffer some kind of drawbacks.

    Hopefully as a society we have become more empathetic, but as everyone now has a cause and an agenda and demands to be heard, the volume has been turned up and it's wearing on consumers to tune out in order to keep some level of sanity.

  2. Robert Rose from AIM Tell-A-Vision replied, June 1, 2021 at 12:46 p.m.

    A counterpoint to Dan's comment on the article. Dan assumes that lockdowns were "created to push a political agenda." As opposed to a public health plan? Which is how MOST people of minimal intelligence (and believe in science) saw it.

    I know I appreciated the lockdowns even more as a New York City resident during the height of the pandemic here when we knew little about how the virus spread, how to prevent infection, or how to treat it. I appreciated it more when a former colleague died and even more so still when a good friend is even now struggling to recover from a double lung transplant resulting from covid.

    Dan states, "Research shows that a considerable number of fans are tuning out of pro sports due to political and social messaging, so it's hard to believe that any brands that continue to promote political and social agendas will not suffer some kind of drawbacks."

    Does Dan, by chance, have the research to back that up? If so, why not cite it?

    In this polarizing climate, there will indeed be consequences and gains to brands taking political stands. But what is missing from Dan's "Fox News Channelish" editorial pundit style perspective is that while brands may lose some loyalty in one camp, they gain more loyalty in another. I know this from personal experience with my brand. I get the added benefit of being able to look at myself in the mirror and like what I see. 

    Most stands that brands took will stand the test of time because they are social justice issues long overdue and affecting a significant portion of the buying public (apparently not Dan).

    Versus say, the "My Pillow Guy" spouting conspiracy theories to try to overturn democracy - Not a good look now and certainly won't be good in a few years.

    Taking a stand for what is right is usually not a zero-sum game. To stand for what one believes in, especially IF, and this is a big IF, one is on the right side of history will pay dividends for decades to come, if authentic and sincere. Those that stayed silent, time will tell. But those took the opposite tack, like Dan in his commentary, then not only will time tell, but it's also probably not going to be kind.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 1, 2021 at 1:43 p.m.

    Robert, while I, too,  don't think that the lockdown was a political ploy, there is some evidence concerning the reasons for sports viewing being down. According to a YouGov/Yahoo News poll conducted with about 1600 adults in March ( as reported by Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports ) 35% of the respondents gave the increase in social and political activism in sports as a reason why they reduced their sports viewing while 56% said there was no change and 11% said that it increased. Among Republicans the decreased viewing claim percentage was much higher ( 53% ) while only 19% of the Democrats fell into this category. I don't find this very surprising and, obviously, there are other factors which we are all aware of---shortened schedules, empty stands or stands with cardboard "fans" , etc.etc. But it seems reasonable to believe that some Republicans were---or are---- punishing sports---at least for a time----by abstaining. Whether this will continue is unlikely---but we shall see.

  4. Robert Rose from AIM Tell-A-Vision replied, June 1, 2021 at 2:37 p.m.

    Thanks for the stats Ed. As I said in my response, would not be surprising given these polarizing times. But I must qualify to say - I am a long time sports watcher but I don't watch nearly as much because of the incredible amount of advertising load creep, seeing the same creative over and over and over, longer and longer games, stoppage of content with replays ad nauseum, annoying announcers (certainly not all), and the silliness of the whole enterprise given the state of the world (which ironically, had me tuning back in at the same time others were supposedly "tuning out").  Or maybe, and this is a real possibility, I'm just getting old and grumpy. But alas, I wasn't in the poll. I don't think people answer polls honestly either. Not these days and especially among those who are prone to wild conspiracy theories like QANON and who generally don't trust anyone. Many say one thing, but do another, as we've seen in political polling. Nonethelss, thanks again for citing actual research. 

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