The Rundown: Political divisions bubble up inside agencies

Agencies are grappling with a new political — and social — reality, as their staffers’ personal beliefs increasingly throw up tricky business issues and potential PR headaches to deal with. It’s a trend that’s only going to intensify as campaigning ahead of the 2020 election ramps up.

Ad agencies, and marketing services at large, have always leaned left. It’s fueled by combination of factors: age, geography, the type of work you do. It’s also somewhat ironic given that agencies often pride themselves on inclusiveness — but only if it’s the “right kind.”

This dynamic played out after the 2016 election when many Republican voters and Trump supporters inside agencies felt isolated. Many chose to hide their political views during that election cycle, even if they didn’t in prior years. Still, it was largely just an internal problem.

But now, the humanitarian crisis on the border has transformed staffers’ political beliefs into a business issue. First up was Ogilvy, whose CEO John Seifert refused to back down in the face of criticism after it emerged that the agency worked for the CBP, saying it’s just good business. Now, public relations giant Edelman has chosen to not go ahead with work for a client it pitched — a private prisons company that runs immigration detention centers — because it was, per reports, worried that employees would leak the news and generate a PR headache.

A PR firm dealing with its own potential PR crisis is interesting enough (and it should be noted that this was a PR and business decision, not an ideological one), but this is simply the beginning. Agencies, or really any sort of company that offers professional services, are finding themselves in similar problems. Turning down government contracts — even if it is in service of a government or administration that the majority of its employees do not agree with — isn’t necessarily an option. Some smaller companies have the luxury of polling staff to see if clients they’re choosing to work with are OK by the company. But it’s not exactly economically possible.

So are agencies responsible for the clients they choose — and in which case, I have some questions for those with tobacco clients — and can employees choose to not work for companies that do work for clients whose political, social and ideological leanings are completely in opposition to their own? It’s hard to figure out, and particularly challenging when you look at the economic reality for agencies. To me, these are the issues that make “brand purpose” such a difficult concept. It’s easy to tout it, harder to live it.  — Shareen Pathak

Netflix is on the hunt for more “soapy dramas”
Netflix may be producing more shows and movies in-house, but that doesn’t mean the company won’t continue to acquire programming from outside studios and production companies.

Netflix’s acquisition strategy revolves around filling holes in its programming, said the company’s vp of content acquisition, Amy Reinhard, on stage at the National Association of Television Programming Executives’ Streaming Plus event in Hollywood on July 30. In particular, the company looks for shows and movies that its original content and feature film divisions are light on, she said.

So what kind of programming is Netflix in the market for at the moment? “Soapy dramas,” said Reinhard.

Netflix’s interest in soapy dramas could stem from the success that the service saw with its acquisition of “You.” While the show had originally aired on Lifetime last year, the series didn’t break out until it premiered on Netflix in December. In January, Netflix said that 40 million households were on pace to have streamed the show within its first four weeks on the service.

However, there are other reasons that Netflix may be especially interested at the moment in stocking up on shows resembling “Scandal” and “Nip/Tuck.” In the past two years, Netflix has signed massive deals with two doyens of soapy dramas — “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes and “Nip/Tuck” creator Ryan Murphy — to produce original shows for the streaming service. So the company’s interest in acquiring soapy dramas may be as much about rounding out its programming library as it is about setting up its upcoming slate of original shows. — Tim Peterson

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