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  • 8:00 am

Now brands can subscribe to get their own Ryan Reynolds creative magic (sort of)

Ad tech software company MNTN and its famous chief creative officer launch a new creative platform for brand marketers.

Now brands can subscribe to get their own Ryan Reynolds creative magic (sort of)

Ryan Reynolds may just be the ultimate ad man. Well, the ultimate Ryan Reynolds ad man at the very least. We’ve seen him spin his viral magic for Aviation Gin, Mint Mobile, Netflix, Samsung, and more—sometimes even all in the same commercial. Now any brand can subscribe to get their own version of the Reynolds creative magic. Sort of.

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The Culver City, CA-based ad tech software firm MNTN (pronounced “mountain”) acquired Reynolds’ marketing creative studio Maximum Effort in June and installed the Hollywood star as its chief creative officer. Today the company is announcing a new creative as a subscription—or CaaS—service for marketers to bundle their creative together with their media investment in a bid to make the process more efficient and effective.

“Currently media and creative is almost always handled by different companies,” says MNTN CEO Mark Douglas, in an email. “Separate teams, separate budgets and little collaboration. Instead of having separate teams focused on different goals, creatives on the commercial and media buyers on ad placement, we’re bringing creative and media together with the singular focus: delivering results for our clients.”

Reynolds says the marketing landscape has changed significantly, making effective creative work more critical. “With so much noise, brands looking for breakthroughs need to embrace creativity and experimentation more than ever,” says Reynolds, in an email to Fast Company. “This is about making that as easy as possible.”

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MNTN is officially announcing the new service in a full-page ad in The New York Times that reads like a letter from Reynolds: “Somewhere along the way, the process of making and distributing ads has become over-burdened. With layers. With cost. With overthink and expectations … We want to make advertising simple, funner, and faster.”

Reynolds also stars in a new MNTN ad extolling the virtues of CaaS.

The creative process here, according to Reynolds, will feel familiar to brands, just faster. “They share with us information about their products, their goals, and we’ll come up with creative ideas and produce them,” says Reynolds. “What’s different is our creative teams will now be constantly learning from the more than 10,000 campaigns running MNTN. We’ve demonstrated our ability to tap into culture, to produce incredibly quickly and now we’re on the cutting edge in the business in terms of what works on television.”

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Of course the pitch of consolidating marketing services will sound familiar to anyone who’s ever worked with or even heard of an advertising holding company, but none of those has a merc with a mouth.

Reynolds says that for the last 20 years or so, the advertising discussion has revolved primarily around digital and data, leaving TV creatives feeling a bit antiquated. “MNTN has built a software platform that embraces digital and data for TV, but we needed a new way to think about, and build, creative,” he says. “That’s what CaaS is. A simpler, faster and hopefully funner way to get great creative without all the layers and overthink.”

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity.

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  • 6:00 am

Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert: ‘A special place in hell’ for companies not fighting climate change

A year into his job, Gellert calls out corporate hypocrisy and explains how Patagonia constantly evaluates its own approach to the climate crisis.

Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert: ‘A special place in hell’ for companies not fighting climate change
[Source Images: Lars Ronbog/Getty Images for Copenhagen Fashion Summit; Paul_roberts/iStock]

Three years ago, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard changed the company’s mission statement to something more direct, urgent, and crystal clear: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.” Ever since then, the outdoor apparel company says it has been doing everything from product development and grassroots environmental philanthropy to advertising strategy and political endorsement with that goal in mind.

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CEO Ryan Gellert was named chief exec back in September 2020, to continue and build on the work former CEO Rose Marcario had done over the past decade. Now he is about 14 months into his tenure, a few weeks removed from COP26 and looking ahead to the Senate vote on the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better bill, which includes very ambitious climate commitments like greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, earmarking $70 billion to upgrade the electricity grid, and $7.5 billion to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations.

The bill is top of mind for Gellert, as is how organizations like the Business Roundtable and American Chamber of Commerce have lobbied against it, citing opposition to corporate tax hikes. The 48-year-old exec has no patience for members of these organizations who, on one hand, talk a good game on sustainability—Walmart declared itself a “regenerative company” in September—while undermining it all by holding back the bigger picture infrastructure investments.

“The [corporate] sector has historically been full of shit, and the sector is still full of shit,” says Gellert. “They all say they’re all in on climate to their customers and to their employees, and the members of those two groups—and I’ve seen the strategy docs, so this isn’t rumor or innuendo—are actively seeking to undermine the current package from the Biden Administration, which includes really ambitious climate commitments.”

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That duplicity between what major corporations are saying about climate and what their actions illustrate ticks Gellert off the most. “That is a huge issue,” he says. “Where I come down on it is, define for me what you mean when you say ‘all in’ [on climate]. Because you’re saying that and then hiding over here, and it’s bullshit. There’s a special place in hell for people doing that. It’s the kind of thing that has to change.”

Patagonia has long been know for its activism, as well as for constantly auditing its own behavior and supply chain, in order to stay true to its mission. Gellert says his job so far has been about pushing the company even further.

“We’re really making progress on distilling down not only what’s important to us as a company, but what we feel we’re uniquely qualified to contribute to and to have the most impact on,” says Gellert. “I feel like getting more surgical on our own footprint, defining what that is, figuring out where the levers are and how to impact those, as well as acknowledging that decarbonizing our business is going to make no difference to the issues we face as humans, but we need to participate in driving systemic change. And for a brand like us, that’s advocacy.”

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Looking ahead to 2022, Gellert says that the company is finding the specific areas it wants to focus its advocacy on and then figuring out what tools they need to execute those goals. “Some of that is really amplifying things that already exist at Patagonia, and some of it is adding some new things to the mix,” says Gellert. “I’d be getting ahead of myself if I said any more about that, but there are a number of things [coming] relative to new tools that we’re focused on.”

In the last few months, Patagonia has raised eyebrows for a handful of moves that made clear where the company stands on a few issues. In April, the company announced it would no longer add corporate logos to its apparel, a hit to finance bros everywhere. Then in August, it pulled its products off the shelves at Jackson Hole Resort-owned retail shops because one of the resort founders hosted a fundraiser for the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, with U.S. Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene as a headliner. In October, Gellert released a statement reiterating Patagonia’s advertising boycott of Facebook, which started for the Stop Hate For Profit campaign in summer 2020, and called on other companies to join back in. 

All of these moves tie back in to how Gellert is evolving Patagonia’s approach to its mission. The company sees its supply chain not only in the materials and manufacturing of its products, but where those products are sold, where it advertises, and the type of financial institutions it does business with.

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We started this conversation talking about how a company can live with doing good with the left hand and bad with the right, and that contradiction, and we’ve come to understand that it isn’t acceptable,” says Gellert. “If we give 1% away [to environmental groups] and it ends up being $10 million or $15 million in a year, and then we’re banking with financial partners who are focused on financing the extractive industry, the whole experiment is full of shit. It’s just time to wind it up and be done with it. We have to keep moving the goalposts on ourselves, and part of that is expanding our definition of our supply chain.”

Discussion around Patagonia’s banking partners have been ongoing for years, and the company has worked with outside NGOs that specialize in evaluating the financial space. Other decisions, like for Jackson Hole, are easy. “Honestly, that was a Saturday morning decision from top to bottom,” says Gellert. “Here’s what’s happened, here’s our decision, we’re moving on. Candidly, that wasn’t a decision we planned to talk publicly about. It was just voting our conscience and moving on something that was inconsistent with our values.”

When asked what advice he might have for company leaders, entrepreneurs, and people within large organizations who want to make changes in how they operate in relation to the climate crisis, Gellert is blunt. “It’s not that complicated,” he says. “Figure out what your north star is. Figure out what you think you can do to contribute to that, acknowledge that there’s no end point to this, and continue to push yourself to do more. Existential threats require that level of commitment, and that level of systemic change. These are the issues that we’ve created as people, and these are the obligations we have to solve them. If you’re not up for it, stop pretending.”

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity.

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There’s a blizzard warning in the U.S. . . . for Hawaii. Meanwhile, Colorado has no snow

Here’s some wacky weather news to lei on you: Hawaii is under a blizzard warning and it’s decidedly not snowing in ski country.

There’s a blizzard warning in the U.S. . . . for Hawaii. Meanwhile, Colorado has no snow
[Photo: Lauren Bulbin]

Here’s some wacky weather news to lei on you: Hawaii is under a blizzard warning.

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Yes, the warmth-sunshine-beach haven, long a vacation paradise for mainland Americans, may get a lot of snow.

In fact, the other place in the United States with the same weather is—duh—Alaska, according to the National Weather Service.

The Big Island Summits are under the warning from 6 p.m. HST today through 6 a.m. HST Sunday. Expected are total snow accumulations of up to 12 inches or more and wind gusting over 100 miles per hour.

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“Travel could be very difficult to impossible. Blowing snow will significantly reduce visibility at times, with periods of zero visibility,” according to the NWS website. “Travel should be restricted to emergencies only. If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you.”

The Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcano peaks—which are close to 13,700 feet and an estimated 13,000 feet above sea level, respectively—get snow, but this is extreme winter weather, especially when you compare what’s happening over in the normally snowy Colorado. As CNN’s Derek Van Dam noted, the vast majority of the U.S. is currently snowless, including the 95% of Colorado that is under drought conditions. “I find it extraordinary,” the meteorologist said, “that we have to go to the tropical areas of our country to find the winter weather alerts.”

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Burger King’s Whopper turns 64: Grab one for 37 cents this week

To celebrate the birthday of the signature sandwich, Burger King is selling the Whopper for what it cost back in 1957—but for only two days.

Burger King’s Whopper turns 64: Grab one for 37 cents this week
[Source Images: Burger King]

This week, fast-food chain Burger King is offering a retro-throwback to 1957, the year it first began selling its famous Whopper, for 37 cents.

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In celebration of the burger’s 64th year on the menu, Burger King is chopping the Whopper’s price back down to its original tag. (Briefly.) On Friday and Saturday, you can snag the signature sandwich for just 37 cents (plus tax).

The classic Whopper comes with a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, and ketchup on a sesame seed bun.

A few other conditions: The deal will be available at participating Burger King locations nationwide, and customers must be members of BK’s Royal Perks rewards program to cash in.

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Burger King is furthering a recent trend of “throwback prices.” Last month, McDonald’s slashed the price of its breakfast Egg McMuffin to its original 63 cents—for one day to commemorate its 50th year. At least the retro-priced Whopper will be available for two days.

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Cancel culture isn’t real if you’re rich enough, as ‘Succession’ makes clear

The show’s most overtly political episode yet offers insight into how upper-echelon conservatives have nothing to fear from the ‘woke mob.’

Cancel culture isn’t real if you’re rich enough, as ‘Succession’ makes clear
Justine Lupe and Alan Ruck in ‘Succession’ Season 3. [Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO]

“Ms. Libtard, how do you like spelunking in the elephant’s asshole?”

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So asks Roman (Kieran Culkin), the youngest scion of Succession‘s Murdoch-inspired Roy clan. He addresses this query to his sister, Shiv (Sarah Snook), the family’s sole quasi-lefty, as she enters a pachydermal aperture of conservative power brokers and power seekers. The bulk of the recent episode “What It Takes” unfolds within this sinister conclave, taking viewers spelunking alongside Shiv through the dark heart of modern politics, revealing—among other things—what elites truly think of cancel culture.

The elephant’s a-hole is actually the Future Freedom Summit, a fictional gathering in Virginia where shady forces will choose the next GOP presidential candidate. Although the decision may be partly informed by overall attendee vibes, it will be decided by Logan Roy (Brian Cox), embattled head of the show’s News Corp-like media empire, and mega-donor Ron Petkus (Stephen Root), who founded the event.

As Shiv’s husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) notes, this is “a nice safe space where you don’t have to pretend to like Hamilton.” Something is amiss with this description, though, beyond the fact that people stopped pretending to like Hamilton years ago. It’s the universal truth that if one is insulated by enough money and power, just about any space is safe. Petkus demonstrates this dynamic by brazenly hitting on Willa (Justine Lupe), reluctant partner of the dullest Roy kid, Connor (Alan Ruck), right in front of Connor.

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First, Petkus compliments Willa’s beauty and brains, before adding that he probably shouldn’t say such things. What with the climate and all. “Will I be canceled?” he wonders aloud with a grin. Willa assures him, uncomfortably, that he will not. When Petkus then invites her to his Westchester estate a moment later, and refers to her as a gorgeous creature, Connor, who is seeking a favor, calls back Petkus’ earlier joke. He points toward the wealthy lech, reflecting his knowing grin, and pronounces him cancelled.

Hardy har!

The constant drumbeat from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr. about the imminent threat of cancel culture often feels like just as much a winking in-joke, in the guise of fearmongering. Unfortunately, 64% of Americans take it dead seriously.

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Part of the reason Succession’s portrait of cancel culture panic has bite is because one of its main characters has pivoted, this season, into social-justice warrior territory. Roy family black sheep Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is a stark example of the disingenuous empty vessel many conservatives suspect all libs embody. Kendall is briefly conferenced into the Future Freedom Summit, where he is not invited, and takes verbal shots at his sister, Shiv, for compromising her supposed values by attending. His smarm is paradoxical. Woke Kendall may have a rainbow coalition of hyper-competent women on his staff, while the thought of anyone but a straight white male president is not for one second considered by the ghouls at the Summit, but that doesn’t make him a better person. He’s just wearing a new set of values like a costume. His virtue signaling, though, is the ideological mirror of anyone pretending that the gravest threat to America is cancel culture.

Kendall is far from the only hypocrite on hand. Everyone on the show is a hypocrite, in one way or another. Dave Boyer (Reed Birney), the Vice President hoping to weasel his way into a Logan endorsement, declares the GOP the party of the working class. “The Democrats and Tech hold all the wealth,” he says, with zero trace of irony, while standing in a dragon’s den of unimaginable capital.

Tom, meanwhile, turns out to be more of a lib caricature in private than he lets on with his Hamilton-hating public persona. He and Shiv are revealed, in this episode, as nascent vineyard owners. In their scant downtime, they try to snob out with a mini-wine tasting—all dainty swirls and sniffs—but the fruit of their non-labor turns out to be too gross to properly compliment.

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Perhaps the most fascinating hypocrite in this episode, though, is Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk). One of the potential presidential candidates on hand, Mencken is, as Shiv describes him, a “YouTube provocateur” and “aristo-populist” who talks about “burning Korans and licensing press credentials.” He represents the kind of person libs actually would like to deplatform/keep out of power/warn people about, which is what cancelling generally amounts to, rather than the conservative interpretation, essentially a death sentence. In a rather unsubtle note, his name is borrowed from early-20th century journalist H.L. Mencken, who once wrote, “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.”

By this definition, or any other, Mencken is a very dangerous man.

At the Freedom Summit, he immediately hits it off with Roman (Kieran Culkin), the most unapologetically gross Roy sibling. Roman rolls with Mencken’s joke about sending people to the gulags. (“Well, isn’t this nice,” he says. “A couple cool guys having some disgusting fun.”) But he can only flick at Mencken’s actual beliefs in public—even if it is, as Tom Wambsgans said, a safe space.

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Later, though, within the luxe Roy family private suite, Roman floats Mencken as the horse to back. Predictably, Shiv is the only one in the room left aghast by the idea. She worries aloud about Mencken “whispering swastikas” in her father’s ear, which Roman immediately pounces on. If there’s one thing morally neutral people hate, it’s when Chicken Littles defame budding fascists by pointing out where that track historically leads. (“Route one,” he calls it, with an eye roll.)

The climax of the episode is a charged tête-à-tête between Roman and Mencken in the bathroom of Logan’s suite. Finally alone, the simpatico pair breaks cancel culture “kayfabe,” getting down to the particulars of Mencken’s beliefs.

“Fascists are kind of cool, but not really,” Roman says. “So, is that, like, a problem?”

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In another unsubtle touch, he starts deep-scrubbing his hands at the start of the conversation, and remains doing so for its duration.

As it turns out, Mencken is a Tucker Carlson-style white nationalist, the kind who is merely worried that integrating “new elements” into the American bloodstream too fast will “fundamentally alter its composition.” He also admits he is willing to borrow ideas from absolutely anyone, including Travis Bickle, the fictional vigilante Robert De Niro portrays in Taxi Driver, or, more troublingly, “H.”

Even in this ultimate safe space within a safe space, Mencken still feels the need to partially self-censor. He leaves himself the tiniest fig leaf of plausible deniability around whether he just quietly endorsed Hitler, lest it rub Roman the wrong way. He needn’t have bothered, though.

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This is the show’s death blow to the cancel culture conversation. Although Shiv ended up being right about Mencken’s proximity to Nazism—her “Chicken Little-ing” that Roman dismissed proven utterly valid—it doesn’t matter. Those concerns are rendered moot by the pull of business. Rather than withdraw any potential support for Mencken upon proof of his racism, the Roy family instead anoint him as Logan’s presidential pick.

Things tend to work out this way in real life too. How are we even having a protracted conversation about cancel culture when Tucker Carlson is on TV every night, talking Great Replacement Theory right out in the open to one of the world’s largest audiences, and Donald Trump remained president for his entire term? Although the average citizen might still end up in trouble for being too fascist/sexist/whatever-ist too loudly, with enough money and media support, anyone can be just as insulated from so-called cancellation as Logan, Petkus, or Mencken.

Anyone who says otherwise is just Chicken Little-ing.

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