September Culture Report


Whatever happens in this ongoing experiment into disassociation, it’s a safe bet we’re going to spend more of our lives online, mediated and at home. As a result, we can expect the touchpoints available to brands to become even more fragmented. Suspenseful storytelling has already been upended by the need to be “thumbstopping”, and Gen Z’s attention span is supposedly down to a miniscule 3s (a goldfish’s is 9s). How can a brand create an emotional connection within these limits?

Cognitive science has made huge strides in understanding how music works recently – its relation to memory, to language and above all, its hotline to emotion. Music is laid down to memory in shorter timeframes than verbal content, and is processed, not by our rational brain, but by our limbic system, the older animal brain that governs our instincts and emotions. The scope of audio-led brand-building has expanded accordingly, no longer restricted to emotionally and culturally neutral mnemonics like the classic Intel bongs.

Take screen-music legend Hans Zimmer’s reworking of the Netflix welcome sequence. Taking the place of the succinct “ta-dummm” is a mini symphony that evokes a waiting-with-your-popcorn visit to the cinema. It creates a heightened role for the brand, taking it from box-set binge to big-night-out.

In our recent survey of brand managers, a quarter of respondents thought audio was as powerful a communication tool as visuals, but three-quarters admitted they didn’t have any kind of audio strategy. Most brands have weighty guidelines on graphics and tone of voice; harnessing audio properly is the next great advantage. Call us biased but we think audio branding is set for a golden age. If you don’t believe us, ask Alexa.


Clever targeting from Singapore bank DBS enticing former clubbers into an Fortnite replica of cherished nightspot Zouk.
>> DBS – LiveFreshClub

This all-guns-blazing TikTok campaign from ASOS invites people to “Show us your #AySauce”.
>> ASOS – #AySauce

National soul-searching from the New York Times, wrapped round a killer beat track from Makaya McCraven.
>> New York Times – Life Needs Truth


Though there may not be any nightclubs left to use them in, it looks like poppers, the pungent vertical take-off stimulant beloved of gay culture, will be fully decriminalised, and by a most unlikely figure. Home Secretary Priti Patel, a vocal opponent of same sex marriage, is about to end years of uncertainty over their legality. Poppers, or amyl nitrate, with names like Rush and Haze, was sold euphemistically as “room odoriser”.  It squeaked through the Tories’ 2016 Legal Highs act because it’s not a psychoactive drug, and now rather than close the loophole, Patel has written that she wants to make poppers explicitly exempt.


TikTok has been described as “the last friendly place in the internet.” No wonder Trump wants to ban it. The app has until mid Nov to find a US buyer or face closure there on national security grounds. Was Trump clearing the way for Instagram’s hastily launched Reels alternative as a thank you for Facebook dragging its heels on dodgy political advertising? We’ll never know. More importantly, though, where are all those American TikTokkers going to take themselves and their hype houses? There’s been little enthusiasm for Reels, which rolled out in August, largely because while TokTok is a place of its own and offers the chance for great content to break out regardless of the size of a user’s following, Reels is really just another format option within IG Stories. If TikTok does bite the bullet in the States, the most likely successor is Triller, a short-form video-making app that uses AI to make smart edits, which has invested heavily to put a series of established TikTok stars on its payroll.


As with any new technology, it’s only a matter time until its used for porn. It didn’t take long for deepfake AI to be enlisted to make convincing smut with famous faces. Less scrupulous sites are awash with fake celebrity porn, and responsible sites like PornHub have a constant battle to take down offending uploads. PornHub’s light-hearted marketing has previously used charts of celebrity searches to draw a smile, showing Belle Delphine, Kim Kardashian and Cardi B taking the top three in 2019, but this seems pretty tasteless now that there might be fake hardcore material of even the most innocent sleb. To the rescue comes deepfake detection site “defending individuals and organizations from visual threats.”. If you want to make sure no-one’s getting off with you without your knowledge, sign up today.


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