The Headliner podcast: From geopolitics to fizzy drinks, airlines and media plurality: the week of crises

13th April 2017

From geopolitics to fizzy drinks, airlines and media plurality: the week of crises

It can be difficult to please everyone with just the one global message in the polarised, conflicted world of 2017, but Pepsi has admirably managed to achieve the impossible: unite almost everyone – from Breitbart to the Guardian – behind a single reaction to its latest ad. What a shame that reaction was characterised by cringing and squirming.

But, while their creative team might be on the naughty step, Phil Borge praises how deftly the comms team dealt with the fallout. It was swift, apologetic and humble.

The same cannot be said for United Airlines, which has been fumbling its way through a PR nightmare since Monday, when a video surfaced showing a passenger being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight.

Brutal and bloody as this video was, it is still easier to watch than the tangled web of statements, excuses and misjudgements which followed in its wake.

“Between lawyers and brand consultants, United Airlines is trying to tread a very fine line; clumsily and possibly after a few drinks”.


Another mess comes in a more grave form: the Syria conflict, which is drawing in more nation states and more geopolitical danger by the minute.

Dominating the newscycle over the past fortnight, the crisis came to a head last Friday when the US launched a missile strike on airbases controlled by the Syrian government, in reaction to the use of chemical weapons – believed to be orchestrated by Assad – mere days before.

Both Russia and Iran threatened military force against the US if there was further action from the superpower.

This is now, in all but name, a proxy war. Relations between Russia and the US are now so strained as to be comparable to the Cold War.


OC&C Strategy Consultants released a report which found that Google and Facebook will take 70 per cent of all digital ad spend by 2020.

Press Gazette, the trade website for UK newspapers and magazines, took umbrage to this news, promptly launching an emotive campaign to ‘stop the duopoly from destroying UK journalism’.

More curious is that the Sun wrote up the story, with particular focus on Press Gazette’s crusade. Which we all agreed is not entirely consistent with the usual remit of the paper’s consumer editor Dan Jones.

But the tabloid wasn’t prepared to become too highbrow, too fast: the sub-editors managed to have their wicked way with the headline: ‘WEB GIANTS AD CASH’.


It wasn’t all trouble and strife. We discuss Bear Grylls’ latest campaign for more Scouts volunteers —resisting the urge to giggle through the term ‘woggle’. And, in a welcome example of countries working together, we get excited about the departure of the very first freight train from the UK direct to China. Arriving at a wholesale market in central Zhejiang province in just 17 days, the train is loaded with goodies for the Chinese consumer—whisky, soft drinks, vitamins, pharmaceuticals and baby products among them.

All change, please. All change.

For the full report listen in as Chloe, Phil and Ollie pick apart the biggest stories of the week. If you want to hear more come visit us at  And if you have any feedback, please get in touch