Poundland, Facebook and Ryanair: Everything that matters this morning

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Poundland gets in trouble with Twinings after NSFW ad

A campaign from Poundland featuring an elf in a sexually suggestive pose with a plastic doll in front of a box of Twinings Tea has created plenty of viral attention for the discounter.

However, it hasn’t been warmly embraced by the tea brand itself, which tweeted that the picture “misuses our product”. Subsequently, Poundland has been forced to remove the Twinings brand from the social media campaign entirely.

The “naughty elf” ads have been running since early December, but went viral yesterday. They include sexually provocative images of Christmas trees, a toy elf in a bath with a bunch of naked Barbie dolls and the offending picture itself, which is pictured above.

The campaign has divided opinion on social media, but Poundland’s marketing director Mark Pym has described it as a ‘winner’. He said: “The love on Facebook has been overwhelming, and that’s because it connects with our shoppers.

“We’re proud of a campaign that’s only cost £25.53 and is being touted as the winning marketing campaign this Christmas!”

READ MORE: Poundland’s festive tweets have gone distinctly NSFW, and Twinings isn’t happy about it

Facebook defends targeting job ads based on age

Facebook has come under criticism after it emerged that job ads shared on the social media platform were only targeting users of a specific age.

According to a report featured in the New York Times, brands such as Amazon, Verizon and even Facebook regularly run employment ads targeted at the feeds of specific age groups. The concern is this is an example of ageism.

In the US, there are laws against discriminating against people older than 40 in the job market. However, Facebook’s VP of ads Rob Goldman has defended use of age-based targeting.

He responded: “These individual ads are part of broader-based recruitment efforts designed to reach all ages.

“Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: It helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work.”

READ MORE: Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads

Ryanair’s German pilots prepare to go on strike

Despite CEO Michael O’Leary saying “hell would freeze over” before any of his airline’s pilots went on strike, it looks like this is about to happen.

According to reports, Ryanair pilots in Germany will go on strike for four hours later today (22 December), following “unsatisfactory negotiations” over union recognition.

Just last week, the Irish airline wrote to pilot unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal inviting them for talks over union recognition. However, this has been described as a “publicity stunt” by the

head of VC’s industrial department, Ingolf Schumacher, who said: “Ryanair’s public offer to conduct negotiations with VC can only be classified as a further publicity stunt.

“Ryanair is simply trying to win time and attempting to delay the beginning of collective bargaining.”

READ MORE: Ryanair’s German pilots to strike on Friday

Eric Schmidt steps down from Alphabet

Eric Schmidt will step down as executive chairman of Google-owner Alphabet’s board of directors as he moves into the role of technical advisor.

He joined Google as CEO back in 2001, when the company had only several hundred employees, before becoming its executive chairman in 2011.

“Larry, Sergey, Sundar and I all believe that the time is right in Alphabet’s evolution for this transition,” Schmidt said in a statement.

“The Alphabet structure is working well, and Google and the Other Bets are thriving. In recent years, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on science and technology issues, and philanthropy, and I plan to expand that work.”

READ MORE: Eric Schmidt is stepping down as the executive chairman of Alphabet

Ford apologises for sexual harassment at its factories

Ford Fiesta

Carmaker Ford has issued an apology after female workers reported instances of sexual harassment at two of its Chicago-based factories.

Nearly 70 former and current workers have detailed experiences of sexual harassment at the two factories in Chicago Assembly and Chicago Stamping.

“I am sorry for any instance where a colleague was subjected to harassment or discriminatory conduct,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO.

“On behalf of myself and the employees of Ford Motor Company, who condemn such behavior and regret any harassment as much as I do, I apologise. More importantly, I promise that we will learn from this and we will do better.”

According to the New York Times, Ford has already had to pay out $32m this year in settlements over sexual and racial harassment at its plants.

READ MORE: Ford Apologizes for Sexual Harassment at Chicago Factories

Thursday 21 December

Adidas calls on a host of stars for ‘Calling All Creators’ ad

Adidas has brought together David Beckham, musician Pharrell Williams, model Karlie Kloss and a host of other stars to discuss the power of creativity in its latest global ‘Here to Create’ campaign.

The group of athletes and other celebrities (all of which are wearing Adidas gear) sit around a table to highlight how the worlds of sport, fashion and music connect, with lines such as “We’re all creators. Related by a mindset. That’s our job”. The ad also touches on diversity, with a collection of stars saying: “It’s not about borders, gender or race”.

The ad, which also features footballers Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba as well as fashion designer Alexander Wang, was created by 72 and Sunny was debuted on the brand’s YouTube channel yesterday (20 December) and will now be rolled out to more than 30 countries worldwide, including the UK, US, Japan, China, Canada, France and South Korea.

“We live at the intersection of sport and culture and the people around the table represent that. Each person featured in this campaign are true creators in their own right and have shaped their industry in some way or another. We wanted to bring this notable group of creators together to inspire others to think differently in their game, life and world,” Adidas vice-president, global brand communications Ryan Morlan told Adweek.

READ MORE: Adidas Brings Superstars Like Lionel Messi and Karlie Kloss Together for a Feast in Its Latest Spot

Porsche could ban out-of-hours emails to help alleviate stress

mobile

Luxury car marque Porsche is debating whether to ban out-of-hours emails for employees to help reduce stress and encourage workers to switch off.

It is a move fellow German car makers Daimler and Volkswagen have already made and one which pushes the importance of workplace wellbeing further up the agenda.

Uwe Hück, head of Porsche’s works council and deputy chairman of its supervisory board, said any correspondence sent to employees between 7pm and 6am should be “returned to sender” in order to protect them from work-related emails during their free time.

He told German news agency DPA: “To read and reply to emails from the boss during the evenings is unpaid working time which increases stress — that’s just not acceptable”, the FT reported.

Marketing Week has predicted that workplace wellbeing initiatives such as this will become a boardroom priority in 2018.

READ MORE: Porsche could ban out-of-hour emails – but what other companies already have these policies in place?

FIFA signs fourth Chinese World Cup sponsor

World Cup Russia2018

FIFA, which has reportedly been struggling to sign up sponsors for next year’s World Cup in Russia following the bribery scandal, has confirmed China’s second-largest dairy company will become a second-tier sponsor.

As part of the deal, China Mengniu Dairy will be able to broadcast a seven-minute ad during each of the 64 World Cup matches in 2018, The Independent reports.

The dairy business is the fourth Chinese brand FIFA has signed up, fuelling speculation that the country may begin campaigning to host an upcoming tournament.

READ MORE: FIFA signs up sponsorship deal with China’s second-biggest dairy company as it looks eastwards for business

Uber ordered to operate as a cab company

uber

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Uber is officially a taxi firm – not a digital service – despite the ride-hailing app’s objections.

However, the company said the verdict would not change how it runs its business in most EU countries where it already operates under transport law.

The case came about after the company was told to follow local taxi rules in Barcelona.

In its ruling, the ECJ said that a service with a purpose to “to connect, by means of a smartphone application and for remuneration, non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys” must be classified as “a service in the field of transport” in EU law.

It added: “As EU law currently stands, it is for the member states to regulate the conditions under which such services are to be provided in conformity with the general rules of the treaty on the functioning of the EU.”

READ MORE: Uber is officially a cab firm, says European court

Domestic demand for UK-built cars drops

UK-built cars are becoming less desirable to British motorists, fuelled by confusion over diesel and economic concerns post-Brexit.

The number of cars produced in Britain and destined for UK drivers dropped by more than a quarter (28.1%) in November compared to the same month last year.

Some 169,247 cars were built in the UK last month month, but just 24,276 are to be sold in Britain.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which collated the numbers, blamed the crash on “Brexit uncertainty, coupled with confusion over diesel taxation and air quality plans”.

READ MORE: UK car manufacturing suffers 28pc collapse in domestic demand

Wednesday, 21 December

Adidas to stop making its own wearables

Adidas is shutting its digital sports business, which includes its dedicated wearables division, as it shifts strategy to focus on tech partnerships and developing software, rather than hardware. The German sports brand had heavily focused on wearable tech in the past few years and launched its own range, culminating in the miCoach Smart Run watch. But it will not shift its efforts towards software including the Runtastic app and an overhauled Adidas ecommerce app.

Adidas still plans to release a co-branded Adidas/Fitbit smartwatch in 2018, and will look for more ways to partner with hardware manufacturers to bring wearables to its consumers. Many of the employees that worked in the division, which included engineers and data scientists, will be affected although for many that will mean moving roles as Adidas looks to integrate tech across the business, rather than having it in a silo.

READ MORE: Adidas kills dedicated wearables division as it rolls fitness tech into all categories

Tesco gets approval for £3.7bn Booker takeover

Tesco’s has received approval from the competition watchdog for its £3.7bn takeover of Booker. The Competition and Markets Authority says the deal does not raise competition worries despite the fact that Booker supplies convenience chains including Budgens and Londis that directly compete with Tesco.

“Booker does not own the shops it supplies and these retailers are free to set their prices and decide which products to stock. So, although these shops compete with Tesco, Booker cannot directly determine how they compete,” says the watchdog.

The CMA also investigated whether the merger could lead to price rises or a reduction in service quality, both at wholesale or retail level. However, it found that this was unlikely due to “existing strong competition”.

READ MORE: Competition watchdog approves Tesco’s £3.7bn takeover of Booker Group

UK smartphone sales to overtake tablet for the first time

Ecommerce purchases made using a smartphone will overtake tablet sales in the UK for the first time this year, according to eMarketer. The research company estimates that smartphone sales will be worth nearly £18bn this year, representing a 49.7% share of mobile commerce sales, ahead of tablets on 49.4%. The tiny share of sales remaining are made on feature phones. That growth in smartphone share is expected to continue through 2021, when smartphones will account for 56% of all mobile sales.

The shift comes as tablet penetration in the UK levels off and consumers increasingly choose large-screen smartphones that are easier to make purchases on. Overall, ecommerce sales are expected to reach £83.55bn this year, equal to 19% of total retail sales. And that will rise to 25.8% by 2021.

Google’s Chrome browser to start blocking some ads in February

Google

Google’s Chrome browser will start blocking non-compliant ads on 15 February, 2018, giving publishers a little less than two months to comply with new rules on adverts. The move comes after Google joined the Coalition for Better Ads – a group that offers standards on what sort of ads should be shown to consumers. For example, full-page interstitials, ads that unexpectedly play sound and flashing ads are all deemed to be non-compliant.

The ad blocker will work by enabling users to report any ads that violate the standards. Publishers and site owners will be able to submit their sites or web pages for re-review once the violations have been fixed. Any sites that are deemed to be “failing” for more than 30 days will have all their ads removed, although having one ad that violates the rules won’t lead to this.

READ MORE: Chrome will start blocking ads on February 15

Ryanair to recognise cabin crew unions too in dramatic strategy shift

Ryanair says its promise to recognise unions extends to cabin crew, and that it plans to hold meetings with cabin crew unions in the new year. The move is part of a dramatic shift at Ryanair, which for years has refused to negotiation with unions.

Ryanair said last week it would recognise pilots’ unions in a bid to stop strikes taking place in the run-up to Christmas. It has held its first ever talks with German, Irish and Portugese unions this week, and is now planning further meetings with other EU pilot and cabin crew unions in the New Year.

Tuesday, 19 December

ikea

Ikea to be investigated by EU for tax avoidance

After Apple and Amazon, it’s now Ikea’s turn to be investigated by the European Commission.

The Swedish furniture giant has one division based in the Netherlands, which the Commission says may have been given unfair tax breaks by the Dutch government. The furniture retailer reportedly avoided paying nearly €1bn in taxes from 2009 to 2014 by taking advantage of loopholes in numerous countries.

European Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said all firms “big or small, multinational or not, should pay their fair share of tax”.

In April, the Commission ordered Amazon to pay €250m (£221m) in back taxes to the Luxembourg government after ruling that a 2003 tax deal amounted to illegal state aid. The EU’s competition chief has also asked Apple to provide details of its latest tax structure as regulators try to recover €13bn (£11.5bn) in back taxes to Ireland.

READ MORE: Ikea’s taxes to be investigated by European Commission

Uber faces another scandal amid hacking claims

After a year of negative headlines, Uber is once again in the news for bad practice. This time, an explosive letter written by Uber’s former manager of global intelligence, Richard Jacobs, has been made public.

It alleges Uber “fraudulently impersonates riders and drivers on competitor platforms, hacks into competitor networks, and conducts unlawful wiretapping.

An Uber spokesperson says the company hasn’t yet validated all the claims made in the letter, telling Business Insider: “While we haven’t substantiated all the claims in this letter—and, importantly, any related to Waymo—our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology.”

Jacobs was fired from Uber in April. In the letter, Jacobs’ lawyer charges he was terminated in retaliation by the company because he refused to participate in what he viewed as unethical and illegal activities.

READ MORE: A bombshell letter charges that Uber hacked into competitors’ networks and wiretapped people at a hotel

Toyota cars to go electric by 2025

Toyota has become the latest car marque to invest in electric vehicles, claiming every Toyota or Lexus model will come with an electric option by 2025.

The company stole a lead on rivals 20 years ago with the launch of its Prius hybrid, which uses a conventional engine and electric motor systems, but currently the Japanese business has no all-electric vehicles.

As part of the new strategy Toyota, which sold 10.2m vehicles last year, said that by 2030 it aimed to have annual sales of 5.5m “electrified vehicles”, which have either battery, fuel cell, or hybrid power systems. Of these, 1m will be zero-emission vehicles.

Toyota has previously said that under its 2050 “environmental challenge” initiative, it has set itself a “mid to long-term” target of reducing CO2 emissions from new cars by 90% from 2010 levels. The electric cars will first be launched in China before entering other markets.

READ MORE: Toyota cars to go electric by 2025 as it aims to cut CO2 emissions

Facebook cracks down on ‘engagement bait’ posts

Facebook revealed it is looking to tackle “spammy” posts that goad people into engaging, after users told the company they were taking over people’s news feeds.

It includes posts such as “LIKE this if you’re an Aries!”. This tactic, Facebook says, is known as “engagement bait,” and seeks to take advantage of its news feed algorithm by boosting engagement in order to get greater reach. Starting this week, it will begin demoting individual posts from people and Pages that use engagement bait.

“To help us foster more authentic engagement, teams at Facebook have reviewed and categorised hundreds of thousands of posts to inform a machine learning model that can detect different types of engagement bait. Posts that use this tactic will be shown less in news feed,” Facebook wrote in a blog post.

“We will roll out this page-level demotion over the course of several weeks to give publishers time to adapt and avoid inadvertently using engagement bait in their posts. Moving forward, we will continue to find ways to improve and scale our efforts to reduce engagement bait.”

Posts that ask people for help, advice, or recommendations, such as circulating a missing child report, raising money for a cause, or asking for travel tips, will not be adversely impacted by this update.

UK’s economic growth set to lag behind the rest of Europe

Growth in the UK will lag behind the rest of the Eurozone in 2018, according to new forecasts that show the nation’s output weighed down by Brexit uncertainty.

A report from auditors PwC predicted Eurozone growth will be above 2% in terms of purchasing power parity next year, with the Netherlands leading the way with economic growth at 2.5%. PwC predicted UK growth will reach just 1.4%.

Barret Kupelian, a senior economist at PwC, said: “While the [global] growth outlook for 2018 is positive, there are some downside risks for business to bear in mind, including the progress of the Brexit negotiations and wider discussions about the future of the EU.”

High inflation and dampened business investment have slowed Britain’s economic growth since the EU referendum in June 2016. A FT study published earlier this week estimates that Brexit is costing the UK around £350m per week.

READ MORE: Britain’s economic growth is set to lag behind an accelerating Eurozone in 2018

Monday, 18 December

Ryanair avoids further brand damage as pilots suspend Wednesday strike

Irish Ryanair pilots have called off a one-day strike planned before Christmas, which could have seen a repeat of the reputation crisis that hit the budget airline this autumn, when it had to cancel thousands of flights having failed to account for pilots’ holiday time correctly in its schedules. The company’s management will now meet representatives of pilots’ unions after agreeing last Friday to recognise them for the first time to avert mass walkouts. Other countries’ unions had already agreed to call off their action.

Ryanair made pilots an offer of better pay and conditions in October, following the previous scheduling error, which affected more than 2,000 flights and 315,000 passengers. The brand saw its purchase intent and consideration metrics plummet during the crisis, according to YouGov BrandIndex.

READ MORE: Ryanair pilots in Ireland suspend strike plans

ASA considers investigation into Amazon Prime delivery claims

In the run-up to Christmas, Amazon is facing consumer complaints that it isn’t fulfilling its delivery promises, and indeed that the claim its Amazon Prime membership offers “unlimited one-day delivery” is false. A statement from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), reported in the Guardian, says: “We have received a handful of complaints. We are considering whether to launch an investigation.”

Amazon says customers should contact its customer services if their deliveries do not arrive on the appointed date, but consumer advocacy group Which? points out that if a consumer pays for delivery by a certain date and this is not fulfilled, it is a breach of contract. In making its judgement about any investigation into Amazon’s advertising, the ASA would probably need to be concerned that Amazon is routinely unable to meet the terms of one-day delivery.

READ MORE: Amazon Prime could face investigation over delivery complaints

EU asked to challenge Google’s response to competition fine

Google

Rivals to Google have urged the EU’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager to take action against the search giant for what they believe is an inadequate response to a record fine issued in June. Google was penalised €2.4bn (£2.1bn) after an investigation found it was unfairly promoting its own shopping service in its search results over those of comparison sites.

Richard Stables, founder of comparison site Kelkoo, told the Telegraph that Google’s response is “not fit for purpose”. Although Google must now bid against other sites for paid slots in its shopping results, Stables claims that Google still wins 99% of these, and remains at unfair advantage because it is ultimately paying itself.

A report into Google’s response to the June judgement is due shortly. It could be fined up to 5% of turnover for the period if it is found not to have complied. Google claims it has made all the changes required.

READ MORE: Google faces fresh EU showdown as rivals attack search giant’s response to record fine

Small energy brands hit by gas price shock

The UK’s energy market has seen huge growth in the number of new entrants in recent years, ranging from now well-established names such as Ovo Energy and First Utility to newer brands such as Octopus Energy. Nearly all have gained their foothold in the market by offering consumers low prices via price comparison sites that undercut the ‘big six’ energy brands. However the future of some of them could be in doubt.

Recent months have seen the biggest disruption to gas supplies in five years, due to an explosion at a European hub and the shutdown of a North Sea pipeline. That, in turn, has led to a spike in wholesale gas prices. Industry figures are now concerned that some small brands may not have the financial backing to withstand these price increases while their customers are locked into low-priced contracts. Toto Energy has already announced a 50% price increase for its customers.

READ MORE: Gas crisis could force smaller energy suppliers out of business

Mobile brands under scrutiny for poor service

The head of the National Infrastructure Commission, Lord Adonis, has asked telecoms regulator Ofcom to take immediate action to force mobile operator brands to improve their service to customers. An Ofcom report last week showed that large parts of the UK have no 4G coverage or poor mobile broadband, while in 30% of the UK it is still not possible to send a text message from one of the four mobile networks – EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three.

“In an age when access to a mobile signal is regarded as a must-have, it is deplorable that even in areas previously considered to have strong coverage, operators are still delivering such poor services that customers can struggle to make a quick phone call,” Lord Adonis wrote in his letter to Ofcom.

He demanded that operators should boost signal strengths and share masts.

READ MORE: Mobile phone and broadband services need ‘radical improvement’

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