Amazon’s #peegate, a self-inflicted PR disaster, explained: Monday Wake-Up Call

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$47.8 million

That’s the estimated five-day box office take of Warner Bros./Legendary Entertainment’s “Godzilla vs. Kong,” including the $32.2 million it made from Friday through Sunday, the AP’s Jake Coyle reports. The figures are pandemic-era records.

Essential context: “Godzilla vs. Kong” opened wide, playing in more than 3,000 theaters. “Many theaters have been reopening over the past few weeks,” Coyle notes, and “about 60% of theaters were open this weekend, according to data firm Comscore. Most are operating at 50% capacity or less.”

What it means: The boffo box office, which exceeded industry analyst projections, is “giving Hollywood studios and theater owners alike hope that people are ready to return to the movies after a year of watching Netflix at home,” Variety’s Rebecca Rubin writes.

#Peegate redux

Late Friday, Amazon published a post in the “Policy news & views” section of its website titled “Our recent response to Representative Pocan” and bylined “By Amazon Staff.” It begins,

On Wednesday last week, the @amazonnews Twitter account tweeted the following back to Representative Mark Pocan:

1/2 You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us. The truth is that we have over a million incredible employees around the world who are proud of what they do, and have great wages and health care from day one. —Amazon News (@amazonnews) March 25, 2021

This was an own-goal, we’re unhappy about it, and we owe an apology to Representative Pocan.

Pocan, a Wisconsin congressman, had tweeted, “Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles”—which was itself a response to a tweet from Dave Clark, Amazon’s CEO Worldwide Consumer, claiming that Amazon is a progressive workplace.

Anyway, Amazon’s Friday follow-up rambled on a bit about how its “tweet was incorrect” and “did not receive proper scrutiny”—and that “we know that drivers can and do have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic or sometimes rural routes, and this has been especially the case during Covid when many public restrooms have been closed. This is a long-standing, industry-wide issue and is not specific to Amazon.”

What Amazon didn’t acknowledge is the white-hot rage that its attempted clapback at Rep. Pocan had caused. On March 25, because of that snarky @amazonnews tweet, “Amazon News” became a trending topic on Twitter, with thousands of tweets piling on the retailer for, among other things, “gaslighting” its workers and the Twittersphere.

One big problem with Amazon’s apology post is that it attempts to suggest that the “peeing in bottles thing” is only a problem with its delivery workers. “A typical Amazon fulfillment center has dozens of restrooms,” the post asserts, “and employees are able to step away from their work station at any time. If any employee in a fulfillment center has a different experience, we encourage them to speak to their manager and we’ll work to fix it.”

But a lengthy, front-page Reddit discussion over the weekend drew plenty of comments begging to differ, including this one from an Amazon fulfillment center worker:

As someone who was personally reprimanded for being off task for 6 minutes for the purpose of walking to one of the 2 male restrooms at a fulfillment center, using it to number 2, and return… When I advised that the alternative was shitting my pants, I was advised that, without a medical accommodation, I was expected to limit restroom use to one of my two 15 minute breaks or my 30 minute lunch (per 10 hour shift). So yeah, able to? Technically correct. Able to without reprimand? Outlook points to ‘bullshit’.

Stay tuned.

Essential context: “Amazon has issued a rare public apology—but not to its workers, and with no real admission of guilt,” as The Verge’s Sean Hollister puts it

See also: “Amazon started a Twitter war because Jeff Bezos was pissed,” per Recode/Vox.

Flashback: An April 23, 2018 tweet by Nigel Flanagan, a UK-based union organizer, that uses the hashtag #peegate in reference to a strike among Amazon workers in Berlin—and includes a graphic that shows a water bottle next to the headline, “Hey Alexa, why are Amazon workers using this as a bathroom?”

Supporting minority-owned businesses

Today at 11 a.m. EDT, Ad Age invites you to join leaders from across the industry for a virtual Town Hall event to discuss the importance of investing in minority-owned businesses—and how the ad world can better support these companies. For information on the speakers and the agenda, and to RSVP to this free event, click here.

The Hummer gets even greener

The Hummer, a newly eco-conscious brand that was once synonymous with gas-guzzling excess, got even greener over the weekend. On Saturday, GMC formally revealed the specs of the Hummer EV SUV—adding a sibling to the previously unveiled Hummer EV pickup—and started taking “reservations” on its website. 

What does “reservation” mean in this context? Per the small print: “The reservation gets you one step closer to owning a Hummer EV by securing your place in line to submit a vehicle purchase order.”

Also per the small print: “GMC expects Hummer EV pickup production to begin Fall 2021 and Hummer EV SUV production will begin early 2023.”

The Hummer EV SUV reveal was, to put it mildly, heavily hyped. Ad Age Datacenter Weekly has exclusive data, via iSpot Ace Metrix, on how the campaign has been received so far: “How consumers are reacting to GMC’s hyperdramatic Hummer EV teaser commercials.”


“Stagwell Group has brought on the country’s eighth-largest cable and internet provider, Atlantic Broadband, after a competitive pitch,” Ad Age’s Judann Pollack reports, “and will service the account across five of its agencies: Kettle as creative agency of record; ForwardPMX as AOR media; Rhythm for web marketing; Wye Communications for PR; and HarrisX for research.

Essential context:  As Pollack notes, “The win is significant for Stagwell, which is in the process of merging with MDC Partners, as clients increasingly seek cross-disciplinary solutions such as Publicis Groupe’s ‘The Power of One’ or Interpublic Group of Cos.’ ‘Open Architecture.’”

Keep reading here.

Just briefly

A social media stoning: “Rolling Stone hits back amid calls to boycott magazine,” per the New York Post.

An art project gone awry: “NFTs Weren’t Supposed to End Like This,” from The Atlantic.

Free free free: “Facebook Data on 533 Million Users Reemerges Online for Free,” per Bloomberg News.

And finally … there’s still time to enter: “Small Agency Awards entries are now open,” from Ad Age.

That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.

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