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As more brands commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth, there are still lessons on mindfulness to be learned

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As more brands commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth, there are still lessons on mindfulness to be learned

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 and some brands and agencies are likely to celebrate it for the first time this year. The expansion of celebrating Juneteenth with a day off as well as recognition of the holiday at work, can demonstrate a company’s dedication to the history, traditions and impact of Juneteenth.

But there is still work to be done to get it right, according to brand founders and agency execs

While some companies are just starting to recognize Juneteenth for employees in recent years, others have been doing so long before corporate America’s spotlight fell on the day. And some are looking to do more than simply give their employees a day off. For example, financial service companies Solo Funds and Grain and creative and media agency group Havas, are not only honoring Juneteenth, they are also giving their employees a meaningful way to commemorate the holiday.

For the companies to maintain a strong relationship with their consumers, they have to understand what they celebrate and what culture they are part of in order to achieve long-term success when communicating about, and marketing associated with, Juneteenth.

More than a day off

“It’s important for our employees to understand Juneteenth, just as it’s important for us to understand Pride Month,” said Rodney Williams, co-founder of Solo Funds, which enables a marketplace where members can request and fund emergency needs. The company was founded in 2018 by Black entrepreneurs Williams and Travis Holoway.

Grain, an innovative fintech that extends lines of credit based on cashflow, also celebrated Juneteenth long before it became a federal holiday. “The large majority of our employee base are Black,” said Christian Joseph, CEO of Grain. “50% of the company is a mix of Black and Black immigrants. In regards to Juneteenth, we take it very seriously. We also celebrated Juneteenth long before it became a popular thing to do. It’s not just a one day thing, from inception it’s something we’ve been very conscious of.”

Solo Funds emphasized the importance of being aware of other holidays that may be ethnically-focused or that have a positive agenda. This has now spread to their employees as well. Williams added: Solo Funds “has the most diverse staff that I’ve ever been a part of. And it’s not because we have a diversity initiative, it’s that it’s part of our culture to appreciate differences among the team.”

In addition to closing for Juneteenth this year, Havas has shown a new documentary , “Just Like Me,” to its employees across the country. Made by Havas Chicago senior art director, Mike “TTK” Harris, the film sets out to demonstrate how Black creatives make contributions to culture through their work, highlight the challenges many face due to the color of their skin and reinforce the importance of representation to advertising and design. “Just Like Me” tells the stories of eight Black creatives who helped to shape the world in their own way, against long odds and who are now sharing the lessons they have learned with the next generation.

The idea for all Havas North American employees to see this short film was spearheaded by Stephanie Nerlich, Havas North America’s CEO. “We hope that it inspires the next generation of Black creatives to pursue careers in advertising and design,” said Nerlich.

Havas also launched its own commitment to change in 2020, a seven-point plan focused on the development, investment and growth of underrepresented talent — particularly Black talent.

“We have employees who have celebrated Juneteenth their whole lives, as well as those who are just learning about the holiday,” said Nerlich. “Beyond celebrating Freedom Day, a lot of our employees view this as a day of reflection — reflecting on where we’ve been, where we’ve come, and where we need to go as a society.”

Companies will also have to recognize that their employees will share their stories about Juneteenth. Sheena Collier, customer support leader at Solo Funds, was one of the employees who had a powerful Juneteenth story, explained Williams.

“With that message, she took it upon herself to communicate that to our employees and ultimately to the entire company. Solo Funds consists of employees in North America, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. “Kudos to some of our great employees, particularly our head of customer success, [Sheena Collier] who has been so vocal and passionate about our organization,” Williams said. 

Recognition without monetization

Aside from finding ways to go beyond recognizing Juneteenth for employees, brands and agency execs say marketers should learn from recent backlashes against brands looking to monetize Juneteeth commemorations.

Williams, who was previously a brand ambassador at Procter & Gamble prior to co-founding Solo Funds said, “When I used to try to lead these types of initiatives as a human, does this resonate with you? Is it the right thing to do as a human? And yes, you may be doing it as a part of Juneteenth, maybe doing it as part of a particular moment in time. But it should resonate with us being human and us sharing this together. So I think that’s my barometer for success as it relates to things like that when I see ads.”

Certainly Juneteenth should be a moment for brands to celebrate the Black experience, but many still don’t understand how to convey a message in that context in an appropriate and respectful way.

“Given that Juneteenth has been recently introduced as a moment that warrants celebration, brands are looking for guidance on what should be the guardrails that govern how they show their support,” said Joe Anthony, CEO of the 100% Black-owned full service creative and digital agency Hero Collective. “We obviously saw Walmart drop the ball with Juneteenth ice cream. Brands should really use this as a moment to use their brand strength to help empower the Black community.”

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Microsoft Teams is finally fixing this ear-splitting annoyance

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Microsoft Teams is finally fixing this ear-splitting annoyance
Four people in a meeting room video conferencing with four remote participants.



(Image credit: Microsoft)

One of the most irritating (and slightly painful) parts of joining a Microsoft Teams call could soon be fixed by a new update.

The video conferencing service is a popular choice for many companies, meaning calls with large numbers of participants joining at the same time, and from the same location (such as a meeting room) are a common occurrence. 

However, often when multiple people join a meeting in the same room, a feedback loop is created, which causes echo, which in most cases quickly escalates to howling – with Microsoft likening the noise to when a musician holds the mic too close to a loudspeaker.

Teams’ howling

Fortunately, a new fix is coming for Microsoft Teams users. In its entry in the official Microsoft 365 roadmap (opens in new tab), the new “Ultrasound Howling Detection” describes how it aims to prevent this noise for users on Windows and Mac across the world.

Microsoft says that the update should mean if multiple users on laptops join from the same location, it will share with the user that another Teams Device is detected in their vicinity and is already joined with audio to the current meeting. 

If a user has already joined with their audio on, Microsoft Teams will automatically mute the mic and speakers of any new the person who then joins the call, hopefully putting an end to the howling and screeching feedback.

Thankfully, the update is already listed as being in development, with an expected general availability date of March 2023, so users shouldn’t have to wait too long to enjoy.

The news follows a number of recent updates largely aimed around improving the audio quality on Microsoft Teams calls using AI and machine learning.

The new updates are the result of using a machine learning model trained on 30,000 hours of speech samples, and include echo cancellation, better adjusting audio in poor acoustic environments, and allowing users to speak and hear at the same time without interruptions.

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Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK’s leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he’s not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.

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Shazam! Fury of the Gods trailer breakdown: 6 thing you might have missed

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Shazam! Fury of the Gods trailer breakdown: 6 thing you might have missed
Shazam points at someone off camera in Shazam! Fury of the Gods



Shazam! Fury of the Gods lands in theaters on March 17.
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The final trailer for Shazam! Fury of the Gods has debuted online – and it looks even more charming, funnier, frenetic, and darker than its predecessor.

Shazam’s sequel flick arrives in theaters worldwide on March 17, so it’s about time we were given another look at the forthcoming DC Extended Universe movie (read our DC movies in order guide to find out where it’ll fit in that timeline). Luckily, Warner Bros. has duly obliged. Check it out below:

Okay, there’s some messy CGI and a slightly corny vibe about Shazam 2. But hey, the first problem can be ironed out before the superhero film takes flight, while the latter is part of what makes this movie series spellbinding (see what we did there?).

But we digress – you’re here because you want to find out what you missed from Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ new trailer. Below, we’ve pointed out six things you might have overlooked. So, what are you waiting for? Shout “Shazam!” and let’s dive in.

1. Who are the Daughters of Atlas?

Kalypso hands Hespera the wizard's staff in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

New movie, new villains. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

For a film centered around Shazam, we don’t actually see the titular superhero appear in the official trailer for the first 20 seconds.

Instead, we get another glimpse at Fury of the Gods‘ villains, aka the Daughters of Atlas. The powerful trio comprises the power-hungry Hespera (Helen Millen), dragon-riding Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Athena (Rachel Zegler), the latter of whom seems particularly torn about how the sisters are going about their business.

So, why are they gunning for Shazam and his superpowered foster siblings? Essentially, when Billy Batson was gifted his abilities by Djimon Hounsou’s wizard in the film film (available now on HBO Max), one of those powers was the Stamina of Atlas. The Daughters of Atlas aren’t too happy about their father’s ability being passed down to a child, so they want to take back what is theirs – and they’ll do it so by any means necessary.

2. Mythological monsters

A dragon prepares to breathe fire at one of Shazam's fellow heroes in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam isn’t the only person taking flight in Fury of the Gods. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Shazam’s first DCEU outing featured some horror-imbued creatures in the form of the Seven Deadly Sins. How, then, do you go about topping (or, at the very least) matching what came before? Throw in a bunch of myth-based monsters, of course.

Kalypso’s imposing dragon is the most notable inclusion. It feature prominently throughout the trailer, and we even get an amusing Game of Thrones reference from Shazam – “Hey, Khaleesi!” – in the movie. Hey, Warner Bros. loves to mention its suite of IPs in as many of its films as possible.

But Kalypso’s wyvern isn’t the only fairy-tale-based beast we see. Minotaurs, griffons, and demonic unicorns are just three of the other monsters who’ll turn up in Fury of the Gods. Basically, don’t expect this to be an easy fight for Shazam and company to save the world.

3. You can’t get the staff these days

Hespera uses the wizard's staff as Kalypso looks on in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

“So I just point it and then what?” (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Saving earth from a new titanic threat will be even harder when Shazam’s adoptive family are stripped of their powers, too. And it seems that the staff, which was wielded by Hounsou’s wizard in the first movie, is the key to giving and taking those abilities away.

In 2019’s Shazam!, the titular hero gave powers to his foster siblings to help him combat the Seven Deadly Sins and Doctor Sivana. They’ve still got those power in Fury of the Gods, too, but they won’t have them for long, based by what the trailer suggests.

The footage shows Freddy Freeman and Mary Bromfield being drained of their abilities by the Daughters of Atlas at various points. The trio are using the wizard’s staff to rob the teens of their powers, so it’s clearly of major importance to the movie’s main players. 

Later, we see Shazam wielding it – not before he asks the wizard to take his powers back, mind you, when he becomes convinced he can’t defeat the Daughters of Atlas. Anyway, Shazam’s brandishing of the staff suggests he needs it to boost his own abilities if he’s going to defeat the movie’s antagonists and give his siblings their powers back. Expect the staff to play a vital role in Fury of the Gods‘ plot, then.

4. Prison break

Djimon Hounsou's wizard blows som magic dust out of a prison window in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Time to break out, Mr. Wizard. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

In order to get the wizard’s staff, it seems the Daughters of Atlas go after Hounsou’s magic wielder to obtain it.

We see Hounsou’s character imprisoned at various points, including a shot of Hespera chastising him for giving the power of the gods to Billy, Freddy, and company. “You ripped it from our father’s core,” she tells him, which implies Hounsou’s wizard might not be as mighty and heroic as we were led to believe.

Anyway, Hounsou’s wizard interacts with Shazam later in the trailer, so he clearly escapes captivity. Whether he does so alone, or he enlists Shazam’s help – does that magic-infused dust, which he sends through his prison cell window, have something to do with it? – is unclear. Regardless, we’ll see Hounsou’s character break out at some stage.

5. Is that you, Doctor Strange?

Shazam flies past some rotating buildings in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Where have we seen this kind of aesthetic before? (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Remember when we said Zegler’s Athena doesn’t seem as keen to destroy earth as her sisters? That’s because, at the 1: 14 mark, we see her use her powers with a uncertain look on her face. You wouldn’t look like that if you were convinced you were doing the right thing, would you? 

Based on the fact she’s pushed away by Kalypso (using the staff no less), seconds later, it seems she’ll be swapping sides at some stage.

Interestingly, it seems the wizard’s staff can do more than give or take a person’s powers away. One perceived ability certainly has an air of the Doctor Strange/Marvel-based mystic arts about them. Just look at the Escher-style nature of how the scenery bends and folds in on itself when Athena is pushed back, and when Shazam evades numerous buildings at the 1: 44 mark. We’d be very surprised if DC and Warner Bros. didn’t take a leaf out of the MCU’s book with such an aesthetic.

6. Light the way

Shazam prepares to fight Kalypso and her dragon in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

A yellow bolt out of the blue. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Shazam and his fellow superheroes get a costume upgrade in Fury of the Gods. The group’s threads are more streamlined and less plastic-looking this time around, which is pleasing to see.

Fans had been worried, though, that these suits wouldn’t feature one of the first movie’s most underrated (if somewhat tacky) aspects: the glowing lightning bolt on Shazam’s chest. Shazam’s costume in the 2019 movie was manufactured in a way that allowed the bolt to physically light up, avoiding the problem of having to add awkward lighting effects during the post-production phase.

Thankfully, Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ official trailer confirms that Shazam’s lightning bolt will glow. However, given the sleeker look of the costumes this time around, it appears that the illumination effect has been added in post. Regardless of how it’s been implemented, we’re just glad it’s a feature that’s been retained.

For more DCEU-based coverage, find out where we placed 2019’s Shazam! in our DC movies ranked article. Additionally, read up on the best superhero films of all-time or check out how to watch the Batman movies in order.

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As TechRadar’s entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You’ll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot (opens in new tab).

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.

Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.

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You can lock Chrome incognito tabs on Android now. Bring it to the PC!

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You can lock Chrome incognito tabs on Android now. Bring it to the PC!

Chrome logo on a phone with a lock image over it

Image: Deepanker Verma / Pexels


Author: Alaina Yee
, Senior Editor

Alaina Yee is PCWorld’s resident bargain hunter—when she’s not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she’s scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.

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