Brands crash Area 51 parties. And AT&T considers offloading DirecTV: Thursday Wake-Up Call


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Whassup? Now take me to your leader
Bud Light is the official sponsor of the Area 51 Celebration happening in Las Vegas tonight, and the brand made extraterrestrial-themed beer cans for the occasion. It also has a fridge of beer stocked just for aliens, should any turn up. But let’s back up, because this requires some explanation. It all started with an internet joke urging a raid on the Area 51 military facility in the Nevada desert; legend has it that alien spacecraft are held there.

The joke “quickly grew into a potentially real thing (putting many, including the Air Force and Continue reading "Brands crash Area 51 parties. And AT&T considers offloading DirecTV: Thursday Wake-Up Call"

Tinder is making a choose-your-own-adventure streaming series: Wednesday Wake-Up Call


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Tinder’s ‘Project X’
Tinder, arguably, is one extended choose-your-own-adventure game; you swipe left or right to follow different paths. So it’s fitting that the dating app is making a choose-your-own-adventure streaming series. Variety reports that the show, kept secret during production and known as “Project X,” is set as the apocalypse nears, forcing characters to choose who they want to spend their last night with. It's reportedly set to debut next month.

“The show will upload directly to the Tinder app, and users will be able to swipe right or left (the service’s basic function of approving or denying a potential love Continue reading "Tinder is making a choose-your-own-adventure streaming series: Wednesday Wake-Up Call"

A crackdown on vaping, and FTC scrutiny for Amazon: Thursday Wake-Up Call


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An e-cigarette crackdown
The Trump administration plans a ban on most flavored e-cigarettes, a category that has exploded in popularity and boosted brands like Juul, which sells nicotine pods flavored like mint, cucumber and mango. Other companies offer dessert-inspired flavors—bubble gum, root beer barrel and cinnamon roll—and there are concerns that sweet flavors draw in teenagers who are otherwise put off by tobacco products. (Juul says its products are intended for adults trying to quit smoking cigarettes.)

In an Oval Office meeting, President Trump mentioned that his wife Melania is worried about the issue because of their teenage son, Barron, The Washington Post reports.  A spate of vaping-linked lung illnesses, and six Continue reading "A crackdown on vaping, and FTC scrutiny for Amazon: Thursday Wake-Up Call"

Colonel Sanders, object of fantasies. Plus, Apple’s new ads: Wednesday Wake-Up Call


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A Colonel Sanders dating game
If you’ve ever harbored secret fantasies about Colonel Sanders, you’re in luck. KFC, agency Wieden & Kennedy and production company Psyop teamed up to make a Colonel Sanders-themed dating sim, a subgenre of video games about  dating or romance. It’s called “I Love You Colonel Sanders," and it stars a hot, anime-inspired avatar of the KFC founder. 

You probably have questions. Ad Age’s Ann-Christine Diaz explains

“I Love You Colonel Sanders” gives you, the player, a chance to win the heart of the company’s white-suited, bolo-tied founder. The premise, according to KFC, is this: You are a student at a culinary institution called University of Cooking Continue reading "Colonel Sanders, object of fantasies. Plus, Apple’s new ads: Wednesday Wake-Up Call"

Google gets hit with an antitrust probe, and the FDA slams Juul’s marketing: Tuesday Wake-Up Call


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Welcome to Ad Age’s Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. If you're reading this online or in a forwarded email, here's the link to sign up for our Wake-Up Call newsletters.

Banding together to investigate Google
In 2019, what unites America's divided political parties? Worries about Big Tech. Google’s online advertising empire now faces a bipartisan investigation by 50 attorneys general, as Bloomberg News reports. They come from every state minus California and Alabama, and from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. “This is a company that dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet,” says Texas’ attorney general, Ken Paxton, who is leading the antitrust probe. A smaller coalition of attorneys general already launched a similar investigation for Facebook. 

There’s been such a flurry of regulatory activity around Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon in the U.S. that perhaps Continue reading "Google gets hit with an antitrust probe, and the FDA slams Juul’s marketing: Tuesday Wake-Up Call"

Walgreens and CVS join Walmart in asking customers not to carry guns: Friday Wake-Up Call


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Welcome to Ad Age’s Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. Friendly reminder: The deadline for entering Ad Age Best Places to Work 2020 is Monday.

CVS and Walgreens say no to guns
Is this the start of a movement? After Walmart asked customers not to bring guns into its stores, even in states where it's legal, at least four other retailers have joined in. CVS, Walgreens and Wegmans Food Markets made similar statements Thursday. "We join a growing chorus of businesses in requesting that our customers, other than authorized law enforcement personnel, do not bring firearms into our stores," CVS wrote. Kroger also adopted a similar policy earlier this week. 

Walmart, still reeling from two deadly shootings in U.S. stores this summer, also said it would stop selling ammunition used in handguns and military-style weapons. 

Brands seem to have weighed the potential drawbacks of taking a stance Continue reading "Walgreens and CVS join Walmart in asking customers not to carry guns: Friday Wake-Up Call"

Kellogg debuts a silly (but maybe also brilliant?) brand name: Thursday Wake-Up Call


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Kellogg goes ‘Incogmeato’
Is it possible for a brand name to be so cheesy, so absolutely absurd, that it’s actually brilliant? Kellogg Co.’s MorningStar Farms revealed that its new plant-based faux meat line is named “Incogmeato,” and corners of Twitter erupted in giggles. “Confirm that this is not The Onion?" someone tweeted. In Ad Age’s internal Slack messaging channels, staffer and pun enthusiast Max Sternlicht riffed on similar spycraft-themed names for vegan burgers disguised as meat. He suggested “Incowgnito,” “Steakout,” “Grassified” and a few others we won't subject you to.

However you feel about the name Incogmeato—and some people definitely hate it—you have to admit it’s memorable. It’s a giant dad joke of a product name. Kellogg is late to the trend of plant-based meat imitators, as Bloomberg News writes, but suddenly more established brand names (Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods) seem bland. Thanks for the laugh, Kellogg. 

Related: Continue reading "Kellogg debuts a silly (but maybe also brilliant?) brand name: Thursday Wake-Up Call"

Takeaways from the outcry over Dior’s Johnny Depp perfume ad: Tuesday Wake-Up Call


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Dior pulls a perfume ad starring Johnny Depp
Yet another luxury brand just had to backtrack after a culturally insensitive move. Dior on Friday pulled an ad for its “Sauvage” perfume, as Business of Fashion reports; the spot starred Johnny Depp playing guitar in the desert while a Native American dancer, Canku One Star, performed in traditional dress. The company portrayed the spot as “an authentic journey deep into the Native American soul.” But the brand was quickly accused of cultural appropriation. Critics seemed most troubled by the juxtaposition of Native American imagery with the word "Sauvage"—which means “wild” in French, but which also evokes the history of labeling indigenous groups as “savages.” 

LVMH-owned Parfums Christian Continue reading "Takeaways from the outcry over Dior’s Johnny Depp perfume ad: Tuesday Wake-Up Call"

Cadbury is celebrating diversity with multi-hued chocolate. Not everyone’s a fan: Friday Wake-Up Call


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Cadbury’s Unity Bar proves rather … divisive
Cadbury’s new chocolate for the Indian market was well-intentioned. It used four different chocolates, from dark to white, in the same bar, promoting a pro-diversity message for the country’s Independence Day this month. The limited-edition Unity Bar, created out of Ogilvy Mumbai, encouraged solidarity between India's castes, religions, languages and regions, "because sweet things happen when we unite,” as the promotional film says.

But the product has exasperated some international viewers who spotted it online and found it simplistic and cloying. As Ad Age’s Ann-Christine Diaz writes, this isn’t the first time people have “scoffed at brand efforts to celebrate diversity through a more wide-ranging color palette (see Crayola's multicultural crayons).” In Continue reading "Cadbury is celebrating diversity with multi-hued chocolate. Not everyone’s a fan: Friday Wake-Up Call"

Oreo pulls a weird stunt, and Pepsi lets another brand share its spotlight: Thursday Wake-Up Call


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Pre-licked Oreos
Scottish pop star Lewis Capaldi licked a bunch of Oreos and is auctioning them off to raise money for charity. (Yes, it’s gross, but this is 2019, when Instagram celebrities are selling off their used bathwater for $30 a bottle.) Capaldi’s stunt is part of an Oreo campaign from agency Elvis whose “aim is to make the ‘Twist, Lick, Dunk’ ritual famous for Oreo in the U.K.,” Ad Age’s Alexandra Jardine writes. The campaign involves quirky Capaldi holding up some Oreos and promising, “I’m going to lick them like there’s no tomorrow. For you.” Huh.

In other gross advertising news (sorry!): “Creative Essence” is a new perfume from agency Mirum Helsinki that “combines juniper berries, Continue reading "Oreo pulls a weird stunt, and Pepsi lets another brand share its spotlight: Thursday Wake-Up Call"

Goodbye to Amazon Dash buttons (and did we ever really need them?): Friday Wake-Up Call


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Welcome to Ad Age’s Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. You can get an audio version of this briefing on your Alexa device; sign up here.

The end of Amazon Dash 
Some people thought Amazon Dash was an April Fool’s Day joke when it was announced in 2015. It was an odd little gadget: a plastic button to press to order a specific product—Charmin toilet paper, say, or Arm & Hammer cat litter, or Doritos. Amazon was serious about Dash, but apparently it didn’t take off the way the company hoped. The company stopped selling them months ago, and now Amazon says all Dash buttons globally will stop working on Aug. 31, CNET reports

So if you’ve got a Dash button, you’ve still got a few weeks to use it to stock up on Red Bull or Huggies. After that, maybe ask Alexa Continue reading "Goodbye to Amazon Dash buttons (and did we ever really need them?): Friday Wake-Up Call"

Ad Age Small Agency Awards winners. Plus, a protest over Facebook ad policies: Thursday Wake-Up Call


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JohnXHannes is Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year
The list of Ad Age Small Agency Awards winners is out, and creative collective JohnXHannes came out on top. The agency punches way above its weight; how many 12-person creative shops are capable of pulling off a Super Bowl ad? The shop, founded by Executive Creative Directors John McKelvey and Hannes Ciatti, was behind expense management app Expensify’s amusing interactive Super Bowl music video starring rapper 2 Chainz and actor Adam Scott. Silver went to DCX Growth Accelerator, the agency that convinced influencers that shoes from Payless ShoeSource were actually a luxury brand called Palessi. 

Read the roundup by Ad Age’s I-Hsien Sherwood, and check out the full list Continue reading "Ad Age Small Agency Awards winners. Plus, a protest over Facebook ad policies: Thursday Wake-Up Call"

Small Agency Of The Year, Culture, Silver: Orci


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For 33 years, Santa Monica, California agency Orcí has focused on marketing to the growing U.S. Hispanic community and ensuring its representation in advertising. The pioneering multicultural shop has also embraced issues close to the community, like a video campaign supporting the Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children, and pro bono get-out-the-vote messaging for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, or NALEO.  Husband-and-wife team Hector (chairman) and Norma Orcí (vice-chairman) founded the agency, and their son Andrew Orcí is CEO; staffers refer to themselves as Orcístas. The family-owned agency also offers small touches to make agency life more enjoyable (a masseuse comes in at crunch times) and more workable (staffers can bring in children and pets as needed). And Orcí keeps things fun with holidays and internal celebrations, like an annual guacamole “war,” with staffers competing for the best recipes.

Small Agency Campaign Of The Year, B2B, Silver: “The Operation: A Data Lifecycle Story,” Admirable Devil


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When cybersecurity company Infolock reinvented itself, Washington, D.C. creative agency Admirable Devil worked on the rebrand, coming up with its new identity, positioning, logo, graphic identity and website. The shop also found an unusual way to tell the story of why companies need Infolock’s services, by making an interactive film inspired by big-screen thrillers.  Infolock, a longtime cybersecurity tech reseller for financial, healthcare and education clients, was repositioning into a data management consultancy that helps companies protect themselves from data breaches. Admirable Devil communicated that offering with a fast-moving crime film showing how one healthcare file, not properly safeguarded, gets accessed by a hacker, leading to a ransomware attack that massively disrupts a hospital. The film was written and shot by the agency’s in-house production company, Devil Pictures.  Infolock’s new brand identity and campaign launched last year at Symantec Kickoff, a major tech conference; Infolock website visits Continue reading "Small Agency Campaign Of The Year, B2B, Silver: “The Operation: A Data Lifecycle Story,” Admirable Devil"

Snapchat infiltrates Instagram. And Edelman drops a controversial client: Wednesday Wake-Up Call


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Welcome to Ad Age’s Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. You can get an audio version of this briefing on your Alexa device; sign up here.

Snapchat infiltrates Instagram
Snapchat is running its first global paid-media campaign, and it’s using the occasion to subtly throw shade at rival Instagram. As Ad Age’s Garett Sloane writes, the campaign is called “Real Friends,” and it focuses on friendships between people who use the messaging app to bond in fun ways. Snapchat is hoping to build on the strong user growth it’s seen recently. And it’s getting its message out on billboards, digital, broadcast, print—and on Instagram, which is less about building "real" relationships and more about presenting an idealized, carefully curated vision of your life. As Sloane reports, Snapchat paid Instagram influencers to post inspirational quotes about friendship that are part of its ad campaign. Such as Continue reading "Snapchat infiltrates Instagram. And Edelman drops a controversial client: Wednesday Wake-Up Call"

Uber cuts 400 marketing jobs, and Under Armour’s CEO defends Baltimore: Tuesday Wake-Up Call


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Welcome to Ad Age’s Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. You can get an audio version of this briefing on your Alexa device; sign up here.

Uber cuts 400 marketing jobs
Uber is laying off 400 marketing employees, about one-third of the department, to trim costs after it went public two months ago. “Many of our teams are too big, which creates overlapping work, makes for unclear decision owners, and can lead to mediocre results,” CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote to staff, as reported by Bloomberg News. The company has about 25,000 staff globally. Change has been afoot for weeks: Chief Marketing Officer Rebecca Messina left last month, and Uber’s communications lead, Jill Hazelbaker, assumed responsibility for the department. The ride-hailing service is not profitable, and some commenters expressed surprise that the marketing department ever reached 1,200 people to begin with. 

One telling detail reported Continue reading "Uber cuts 400 marketing jobs, and Under Armour’s CEO defends Baltimore: Tuesday Wake-Up Call"

What advertisers should know about the Fortnite World Cup: Monday Wake-Up Call


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Takeaways from the Fortnite World Cup
Kyle Giersdorf, a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania, won the solo event Sunday at the first-ever Fortnite World Cup. Giersdorf, who goes by the online name "Bugha," will take home $3 million of the total $30 million in prize money from the championships for the uber-popular online video game. (Just for comparison’s sake, the Tour de France cycling race wrapped up Sunday after three weeks and 2,118 grueling miles, much of it uphill; winner Egan Bernal of Colombia gets a check for a mere $556,000. But we digress.)

Ad Age’s George P. Slefo has good details about sponsorship deals with teams competing in Epic Games’ Fortnite event, which was hosted at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, Continue reading "What advertisers should know about the Fortnite World Cup: Monday Wake-Up Call"

Juul gets criticized for programs in schools and summer camps: Friday Wake-Up Call


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Juul gets scrutiny for programs at schools 
Juul, the maker of vaping devices, markets its products as a tool to help adults quit smoking cigarettes; now it’s under scrutiny for its past outreach to teenagers. A House subcommittee held hearings this week on Juul and youth vaping, and it issued a report that says Juul used “a sophisticated program to enter schools and convey its messaging directly to teenage children.” Bloomberg News reports

The programs, which took place as recently as last year, used Juul representatives or sponsorships to put on presentations at schools, summer camps and police-run community camps. They were billed as benign-sounding sessions on topics like ‘holistic health education,’ according to the report.

Continue reading "Juul gets criticized for programs in schools and summer camps: Friday Wake-Up Call"

An In-N-Out mystery gets solved, surprisingly: Thursday Wake-Up Call


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The curious case of the In-N-Out burger
For days, a mystery has captivated a swath of the internet: How did a perfect-looking, uneaten In-N-Out burger wind up on a sidewalk in Jamaica, Queens, which is over 1,500 miles from the chain's nearest outpost? Now we have the answer. 

Lincoln Boehm, the writer and creative who originally found the abandoned burger, posted an explanation on Vice. After the story went viral, a 16-year-old Queens student named Helen Vivas reached out to explain that it was her burger, bought before boarding a flight from San Diego to New York, and that it fell out of her bag when she was running to catch a bus in Queens. Vivas provided extensive documentation to back Continue reading "An In-N-Out mystery gets solved, surprisingly: Thursday Wake-Up Call"

Spuds MacKenzie returns, sort of. Plus, a Big Tech antitrust probe: Wednesday Wake-Up Call


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The reincarnation of Spuds MacKenzie
Spuds MacKenzie was Bud Light's pitchman (errr, pitchdog?) in the '80s; now a brand of dog treats is using the famous name. A company called Spuds Ventures holds the trademark registrations for the name when it comes to pet products, and its planned lineup includes dog treats infused with hemp seed, hemp oil and CBD, Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl writes. The first product is “Spuds MacKenzie Anti-Anxiety & Calming Smoky Bacon Dog Treats." But following a trademark suit settlement, the company says it can't use the same dog imagery that Bud Light used. So while the original Spuds was portrayed by a female bull terrier named Honey Tree Evil Eye (may she rest in peace), Continue reading "Spuds MacKenzie returns, sort of. Plus, a Big Tech antitrust probe: Wednesday Wake-Up Call"