The Lowdown is Ad Age's weekly look at news nuggets from across the world of marketing, including trends, campaign tidbits, executive comings and goings and more.
Playing, like driving, should not be influenced by gender stereotypes. That is the message Audi in Spain is sending with a new animated digital video ad called "The doll that chose to drive." The spot follows a doll as she escapes the pink-colored girl toy aisle for the blue-tinted boys section. She browses toy trucks and police cars before hopping in a blue Audi. She revs the engine and takes it for a James Bond-style race. The spot ends when a boy shopping with his mom picks up the toy car with the doll in it. She tries to dissuade him from buying it, suggesting they don't go together. But he decides otherwise. The spot, by Proximity Barcelona and produced by Post23, is aimed at breaking down toy stereotypes during the Christmas season. Audi has produced a limited-edition toy of the car and the doll, according to a statement. "These two toys, usually kept apart by gender stereotypes, have been brought together this Christmas to show that play, like driving, is a gender-free area," according to a statement distributed by Proximity.
Hatchimals are one holiday gift that seem to require no advertising. This year's must-have toy has largely been out of stock in most stores or online since early November, except for brief appearances in Black Friday promotions or weekly shipments to stores that get snatched up within minutes. Yet Walmart has continued to advertise the creatures prominently online, including its own exclusive Burtle Hatchimal as recently as Dec. 20 on the Yahoo sign-in page. The "Save Money. Live Better." folks also are doing Google search ads that lead to Hatchimals on sale from third-party vendors on Walmart.com for more than four times the original $49.99 to $59.99 price tag for the Spin Master product.
One person familiar with Walmart believes the continued Hatchimal advertising may be to help bolster its third-party marketplace, where it's long been at a distinct disadvantage to Amazon. Walmart also is advertising lower-cost and more available alternatives on its site and in search at times too – including FurReal Friends Torch, My Blazin' Dragon for a mere $59, $20 off the original price. But the continued advertising for three-figure Hatchimals has produced a bit of grumbling about Walmart in social media. Why advertise something that seemingly sells itself? A Walmart spokeswoman noted that new shipments of Hatchimals continue to arrive at stores all the time – even if they sell out fast. And Walmart isn't entirely alone here. Toys 'R Us and Target also have been buying Google search ads against Hatchimals queries, generally later in the day than Walmart. If it's any consolation to parents who can't lay their hands on Hatchimals it's that reviews are mixed. Immediately after the blessed event, in which after hours of rubbing and other coddling the plush toy emerges from its shell, parents report their little ones often lose interest, whether the Hatchimal cost $49.99 or $259.95.
Moving on to the beer beat: MillerCoors is taking some heat for billboards erected in Milwaukee that plug higher alcohol content for Milwaukee's Best Ice. The signs simply say: "Milwaukee's Best Ice. Now 6.9% Alc/Vol." The brew used to be at 5.9%. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week covered the billboards in a lengthy piece that included several critical comments, including from a well-known activist and Catholic priest in Chicago named Michael Pfleger, who alleged that MillerCoors "made a conscious choice" to plug the higher alcohol in the brew. "We're no longer just advertising the drink – now we're advertising how much alcohol you can get in the consumption of the drink," he told the newspaper. The brewer told the MJS that it is "committed to leading the industry in transparency so that our consumers can make fully informed choices."
Here is one way to make an old ad slogan new again: Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pantene has turned its 1980s "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" slogan on its head with an ad from mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey. Ms. Rousey, due for a big Dec. 30 match against current champion Amanda Nunes to regain her UFC bantamweight title, turns the selling line into "Don't hate me because I'm strong." "Ronda is the future of strong women everywhere," said P&G VP-North America Hair Care Jodi Allen in a statement. The ad from WPP's Grey is about "women rising above society's expectations and proving once and for all that strong is always beautiful," Ms. Allen said.
Finally, one executive move to report this week: Reusable water bottle brand S'well is upping its business prowess by hiring its first chief marketing officer. A branding veteran, Judd Harner previously worked with companies including Coca-Cola, American Express and Chico's. Tasked with leading all marketing efforts, he will be CMO and exec VP at the six-year-old company, which is known for its colorful bottles beloved by celebrities such as Julia Roberts and mission of sustainability. In growth mode, S'well, which has a reported $50 million in sales, also recently hired a CFO from Fast Retailing.
Contributing: Adrianne Pasquarelli, Jack Neff, E.J. Schultz