The Lowdown: Gillette Gets Patriotic, Uber Spends on Music

Remember When Most Razors Were Made in USA?

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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.

At one time, "Made in the USA" didn't mean much, or at least didn't differentiate much, in the razor business. Almost all the blades sold in the U.S. were made here -- from Gillette to Schick to private labels made largely by American Safety Razor (now owned by Schick's parent Edgewell).

But the fast risers in the razor business -- the online razor brands taking big, bloody chunks of market share from the established players -- are largely manufactured overseas. Those include Harry's, which owns the German manufacturer that makes its blades, and Dollar Shave Club, believed by other competitors in the industry to have its blades made in South Korea. So now industry leader Gillette, based in Boston and owned by Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co., would like people to meet the Americans who make its razors. In a video series developed by Gillette with PR firm Ketchum and production company Gnarly Bay of Rhode Island, Gillette is highlighting the Boston faces behind the razors.

Meanwhile, Dollar Shave Club Founder and CEO Michael Dubin continues to take subtle jabs at his competitors. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," is a sentence he finds himself saying a lot these days. He uttered it in talking about Gillette launching its own Gillette Shave Club earlier this year. And he said it again in regard to Dollar Beard Club and its inaugural video, which bears some strong resemblances to Mr. Dubin's inaugural video, aired more than three years earlier. But is he so flattered that he's ruling out litigation for trademark infringement? Or, in the case of Gillette, any chance of disputing the claim that its club razors are up to 50% cheaper than "the other shave club?" Mr. Dubin has no comment. Dollar Shave Club and Dollar Beard Club have both been granted trademarks from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. So has direct-response TV products marketer Ideavillage on MicroTouch Shave Club. Gillette does not appear to have a trademark on "shave club," though it has a long trail of trademark protection on all other things shaving related.

Jay-Z performs at an A-B InBev Music Festival
Jay-Z performs at an A-B InBev Music Festival Credit: Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision-AP

No one has the market cornered on music sponsorships -- but there is a new leader: Anheuser-Busch InBev. The brewer surpassed Coca-Cola Co. as the most active music sponsor, while Uber sped onto the list of top spenders, thanks to deals with Live Nation, Lollapalooza and the Sasquatch music fest, according to sponsorship consultancy IEG. Total spending on music tours, venues and festivals will total $1.4 billion in 2015, up 4.8% from last year, according to IEG. That outpaces overall projected sponsorship spending (up 4%), including sports (up 4.4%). The uptick is driven by interest in national music festivals and a growing appetite for regional music fests, IEG says.

Maybe Coke is waiting to spend all its sponsorship money on retro brand Surge. OK, that's unlikely, but the marketer is putting a bit more energy behind the 1990s-era citrus-flavored soda. After relaunching Surge and selling it exclusively on Amazon last year, Coke is slowly putting the brand in stores. The marketer did a small in-market test in limited areas this summer with two bottlers and since then has made it available in other locations in the Midwest and Southeast.

Here is what is going national: cage-free eggs. Last week, McDonald's enticed fans by announcing breakfast would be available all day starting Oct. 6, answering a plea many have had for years with a series of humorous tweets and direct response messages. This week, it teased Twitter followers on Tuesday before making a breakfast-related move Wednesday that may help the chain win over animal rights activists.

McDonald's said it would move to serving only eggs that are cage-free in the U.S. and Canada. The effort was announced Wednesday but could take a decade to implement. McDonald's needs to find enough cage-free eggs to serve at close to 16,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada to meet its goal, and that means a lot of egg buying, even before it sees how many people flock to U.S. restaurants to satisfy late-night McMuffin cravings. McDonald's USA alone needs about 2 billion eggs a year, and since 2011 it has been buying more than 13 million cage-free eggs a year. McDonald's isn't the only restaurant chain struggling to find enough supply. In March, Dunkin' Donuts said it would take a look at whether switching to only cage-free eggs was feasible, but would only commit to ensuring that 10% of the eggs for its breakfast sandwiches served in the U.S. would be cage free by the end of 2016.

In other breakfast news, White Castle followed on the heels of McDonald's announcement by making its own: customers can order breakfast items anytime at the slider chain starting Sept. 10.

Meanwhile, another mainstream food seller is making a socially-conscious purchase, as Perdue Farms said Tuesday it plans to buy Natural Foods Holdings and its Niman Ranch business. Niman Ranch's antibiotic- and hormone-free pork, beef and lamb is already served at a number of restaurants. The brand is perhaps best known as being a major supplier to Chipotle Mexican Grill for its carnitas.

Finally, MillerCoors made it official this week and removed the interim tag from CEO Gavin Hattersley, who took over from the retiring Tom Long on July 1. In a note to distributors Tuesday, Mr. Hattersley said: "Job one is to transform our portfolio and achieve volume growth, which includes taking share in American light lagers and continuing to premiumize our portfolio." That is a pretty lofty goal in an era where big brewers are still highly profitable -- but are struggling to gain volume growth.

Contributing: Jack Neff, Jessica Wohl, E.J. Schultz