Monday Wake-Up Call: Fiat Chrysler replaces CEO, WPP in talks to sell China stake

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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. Search for "Ad Age" under "Skills" in the Alexa app.

What people are talking about today: On Saturday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles appointed Mike Manley to replace the seriously ill Sergio Marchionne as its CEO. The decision took place at an emergency meeting of the FCA board of directors in Turin, reports Automotive News Europe, and Manley prevailed over two other FCA veterans: Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer and Alfredo Altavilla, the chief operating officer of FCA's Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

The change in CEO could have wide-ranging implications for the company, including for CMO Olivier Francois, whom Marchionne promoted up through the ranks and installed in his current position in 2011. In a story published in Ad Age's print edition today, E.J. Schultz reveals more about the CMO behind big-budget ads starring the likes of Eminem and Clint Eastwood. Francois admits of his relationship with agencies: "I'm beyond hands-on. I'm literally a pain in the ass,." He also reveals he views music as a "Trojan horse"--a way to sneak FCA's brands in front of targeted audiences. Read more of the fascinating story and interview here.

WPP in Alibaba and Tencent talks
WPP is in early-stage talks to sell a significant stake in its Chinese operations to a group including Alibaba Group and Tencent‎ Holdings, according to a story by the U.K.'s Sky News.

According to the story, Alibaba, Tencent and China Media Capital Holdings have had discussions about buying around 20% of WPP China. WPP chairman Roberto Quarta and co-chief operating officer Andrew Scott are believed to been in China recently discussing the deal, which could see WPP pool its Chinese agency operations into a new holding company. WPP's Chinese business is valued at over $2 billion.

Meanwhile, WPP's GroupM has sold its sponsorship consultancy practice, IEG, to Engine Shop, the sports and entertainment agency, Ad Age's E.J. Schultz reports. WPP and Engine Shop did not disclose financial terms of the deal, which has been in the works since late last year.

Papa John's "poison pill"
The Papa John's saga continues: on Sunday, Papa John's International's board members voted to adopt a so-called "poison pill," or shareholder rights plan, that would potentially prevent its founder John Schnatter from gaining a controlling interest in the pizza chain, according to the Wall Street Journal. The plan would go into action if an investor acquired 15 per cent or more of Papa John's shares without the approval of directors.

The move comes after the ongoing row resulting from Schnatter's alleged use of a racial slur during a call with agency Laundry Service; on Thursday, Initiative became the most recent agency to fire Papa John's as a client.

Amazon mulls Sponsored Products rollout
Amazon has big plans for one of its most important formats, Sponsored Products, reveals Ad Age's Garett Sloane. The retail giant is talking with agencies and brands about participating in a test that would expand the scope of the product ads to potentially retarget Amazon users on other sites around the internet.

"This brings the ad unit off Amazon and retargets users when they're on other sites," says an agency executive quoted by Sloane. "The ads click back to Amazon -- a shoppable format outside the Amazon ecosystem."

Just briefly:
Facebook sees Crimson: Facebook is investigating social analytics company Crimson Hexagon because of its potential dealings with a Russian organization and other concerns over how it handled private data. As Garett Sloane also reports, Crimson Hexagon has worked with brands that include Adidas, Samsung, GM, Walmart and General Mills, and with agencies like VML and R/GA.

Fuschia plans: Google is working on a successor to its Android software under the code name "Project Fuschia," Bloomberg News reports. According to the story, the project has been built to overcome the limitations of Android -- for example, to better accommodate voice interactions and frequent security updates -- and could run on all the company's in-house gadgets.

Paid to pitch? In China, 21 independent creative shops have joined forces to ask to be paid a fee when they pitch. As Ad Age's Angela Doland reports, the agencies' manifesto "proposes concrete sums: about $7,500 including tax for a pitch for a single creative idea, such as a video, and $15,000 for an integrated pitch with two or more elements of creative."

'Civil unrest': A senior Amazon exec made a bleak warning about Brexit in a meeting organized by the U.K. government on Friday, reports The Times of London. Douglas Gurr, Amazon's U.K. country manager, reportedly predicted that if Britain crashes out of the EU without a trade deal, it would spark "civil unrest" within two weeks. According to the Times, the remark "stunned those present."

Creativity pick of the day: If you love the classic children's song "If You're Happy and You Know It" you might want to look away now. The song takes on a dark tone in a new ad for the nonprofit advocacy group Future Forward USA Action, in which, as Ad Age's Simon Dumenco writes, "sinister slow-mo scenes of mega-rich country clubbers, white supremacists and Vladimir Putin disciples are shown being, well, ridiculously pleased." An on-screen tagline closes out of the ad: "These people are happy with the direction of the country." The ad was directed by Ted Pauly via Furlined and created by a group who describe themselves as "ad guys trying to save their souls" by opposing the Trump agenda.

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