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Your Monday Wake-Up Call: Sneaky Amazon Discounts. Plus, the Demise of the Sprint-T-Mobile Merger

By Published on .

Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital-related news. What people are talking about today: It's not Thanksgiving yet, but Amazon is playing Santa. It's quietly giving consumers discounts of up to 9 percent on some items in third-party shops on its platform, The Wall Street Journal reports. Amazon is paying to make up for those discounts itself. It's apparently part of a surprising tactic to compete with Walmart and others in the runup to the holidays. But as the Journal says, "The unusual move, while good for consumers, could further strain Amazon's complicated relationship with big-name brands, manufacturers and its merchants." Many brands are already worried about how Amazon is affecting their pricing strategy. Just a little reminder: Amazon sales are expected to make up 44 percent of every dollar spent on e-commerce in the U.S. this year, up from 38 percent last year, according to eMarketer. Anyway, happy shopping.

Power Players
Ad Age's Power Players issue is out today, with Procter & Gamble's chief brand officer Marc Pritchard on the cover. Ad Age's Jack Neff profiles Pritchard, and there are plenty of surprises about the man overseeing the world's biggest ad budget. "We always referred to him as the original CoverBoy," one ad exec says, referring to the straight-laced marketer's unexpected embrace of the cosmetics category in the '90s. Other Power Players come from Apple, JPMorgan, Verizon and beyond – one of them is an investment fund co-founder who's driving the trend of zero-based budgeting. Also check out Jessica Wohl's profile of McDonald's USA Chief Marketing Officer Morgan Flatley, who settled into the job with stints at a drive-in window.

Paradise Papers
After the Panama Papers, here come the Paradise Papers: a new leaked trove of documents about the offshore financial accounts of corporations and the superrich. One finding is that Russian state-controlled entities funded massive investments into Facebook and Twitter via Russian tech investor Yuri Milner, The New York Times reports. Milner's company sold its stakes in Facebook and Twitter a few years back. Still, with both companies embroiled in a PR crisis since Kremlin operators hijacked their platforms to meddle in last year's U.S. election, the revelation isn't what they needed right now. Milner says it's unfair to cast suspicion on all Russians, and "the idea that we were working on Russia's behalf to turn social media against US democracy is a fairy tale," according to statement published by Recode.
Also: Ad Age's Garett Sloane looks at Russia's meddling on social media: "Marketers watching the postmortem of Facebook's role in last year's election mess are getting a new appreciation for the social network—and some new worries."

The breakup
Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US were in merger discussions, then the talks were reportedly off, then maybe they were back on, and now they say it's really, seriously over. In case you spent the weekend unplugged, the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless players released a joint statement Saturday saying that the talks ended because they could not agree on terms. It's the second time in a few years that the two have tried and failed to merge. For Madison Ave., a deal would have been bad news, since both brands are big ad spenders, as Ad Age's Simon Dumenco has pointed out.

Just briefly:

On hold: "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" is airing re-runs this week after host Jimmy Fallon's mother died, Variety says.

Fake news: For those interested in how and where fake news spreads, BuzzFeed has a list of all the online misinformation about the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where at least 26 people were killed Sunday.

Outcome Health: After allegations that Chicago startup Outcome Health misled clients, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. will no longer advertise with the company next year, The Wall Street Journal reports. Omnicom Group has also suspended ads with Outcome Health, the Journal says.

ICYM: "Netflix will not be involved with any further production of 'House of Cards' that includes Kevin Spacey," the company said Saturday, as reported by The Washington Post. It's unclear what happens next.

Yikes: Scary videos (like a scene of Mickey Mouse lying in a pool of blood) occasionally slip onto the YouTube Kids app, The New York Times reports. Inappropriate videos have been spotted there too, like a "Claymation Spider-Man urinating on Elsa of 'Frozen.'"

Billionaire: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who was arrested as part of an anti-corruption probe in Saudi Arabia, is the 50th wealthiest person in the world and has investments in companies from Citigroup to Apple, Bloomberg News reports.

Meanwhile, in China: Dewy young male stars are the object of such adoration in China that they're being hired to plug even the most unexpected categories, like baby formula, Ad Age reports.

Snarky: Samsung "celebrates" the 10-year anniversary of Apple's signature product in this amusing spot that hits the iPhone's weak spots over the years (today, it's those oh-so-dorky dongles. Sigh.) The message is that iPhone fans should grow up and get a Samsung Galaxy. Watch it here.

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