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Your Thursday Wake-Up Call: Hugh Hefner Dies, an Ad Tech Firm Sues Uber and Other News

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: Hugh Hefner, who founded Playboy magazine and launched an international brand built on centerfolds, has died at his home in Los Angeles (the $100 million Playboy Mansion.) Hefner was 91. As a young man, Hefner worked at Esquire, earning $60 a week, and "his request for a $5 pay increase was denied, prompting his decision to start his own magazine," Bloomberg News writes. Playboy had its heyday, and those days are past. But the magazine is still published in more than 20 countries, Playboy Enterprises says, and "products featuring the company's trademarks drive more than $1 billion in sales annually." Playboy's influence on pop culture lingers on.

An Uber-mess
There's a new twist in Uber's spat over its digital advertising. An ad tech company called Phunware Inc. is suing the ride-hailing company for breach of contract, The Wall Street Journal reports. Phunware says Uber owes it nearly $3.1 million; Uber retorts that it believes Phunware "engaged in online ad fraud," and that's why it didn't pay.

Phunware was among the companies contracted by Dentsu agency Fetch to help with Uber's digital advertising, the Journal says. You may recall another recent lawsuit, with Uber suing Fetch, claiming the agency failed to prevent ad fraud and misrepresented how effective its mobile ads were. Fetch has denied the claims and said Uber's move was "designed to draw attention away from Uber's unprofessional behaviour and failure to pay suppliers." Fetch has said the ride-hailing giant stopped paying for the services of 50 small companies it hired to place Uber's mobile advertising. That's a lot of companies. We might hear from more of them.

Zuck and Trump
President Donald Trump went on Twitter to lash out at Facebook. "Facebook was always anti-Trump," the president wrote, for some reason speaking of himself in the third person. (Read more by Ad Age's Simon Dumenco.) Mark Zuckerberg responded in Facebook-speak: "Every day I work to bring people together and build a community for everyone." He added: "Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don't like. That's what running a platform for all ideas looks like."

The most interesting part of Zuckerberg's post came lower down, when he admitted a failing.

"After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive."

Also: Facebook is sending teams to Puerto Rico to "deliver emergency telecommunications assistance," Recode says.

No more trolls
Reddit wants to be a friendly place for brands. It got $200 million in investment in July, and it has a major redesign on the way. As Ad Age's George Slefo says, it's time for the company to live up to its potential. Slefo talked to Zain Jaffer, CEO of the ad-tech company Vungle, who put things succinctly: "What Reddit is saying to people is it's not a place where a bunch of trolls hang out—no, no no. It's saying this is going to be a place that captures ad dollars."
Also: The New York Times reported this week on what happened when Reddit shut down two hate-filled forums, r/fatpeoplehate and r/CoonTown, in 2015. Reddit's tactic (banning online gathering places instead of users) was effective, researchers say, and they suggested Reddit's move could have potential elsewhere online.

Just briefly:

Tweeeeeet: Brands are playing around with Twitter's expanded 280-character count. But as Ad Age's Garett Sloane says, "Some of their tweets read like a grade-school student trying to fill a word count by adding 'very, very, very, very' to every thought."

CAA Marketing: The Stagwell Group bought a majority stake in CAA Marketing, as Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz and Lindsay Stein report. And it won't be called CAA Marketing anymore.

Alexa, snooze: Do you need an Amazon Echo Spot alarm clock? Amazon thinks so. But as The New York Times says, "Whether customers feel comfortable having a camera aimed at their beds will depend partially on whether they trust Amazon to protect their privacy."

The Mooch moves on: Anthony Scaramucci, who spent 11 days as White House communications director, is launching something called "The Scaramucci Post." Apparently, it's some kind of media outlet. His explanations on Twitter don't help much: "The Scaramucci Post is going to be the center lane in a two-lane highway," he says.

Short ads, big question: Ad Age's Garett Sloane asks, "Do 2-second videos work on Facebook?" A study (in which Facebook was involved) says they do.

Real news: When a death notice appears for a famous creator of fake news, how do you know it's not another hoax? The Washington Post checked with authorities and confirms that Paul Horner, 38, has died. Among his most famous hoaxes, he convinced a lot of people he was the artist Banksy.

Sad!: You may have seen that Interbrand just released its annual list of the most valuable global brands. Ad Age's Simon Dumenco has his own list, of the three saddest American brands. No spoilers here; read it.

Spoof: Ad agencies seem to be trying to one-up each other with new tech-fueled talent-connecting platforms. As Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz writes, "Barton F. Graf has debuted an operating system of its own ... called S.H.O.U.T." What S.H.O.U.T. lacks in actual technology it makes up for with a really cool logo.

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