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Your Thursday Wake-Up Call: Facebook Ads, Russian Trolls and the U.S. Election

By Published on .

Credit: iStock

Good morning. 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: There's a new twist in the investigation into Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and it involves Facebook ads. The social network says it uncovered about $100,000 in ad buys that were connected to fake accounts likely operated out of Russia. The ads ran before and after the vote, and while none of them were specifically about the election, Facebook says the ads aimed to amplify "divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights." Facebook reps spoke to congressional investigators; they said they traced the ad sales to "a Russian 'troll farm' with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda," as The Washington Post reports.

Facebook has already faced endless questions about fake news and filter bubbles, and this is another development raising questions about the social network's impact on voters. The company says it shared its findings with U.S. investigators, so it apparently came forward with this information. But there are demands for more clarity: eBay founder Pierre Omidyar argued repeatedly on Twitter that Facebook should release the ads in question, so the public can see them. Facebook is not done yet addressing transparency issues.

Facebook ad news, part 2
Facebook has been telling advertisers that it can reach 41 million 18-to -24-year-olds in the U.S. The trouble is, as Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser notes, that there are only 31 million people in that category, according to the U.S. Census. It's yet another example of Facebook coming under scrutiny about its ad metrics, Bloomberg News writes. Most digital advertising measurement flubs are hard for laymen to wrap their head around. Not this one. (Facepalm.)

Irma
Hurricane Irma is coming to the southeastern U.S., and forecasters say it will inflict massive damage on businesses. Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli and Lindsay Stein write that while Hurricane Harvey was expected to cost about $1 billion in lost sales for retailers and restaurants, Irma could cost the retail sector even more -- some $1.5 billion in lost revenue, according to data from Planalytics. Meanwhile, agencies are getting ready: Anselmo Ramos of Miami-based David closed the shop Wednesday with some words of wisdom: "I think it's a good time to stop and reflect a bit on how small and fragile we are."

Also: How are agencies and retailers coping with Irma in Puerto Rico, with its fragile electric grid? Ad Age's Laurel Wentz checks in with DDB Puerto Rico's CEO (who incidentally is also a former contestant on CBS' "Survivor.")

Just briefly:

Retail meltdown: Toys R Us is considering a possible bankruptcy filing, CNBC reports. Retailers that already filed for bankruptcy in the last year include Gymboree, The Limited and Wet Seal.

Your daily advertising controversy, part 1: A KFC campaign is getting flak from animal rights activists in Britain who want #Changeforchickens, Ad Age's Emma Hall reports.

Your daily advertising controversy, part 2: A rather astonishing ad for lamb meat in Australia shows Jesus, Buddha, Ganesha, Zeus and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard having dinner together. The Guardian says Hindus and Anglicans both consider the ad "insensitive and disrespectful."

Beer and football: Bud Light has NFL beer glasses that light up after touchdowns. Read more by Ad Age's E.J. Schultz.

Beer and puke: For Oktoberfest, Adidas has sneakers that are beer-and-vomit repellant. (Watch the video here on Ad Age; it's not gross, if you're worried.)

007: Apple and Amazon have both joined the race for James Bond film rights, The Hollywood Reporter says.

Freebies: T-Mobile US is giving family-plan subscribers free Netflix access, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Rant of the day: "Watch Keith Olbermann Risk an Aneurysm as He Furiously Rails Against Trump Over DACA," courtesy of Ad Age's Simon Dumenco.

Creativity of the day: Diesel does a "real beauty" thing in its first ad from Publicis Italia; it stars one model with a Frida Kahlo-esque unibrow and another with braces. Watch it here, and read more by Creativity Online's Alexandra Jardine.

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