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Your Thursday Wake-Up Call: Bad, Bad Startup Branding. Plus, Will Ad Agencies Embrace Consultancies?

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: Two former Google employees had the ill-advised idea to name their start-up "Bodega," and social media users showered scorn on the brand name, the company and its raison d'etre. Here's what happened: Fast Company wrote about Bodega, which makes vending machine-like dispensers for pantry essentials, in a story headlined: "Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete."

Let's look at what went wrong here. No. 1: People love real bodegas, a bastion of human connectedness and authenticity in the somewhat soulless e-commerce era. And they don't want Silicon Valley tech bros to disrupt the folks who make their beloved egg sandwiches -- folks who, often enough, are immigrants running their own businesses.

No. 2: Some people saw the brand name as cultural appropriation. It seems the founders had some inkling this might be a problem, because they researched the issue; one told Fast Company they "did surveys in the Latin American community to understand if they felt the name was a misappropriation of that term or had negative connotations, and 97% said 'no'."

Following the backlash, one of the founders apologized and wrote that "challenging the urban corner store is not and has never been our goal." (In which case, he shouldn't have given that impression in his Fast Company interview.)

Leaving aside the worthwhile question of whether Bodega's business model makes any sense, this mess could have been avoided with a less tone-deaf brand name. One that didn't leave the company open to the nickname "bro-dega."

Annoying ads
Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of the world's largest advertiser, Procter & Gamble, famously told the digital ad industry that it needed to clean up and grow up. In a new speech at the Dmexco conference in Germany, he said digital media players have made progress on transparency and brand-safety, as noted by Ad Age's Jack Neff. Now he's taking on another issue: the annoyingness of ads. "For example, people use social media to share things about their lives with each other," he said, according to prepared remarks. "And let's face it, ads are annoying in that context." Pritchard is challenging "marketers and tech companies to solve the problem of annoying ads." Obviously, that's easier said than done; not every campaign for sanitary pads is going to make you weep like that famous Always "Like a Girl" video did.

Ad agencies & consultancies
Consultancies like Accenture and Deloitte Digital have been creeping into adland's territory, and some agency execs are unsettled by the rivalry. Here's some news sure to cause debate: The 4As, the agency trade group, is weighing whether to allow consultancies to join, as Ad Age's Lindsay Stein reports. This would be big news in advertising circles. Can everybody get along? Will agency execs have to stop saying that consultancies aren't creative?

Just briefly:

Absolutely fabulous?: Kmart is renaming its plus-size department "Fabulously-sized," but some consumers find the moniker embarrassing, as Ad Age reports.

'Red hot': Russia's attempt to reach U.S. voters through Facebook and other social media is said to be a "red-hot" focus of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the 2016 election, Bloomberg News says.

Clunky: WPP CEO Martin Sorrell called Twitter "clunky" while talking with founder Jack Dorsey onstage at the Dmexco conference, as Ad Age's Emma Hall reports. On the upside for Twitter, Sorrell finally sent his first tweet the same day.

Worth reading: Carolyn Everson, the Facebook VP of global marketing solutions, gave a carefully worded, very corporate speech about brand safety. Ad Age's Garett Sloane has decoded it for you.

Apple chips: As Bain Capital bids for Toshiba Corp.'s memory chips business, Apple is in talks to provide about $3 billion in capital for Bain's bid, Bloomberg News reports.

Headline of the day: "Pharma Bro Fraudster Martin Shkreli Is Jailed After Soliciting Lock of Hillary Clinton's Hair," from Slate.

Number of the day: 22 million. From eMarketer: In the U.S., "This year, there will be 22.2 million cord-cutters ages 18 and older, a figure up 33.2% over 2016."

Campaign of the day: "The city of New Orleans took out a full-page ad in the Houston Chronicle on Sunday with a letter addressed to Texans," as Creativity Online's Alexandra Jardine writes. The letter, from one survivor of natural disaster to another, is lovely.

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