Thursday Wake-Up Call: Comcast tries to one-up Disney. And IHOP burgers are selling like, um, hotcakes

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IHOP's new burger campaign from Droga5
IHOP's new burger campaign from Droga5 Credit: IHOP

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: When a judge cleared the way for AT&T to buy Time Warner, pundits said the decision would embolden others to try for merger deals. And it didn't take long. Just 24 hours later, Comcast came forward with a bid to buy up a lot of 21st Century Fox for $65 billion -- an all-cash offer that it says is 19 percent higher than the Walt Disney Co.'s competing bid. It's a showdown. And as Ad Age's Anthony Crupi writes, "Comcast also offered to reimburse Disney for the $1.53 billion break-up fee it would owe Fox upon dissolution of their original deal." In other words, $1.53 billion is just a little something Comcast tossed in there to sweeten the offer.

Let's press pause on Comcast-Disney-Fox for a minute
And let's look back at the AT&T and Time Warner decision. (Yes, it's been a busy week.) Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi examines the advertising implications of what happens after the telecom company buys up Time Warner, along with content from networks like TNT, TBS, CNN and HBO. The company already tapped Brian Lesser, the former chief of the North American operations of WPP's GroupM, and it's been has been at work on an advertising and analytics unit. Poggi writes:

"AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has been vocal about the company's goal: to make TV advertising more precise and more efficiently target specific consumers in an effort to compete against digital ad giants like Facebook and Google. AT&T will be one of the few companies that can follow consumers across TV screens, mobile phones and other digital devices."

Last month, Stephenson said Lesser was "sitting and idle and ready to go" once the deal happens. Get ready for him to pounce. The Justice Department hasn't (so far) appealed the judge's decision, and CNN's Reliable Sources says that by this time next week, "AT&T is planning to close the deal."

He's lovin' it
IHOP's president seems to be enjoying himself right now. Ad Age's Jessica Wohl caught up with him, and she writes:

"IHOP President Darren Rebelez is currently listed as 'chief burger officer' on LinkedIn. Oh, and the lapel pin he's sporting on his gray suit this week: it's a burger."

In case you have no clue what the burger references are about, it's a nod to the pancake chain's recent marketing stunt, in which it teased that it was rebaptizing itself as IHOb. That gave way to a Twitter guessing game about what it meant, before the brand revealed that "b" stood for burgers. The name change isn't forever, it's just a temporary way to plug the chain's burgers. If you've been rolling your eyes at this campaign, consider this: According to Rebelez, IHOPs are seeing roughly four to seven times as many burger orders as they were before the switch, as Wohl writes. In other words, IHOP burgers are selling like hotcakes.

WPP
Martin Sorrell isn't WPP's CEO anymore, but he nonetheless loomed large over the company's annual meeting. Shareholders grilled leadership on whether Sorrell deserves his lucrative long-term incentive plan, given the murkiness of the circumstances in which he departed. (He resigned abruptly in April. And reports say the firm had been probing whether Sorrell spent company funds on a prostitute, something he "strenuously" denies.) As Ad Age's Megan Graham and Alexandra Jardine report, 27 percent of proxy votes opposed the company's compensation report, including Sorrell's pay. (It could have been worse, frankly.)
Also, chairman Roberto Quarta said the company would stop using a favorite buzzword of Sorrell's: horizontality. As in, collaboration across the network. Because people didn't get what it meant. (Editor's note: Thank you. We appreciate it. And now can someone ban the other icky ad industry buzzwords? Snackable content, be gone.)

'What's Team Energy?'
Campbell's Soup just announced that Publicis Groupe won its big digital, media and creative pitch. But as Ad Age's E.J. Schultz points out, "one detail went unmentioned: which Publicis agencies will actually do the work." Schultz' story is a good read: How do the historic ad agency brands stay relevant, when the holding companies that own them are putting together bespoke, cross-agency teams for clients with names like "Team Energy" (WPP's offering for BP) or "We Are Unlimited" (Omnicom's team for McDonald's)? And as one agency search exec says, "Your mother would know Ogilvy, but if you worked at Team Energy, what's Team Energy?"

Just briefly:
Cheesy:
For Father's Day, five lucky dads are getting a very special gift – their likeness sculpted out of Kraft cheese. Read more in our Marketer's Brief.

Everyone's an influencer: In the age of Instagram, self-proclaimed influencers are pestering hotels for free stays, The Atlantic writes. "It's people with 600 Facebook friends saying, 'Hi, I'm an influencer, I want to stay in your hotel for 7 days,'" one five-star resort exec says.

For your consideration: President Trump tried to impress North Korea's Kim Jong Un with a faux movie trailer made up of generic stock footage (including, count them, five images of sunrises.) Then, Stephen Colbert and The New York Times made remakes of the fake movie trailer. Ad Age's Simon Dumenco compiled them for you. And since it's #TBT, he also resurfaced two classic spoofs made of stock footage, including "This Is a Generic Millennial Ad."

Millie Bobby Brown: The 14-year-old "Stranger Things" actress apparently quit Twitter after her photos were turned into anti-gay memes, TheWrap reports. Brown is a supporter of LGBT rights, and it's not clear why she was targeted.

Sign of the times: A former Macy's in Virginia has been converted into a homeless shelter. With retail struggling, The New York Times writes, "some empty stores are finding another life as trampoline parks, offices, college classrooms and churches."

A contrarian speaks: Paul Marobella, the North American Chairman and CEO of Havas Creative, says this is actually one of the most exciting times to be in advertising. Check out his interview with Ad Age editor Brian Braiker for the Ad Lib podcast.

The original emoticon?: Designer Milton Glaser talks to Ad Age's I-Hsien Sherwood about why his 1977 "I ♥ NY" logo remains resonant: "I think one reason is that it's truthful, and that it's not a piece of advertising copy."

Creativity pick of the day: The World Cup starts today in Russia. To mark the occasion, Swedish beer brand Norrlands Guld and agency agency Akestam Holst invented a contraption that prints the latest World Cup tweets onto beer foam. As Ad Age's Alexandra Jardine writes, beer and Twitter are "both essential elements of World Cup viewing these days." It's available in select bars in Sweden during the event. Cheers. Or rather, skål.

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