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Thursday Wake-Up Call: Facebook's Zuckerberg dodges inconvenient questions, and ESPN's streaming service debuts

By Published on .

Mark Zuckerberg waits ahead of a hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Mark Zuckerberg waits ahead of a hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. What people are talking about today: Mark Zuckerberg spent 10 hours in the hot seat in Capitol Hill, but the Facebook CEO kept his cool and politely dodged dozens of questions. What happens now? Ad Age's Garett Sloane writes that during Zuckerberg's two days of testifying about the platform's user privacy scandal, "the odds seemed to increase that lawmakers would introduce new laws or regulations governing online privacy. Zuckerberg called regulations 'inevitable.'"
"Let me follow up with you on that": Wired counted 43 times when Zuckerberg promised that he or his team would "follow up" on a question he couldn't (or didn't want to) answer. That was his response, for example, when Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana asked how Facebook tracks users after they log off the platform, and if it was "part of the business model."
Mr. Robot: Zuckerberg's unemotional and well-rehearsed testimony inspired a cascade of robot GIFs and memes. Check out some of the best here, compiled by Ad Age's Simon Dumenco.
'Unsticky': Zuckerberg's blandness was part of the strategy. As The New York Times writes, he was trying not to say anything that might go viral and get unwanted attention: "He was so unsticky, the questions slid right off him."

What you missed at the 4A's 'Accelerate' conference
For everyone who wasn't in Miami, Ad Age's Megan Graham has an overview of the big issues at the event attended by hundreds of agency leaders. There was buzz, of course, about Facebook's data privacy scandal. (A 20th Century Fox Film exec said the company just axed a Facebook Messenger chatbot project for "Deadpool" out of concerns about that.) Graham also looks at issues including diversity, sexual harassment and how the industry can take a stand on gun violence. Survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, were there and "urged the ad industry to use their platforms to make sure this stays top of mind in the cultural conversation," Graham writes.

ESPN+
ESPN+, the new subscription streaming service from Disney-owned ESPN, launches today for $4.99 a month, a fee that includes many live sports events. It's Disney's first direct-to-consumer offering, ahead of the broader streaming service with video content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and the Star Wars franchise that's set to debut in 2019. ESPN+, backed by launch sponsor American Express, is offering people a 30-day free trial subscription through April 18. One of the first ESPN+ offerings is a documentary about basketball coach Bill Knight, called "The Last Days of Knight." CNN.com questions whether such fare will get people to open their wallets: "Not only is there nothing particularly unique about 'The Last Days of Knight,' it might not even be the best sports-themed documentary this week, making its debut a few days after 'Andre the Giant,' HBO's nostalgic look at the 1970s and '80s wrestling legend." Ouch.

Just briefly:
Surprise:
While consolidation and cuts have become common in ad tech, Index Exchange says it's hiring 200 staffers by the end of 2018, boosting its headcount to 520. Ad Age's George Slefo writes: "The company says its expansion is not only happening without outside investors, but ... in part because it doesn't have outside investors at all."

WPP in Cincinnati: "Procter & Gamble Co. wants its agencies closer to home, and WPP's Grey is obliging by opening Grey Midwest in Cincinnati," Ad Age's Jack Neff writes.

Read all about it: In The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow writes about "another secret election-season payment from the National Enquirer to bury an unflattering, wild claim about Trump." Also: The tabloid's publisher has been drawn into "a sweeping federal investigation" about the activities of President Trump's lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, The New York Times reports.

Les Moonves: CNBC reports that National Amusements' Shari Redstone "is likely to replace CBS chief Les Moonves if no merger deal is reached with Viacom." Bloomberg News points out a big disincentive for pushing Moonves out: His contract entitles him to up to $187 million if he's dismissed.

Au revoir: Netflix is leaving the Cannes Film Festival because of its new rule banning films from competing for prizes if they don't have distribution in French cinemas, Variety reports. "We are choosing to be about the future of cinema," Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, told Variety. "If Cannes is choosing to be stuck in the history of cinema, that's fine."

Meanwhile in China: China's censors are on a periodic campaign to "clean" up the internet, and a hot internet company, Beijing Bytedance Technology, has been ordered to shut a joke-sharing app, Bloomberg News reports. Bytedance is the company that agreed to acquire video-sharing app Musical.ly.

Jared Leto: The singer-actor talks to Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi about the cover art for his band's new album, "America." The different covers each feature a list, such as the most profitable prescription drugs and the most valuable trademarks. Oh, and also, five popular sexual positions. "The lists are funny, fun, sometimes provocative and upsetting, but as a whole give an image of the society we are living in and culture we are part of," he says.

Calling young creatives: Creatives who are 30 or younger have one more week to submit a design for Ad Age's annual Creativity issue, which will be distributed at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June in France. Bonus: The winner gets a trip to Cannes, too. Read more by Ann-Christine Diaz here.

Ad Age is in the running for a Webby for best website from a general magazine. You can show your support by voting here. And thanks for reading, as always.

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