Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital-related 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
A viral tweet from Netflix had a polarizing effect – some people found it hilarious, while others were creeped out. The streaming service took inspiration from a well-known Spotify campaign, the one that unearths funny factoids about its user data. Using Spotify's formula, Netflix joked about the people who can't get enough of its formulaic holiday love story, "A Christmas Prince."
To the 53 people who've watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?— Netflix US (@netflix) December 11, 2017
But there was also a backlash from people disturbed about Netflix keeping such close tabs on them. "Netflix's 'creepy' tweet reminds us all how closely it's watching us," was The Washington Post's headline. Mashable's story opened with: "Netflix watches you, too."
So why is the joke less weird coming from Spotify than from Netflix? One theory: Maybe we're more protective of our privacy when it comes to what we watch versus what we listen to. (Because, er, porn.) Maybe Spotify just told the joke better. Anyway, the debate is probably very good publicity for Netflix' bonbon of a rom-com, "A Christmas Prince."
There's a disease spreading among Facebook execs: Quite a few of them are remorseful about having helped create the platform. Sean Parker, for example, said Facebook was designed to be addictive. And now Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook's former VP for user growth, says he feels "tremendous guilt." He also talks about the dangers of getting instant gratification from social media "likes":
"The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth. And it's not an American problem, this is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem."
Palihapitiya alluded to an episode in India, where rumors that spread on WhatsApp led to lynchings. And he said he doesn't let his children use "that shit" – by which he presumably means social media. Read more on The Verge, which spotted the video of Palihapitiya speaking last month at Stanford.
Also: Yesterday's heartwarming story about the internet coming to the support of a bullied Tennessee boy named Keaton has taken a dark turn. The boy's mother is being accused of making racist social media posts; Newsweek says it isn't clear whether the posts are real or if she is "perhaps being cyberbullied herself."
Twitter is going to start sharing how many people watched video clips on its platform. As Ad Age's Garett Sloane writes, "View counts are a subtle way to encourage people to share more video to the service if they feel their content is being widely seen." In other words, the viewership number gives a little ego boost to whoever shared it -- it's those "dopamine-driven feedback loops" again. Many of the people whose ego is getting boosted may not realize what a "view" actually means: "One view equals 2 seconds of play time with at least 50 percent of the video on the screen," as Sloane writes. The change is aimed at Twitter users; most brands already have access to viewership data.
Mattel has the holiday blues. In a regulatory filing, the maker of Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price says it expects a weak holiday season. As Fortune writes, Mattel says it "will likely have to write-down inventory and heavily discount merchandise for the season because of sales now expected to decline by a mid-to-high single digit percentage." The company gets up to 40 percent of its annual sales between Black Friday and New Year, according to Fortune, so that's quite a blow. Fortune says small brands are the winners right now in the toy sector – as in many other categories, big-name brands are having to fend off upstart challengers.
Malls: Unibail-Rodamco, a European property company, says it will buy Australia's Westfield Corporation, which owns many U.S. malls including the one at One World Trade Center in Manhattan, The New York TImes says. The pricetag is $15.7 billion.
Shazam: Apple Inc. is buying music identification app Shazam, and Bloomberg News says the price is about $400 million.
Wins: MediaCom is set to win media duties for Uber in North America, Ad Age's Megan Graham reports. Pandora, the jeweler, is going with GroupM's Mindshare as its media agency of record in the region. And sandwich chain Subway has picked a Dentsu Aegis Network team of agencies to handle its media and creative across North America, Ad Age's Jessica Wohl writes.
Reaching deaf consumers: Ad Age's Lindsay Stein profiles an Austin, Texas-based agency called CSD Creative that specializes in targeting deaf consumers; its nine full-time staff members are also deaf.
Football on your phone: The NFL renegotiated its deal with Verizon to stream games to mobile devices, and as Ad Age's George Slefo writes, "that means the NFL can't shop mobile rights to digital platforms like Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube."
Alt-right: The alt-right has vowed to stop using Silicon Valley's tech, and it's making its own websites. The New York Times tried them and says the user experience is awful: "If the alt-right's ideology harks back to 1940s Germany, its web design might transport you to 1990s GeoCities."
The New Yorker, part 1: Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker's star political reporter, has been fired for "improper sexual contact," CNN says. Lizza says he did nothing wrong and the magazine made a "terrible mistake."
The New Yorker, part 2: A New Yorker short story seems like probably the last thing that would ever go viral online, but somehow that happened. Read "Cat Person" here.
In Saudi Arabia: The kingdom is lifting a decades-old ban on cinemas, and AMC is exploring the market, Variety says.
ICYM: Three women who accused President Trump of sexual misconduct talked to Megyn Kelly on NBC; Ad Age's Simon Dumenco has the run-down here.
Creativity pick of the day: A DJ named Marshmello is using his music videos to promote sugary treats (but not, in fact, marshmallows.) As Ad Age's Jessica Wohl writes, his latest video features "Twinkies and two other Hostess products, cupcakes and pink Sno Balls, being served at a holiday dinner." Pass the Twinkies, and happy holidays.