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What people are talking about today
Sunday's Super Bowl will bring us the Patriots vs. the Eagles, but also Cola-Cola vs. Pepsi. The two soda brands just released ads for the game, and they've got totally different approaches. Pepsi's spot looks back at the brand's heritage with clips of Michael Jackson, Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears and the DeLorean from "Back to the Future," as Ad Age's E.J. Schultz writes. It taps into the same pop-culture nostalgia that's powering a wave of remakes in TV-land. The ad, by in-house agency Creators League, is narrated by Jimmy Fallon, the sunniest and most apolitical of late-night hosts. The tagline is "celebrating every generation." It's relatable, it's fun, and it's completely non-controversial.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola's ad has a message: It celebrates diversity with a beautiful, mostly millennial cast. (Watch both ads here, along with the rest of the Super Bowl spots released so far.) The voiceover on Coca-Cola's spot is a poem about inclusivity: "There's a Coke for he, and she, and her, and me, and them." As a few people pointed out on Twitter, it seems Coke is using "them" as a gender non-specific singular pronoun. The spot by Wieden & Kennedy Portland is very 2018, but you can feel Coke's heritage in there too, going back to the classic 1971 "Hilltop" ad about harmony. (An ad for Diet Coke will run in the game, too.)
Both brands have to contend with years of falling U.S. soda consumption as people go for healthier options. Which one does a better job of selling cola?
More on the Super Bowl: Even in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, "Once again the Super Bowl is poised to be filled with commercials starring and appealing to a predominantly male audience," Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi writes. Read and watch more here.
And: Check out Ad Age's Ad Lib podcast to hear Jeanine Poggi's interview with Bryan Buckley, who has almost 60 Super Bowl credits to his name. This year he directed the Febreze spot about a guy whose "bleep don't stink."
Agency holding companies have blamed disappointing financial results on spending cutbacks by big consumer goods companies. Lately we've getting more sense of how big the cuts are. In an earnings report, Unilever says it "squeezed around $700 million out of production costs last year by making fewer ads and doing more work in-house," as Ad Age's Jack Neff writes. He adds that the squeeze largely affected work carried out or overseen by agencies. Unilever, which owns brands from Dove to Lipton, is the world's fourth-biggest ad spender, according to Ad Age's Datacenter. Procter & Gamble, the world's No. 1 ad spender, recently said that it has slashed agency and production costs by $750 million annually in recent years, and it wants to cut another $400 million in the future. So the squeeze isn't over yet.
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Droga5 has dropped one of its creative leaders, after suspending him a few days ago. But it's not explaining what happened. As Ad Age's Lindsay Stein reports, a spokeswoman for the agency says this: "Droga5 New York has ended its employment relationship with Ted Royer, CCO. We are committed to maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all our employees." Two days earlier, the agency had put Royer on leave and said it had hired an outside firm to look into the shop's HR processes. Royer had joined the agency in 2006; his bio has been wiped from the agency's web site.
Rekindling the flame?: CBS and Viacom are talking about getting together again, as The New York Times reports. From 2000 to 2006 they were part of the same company.
Dancing hot dogs: Snapchat is making an e-commerce play, and you can now buy dancing hot dog plush toys and other Snapchat-branded merch in a digital store on the app, as Ad Age's Garett Sloane writes.
Ho ho ho: Amazon posted a 38% net sales jump in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to the year earlier, so the e-commerce giant "got its wish for the holidays," as As Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli writes. Amazon says its Fire TV and Echo Dot were best-sellers.
Buzz: Laurene Powell Jobs' Emerson Collective has had talks about investing in BuzzFeed's news operations, the Financial Times reports. Jobs' discussions with BuzzFeed News' editor were "preliminary," the report says.
Longer ads: Instagram Stories "will now let brands create up to three videos in sequence, instead of the one 15-second video limit that was in place," Ad Age's Garett Sloane writes.
Newsweek Media Group, part 1: Etienne Uzac, who co-owns Newsweek Media Group, will step down as chairman there, as will his wife, Marion Kim, the company's finance director, Newsweek reports. Investigators recently raided the company as part of a financial probe.
Newsweek Media Group, part 2: Buzzfeed News reports that the publisher of Newsweek and the International Business Times "has been engaging in fraudulent online traffic practices that helped it secure a major ad buy from a US government agency." The report cites research by consultancy Social Puncher.
Goodbye: Meredith Corp. hung its banner over the Time Inc. sign at the office on 225 Liberty Street in New York. The Des Moines Register has photos.
Creativity pick of the day: Let's forget the Super Bowl for a moment and consider this very unusual, NSFW commercial from France. It's an ad from TBWA/Paris for an app that women can use to protect themselves from street harassment. As Ad Age's Alexandra Jardine writes, in the spot a "bunch of penises wriggle out of pants and set out on their own in the most predatory way imaginable." Watch it here.