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Monday Wake-Up Call: Black Friday Numbers Come in Strong. Plus, New YouTube Trouble

By Published on .

Shoppers wait in line to enter a store at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago mall in Chicago on Thanksgiving, now the unofficial kickoff to Black Friday for many.
Shoppers wait in line to enter a store at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago mall in Chicago on Thanksgiving, now the unofficial kickoff to Black Friday for many. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

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
It's official: Time Inc. is getting new owners. Meredith Corp., the Des Moines, Iowa-based publisher of Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle, is buying Time Inc. for $2.8 billion including debt, and it's got help from an unlikely source. The private equity arm of Charles G. and David H. Koch is offering Meredith $650 million in backing for the deal. A statement from Meredith says the Kochs will not have a board seat and will have no editorial influence.

The brothers are billionaire industrialists who have poured money into conservative causes, but they've never owned a media company. So what do they want with Time Inc., which The New York Times refers to as "publisher of once-prestigious magazine titles including Time, Sports Illustrated and People"? ("Once prestigious" – ouch.) It's possible the Kochs believe uniting two legacy publishing houses will "unlock significant value" through scale, as a press release suggests. Maybe. The Times also floats a theory about how the Kochs might use the deal to promote their conservative ideas: "The investment would also give the Kochs a way to combine the arsenal of voter information held by a data analytics company controlled by their network, i360, with the publishers' consumer data."

Who knows what all this is going to look like down the road. For now, at least one media startup is offering a lifeline to any Time Inc. employees who want to flee.

Paint it Black
Black Friday meant big business online. Sales on the internet on Thanksgiving and Black Friday in the U.S. were up 17.9 percent from last year, hitting $7.9 billion, according to Adobe Analytics, which looks at sales at the 100 biggest web retailers in the U.S. And the spree isn't over yet: Adobe is predicting another $6.6 billion in U.S. internet sales today on Cyber Monday, as Reuters reports.

For brick-and-mortar retail, the picture is murkier. But Reuters notes that "research firm ShopperTrak said store traffic fell less than 1 percent on Black Friday, bucking industry predictions of a sharper decline." It seems that's what passes for good news in retail these days.
Also: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' net worth passed the $100 billion mark on Black Friday, Bloomberg News says.

ICYM
On Friday, companies including Mars, Adidas and Diageo said they had stopped advertising on YouTube, Bloomberg News reports. The advertisers pulled out after The Times of London ran an article saying their companies' ads showed up next to content that was apparently attracting attention and comments by pedophiles. As The Times reported, many of the videos "gained millions of views by showing young girls filming themselves in underwear, doing the splits, brushing their teeth or rolling around in bed." YouTube says "there shouldn't be any ads running on this content, and we are working urgently to fix this." So it's yet another brand safety crisis, and another pledge by Big Tech to do better next time.

Merch
By now you've probably watched the Marks & Spencer holiday ad from the UK, featuring Paddington bear and a burglar. Or the John Lewis ad about a little boy who's got a farting, snoring monster hiding under the bed. Those UK holiday campaigns also come with related merchandise tie-ins like stuffed animals, and that merch is a growing revenue stream, as Ad Age's Alexandra Jardine reports. Marks & Spencer has 90 Paddington products on sale in its stores. And sales are booming, as Jardine writes. One agency CEO even says things "could get to the stage where the product sales are paying for the advertiser's Christmas ad budget."

Just briefly:

Taking a knee: Erykah Badu, host of the 2017 Soul Train Awards, took the stage and immediately knelt down in honor of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. She praised him for "giving up your dream because you believe in us," as Essence reports.

Team spirit: Holiday pajamas for the whole family are a thing, and Macy's has 15 versions of them available for sale online, Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli writes.

Clueless: A coffee shop in a historically black neighborhood of Denver posted this sign to welcome patrons: "Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014." Outrage, then apologies, ensued, as The Washington Post reports.

Back on: CBS and Dish Network ended a dispute that resulted in a CBS blackout for millions of Dish customers, but it didn't come in time for the Thanksgiving NFL games, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Terrifying: More than 180 women have reported that they were sexually assaulted at the U.S.' biggest massage chain franchise, Massage Envy, BuzzFeed News reports.

Old school: Online clothing retailer Everlane swore it would never open bricks-and-mortar shops, but now it's doing just that, as The Washington Post reports.

#FactsFirst: CNN plugged its Facts First ad campaign (the one that starts "This is an apple") in a Twitter battle with President Trump.

Product of the day: Lego made a huge, 7,500 piece Millenium Falcon from "Star Wars", priced it at $800 and offered it only to VIP clients. It nonetheless sold out, as NPR reports.

Creativity pick of the day: In the UK, a Samsung ad shows "nothing but clothes in a washing machine going around and around for three minutes and 20 seconds," as Ad Age's Emma Hall reports. Plus, the ad aired during prime time. Watch it here, and read more.

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