Monday Wake-Up Call: Oscars Ads Were All About Women's Empowerment, Plus Other News

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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
Cross-species romance "The Shape of Water" won four awards at the Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. As host Jimmy Kimmel said, "We will always remember this year as the year men screwed up so badly, women started dating fish."

The #TimesUp/#MeToo/women's empowerment movement was palpable in quite a few ads during the show on ABC, too. Twitter had an inspirational spot about strong, outspoken women, though a lot of people mistook it for a Dove ad, as Ad Age's Megan Graham writes. Watch it above. Walmart had three women direct spots featuring a cardboard delivery box, with very different results. And Google's Nest commercial showed a father telling his son to respect his prom date, via the Nest Hello video doorbell; read more on that by Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz (who reports that the brand tried hard to get the tone right because the first attempts felt "preachy.")

Of note: E! host Ryan Seacrest, who has defended himself against a claim of sexual misconduct by a former stylist, interviewed stars on the red carpet, but he avoided talking about the #MeToo movement, which was … awkward. And as Variety says, "None of the women nominated for lead actress stopped to talk to him."
Also: Kimmel promised a Jet Ski to the person with the shortest acceptance speech, and "Phantom Thread" costume designer Mark Bridges won it. Ad Age looked this up so you don't have to: Kawasaki has the trademark on the brand name Jet Ski. But, like Kleenex and Xerox, people use it as a generic term too, because "personal water craft" sounds kind of stupid.

#TimeWellSpent?
Facebook is still incredibly popular, and its ad business is thriving. But there are signs that some people are using it less, or leaving it entirely. Ad Age's Garett Sloane talks to people about why they're cutting back; there's disenchantment with Russian trolls, election meddling and fake news, but there's also just … boredom. "Mostly I just got tired of Facebook," one 19-year-old tells him. "There's nothing to do there except scroll." And a freelance ad director spent a month deleting every post he made in the last 10 years. "I did it to see if there was anything I would miss, and there was nothing of value," he says.

A "nutrition label" for news
Publicis Groupe is the lead investor in NewsGuard, a startup that plans to rate the reliability of news organizations, so people can understand where they're getting their information. The founders, media entrepreneur Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal Publisher Gordon Crovitz, say NewsGuard will offer something like "nutrition labels" for news brands, as The Washington Post reports. And they are pressing big platforms like Google and Facebook to include the ratings in search results and shared posts. (Platforms haven't signed on yet.) As The Post reports,

"The Good Housekeeping-type seals hold out the promise of appealing to marketers and ad agencies — hence, Publicis's involvement — in that they could be used to form a 'whitelist' of approved sites to keep advertisers from linking their brands to toxic content."

NewsGuard, which has $6 million in backing, will hire journalists to make these calls. In a world of algorithms, sometimes only a human being will suffice.

Harley-Davidson and Levi's
Is a trade war coming? President Trump says he will put tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. He went on the offensive on Twitter, writing, "When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win." This could obviously have big consequences, including for U.S. brands. As Bloomberg News reports,

"European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc was prepared to respond forcefully by targeting imports of Harley-Davidson Inc. motorbikes, Levi Strauss & Co. jeans and bourbon whiskey from the U.S."

Levi's, Harleys and bourbon – the're all products that symbolize Americana. Here's another development you might have missed: Electrolux, the Swedish home appliances brand, said the company is delaying a planned $250 million factory expansion in Tennessee because of the uncertainty, Reuters reports.

Just briefly:
Modest fashion: "Muslim marketing is going mainstream," as Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli writes, looking at new moves by brands including Macy's and Adidas.

Coincidence?: Weight Watchers said last month that it will offer free memberships to teens as young as 13 this summer. In The New York Times, author Jennifer Weiner asks if the timing of the announcement has anything to do with the fact that pitchwoman Oprah Winfrey is starring in the movie "A Wrinkle In Time," aimed at young viewers. (No, a spokeswoman tells her.)

Doh: A $14-an-hour social media employee for Marriott in Nebraska was fired for "liking" a Twitter post from a Tibetan separatist group. As The Wall Street Journal writes, the case "highlights the increasingly unforgiving environment for those who offend Chinese sensibilities."

ICYM: After WPP's weak results last week, some people might be wondering if the holding company model is irreparably broken. It's not, as Ad Age's Lindsay Stein writes.

Phrase of the day: Inclusion rider. At the Oscars, best actress winner Frances McDormand said, "I have two words for you: inclusion rider." The Guardian explains, "An 'inclusion rider' is a clause that an actor can insist be inserted in their contract that requires cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity."

Ad of the day: Walmart tapped three women -- Dee Rees, Nancy Meyers and Melissa McCarthy -- to direct three different spots inspired by the company's cardboard shipping boxes. As Ad Age's Jack Neff writes, "Rees used her Walmart box to spin a sci-fi tale of a little girl's battle against early bedtime." Rees, co-wrote and directed "Mudbound," nominated for four awards. Plus, her Walmart ad stars Mary J. Blige, who was shortlisted for best original song and best supporting actress for "Mudbound." Watch it below.

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