Monday Wake-Up Call: Alibaba logs record Singles' Day sales, again. And Victoria's Secret apologizes

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The gala show that launched Alibaba's annual Singles' Day shopping event.
The gala show that launched Alibaba's annual Singles' Day shopping event. Credit: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg

Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. Note: Ad Age Next, our conference on the future of marketing and tech, takes place tomorrow and Wednesday in New York. Hope to see you there; read about it here.

What people are talking about today
Every year, China's Alibaba Group has a massive online shopping "festival" on Nov. 11, and every year it smashes the previous year's sales record. This time, shoppers bought $30.7 billion worth of merchandise in 24 hours, Bloomberg News reports. Sales were up about 27 percent from last year.
The event, nicknamed "Singles' Day" because it coincides with a folk holiday for the unmarried, is central to many brands' sales and marketing strategies. And while there are uncertainties around the Chinese economy, with slowing growth and concerns about the U.S.-China trade war, Singles' Day is a reminder of the power of China's consumers, and the strength of Alibaba's hype machine.

Comparing it to Amazon: "If you take Prime Day, which happened this summer, Amazon reported $4 billion this year, which is a really strong number but in comparison it's kind of cute," Danielle Levitas, executive vp of research at App Annie, told CNBC.

"Wanna Buy Wanna Buy": Alibaba's event this year kicked off with a TV gala where Mariah Carey and Cirque du Soleil performed. Brands are woven into the performances in eye-catching (and sometimes odd) ways; The New York Times writes that "a Chinese girl group performed a song called 'Wanna Buy Wanna Buy' as backup dancers pushed shopping carts bearing the logo of Aldi, the German discount grocer."

"As a new study from the Pew Research Center demonstrates, YouTube has been quietly shifting its recommendation system to reward lengthy videos," Wired writes. The bonus for YouTube is that you can cram more ads in. And the whole YouTube ecosystem is adjusting, Wired writes, with creators rejiggering the way they make content:

"Ultra-successful beauty gurus like NikkieTutorials routinely post 20-minute videos that feel more like slumber party chats than straightforward how-tos. (Three years ago, Nikkie's video run times topped out around 8 minutes.)"

In other words, YouTube is moving toward content that's sitcom-length or even longer. So whatever happened to "snackable content"?

In the era of body positivity, Victoria's Secret and its annual fashion show are sticking with an old formula: angel wings, willowy models and a traditional view of what makes a woman sexy. Now the CMO of the brand's parent company, L Brands, has apologized for a remark seen as tone-deaf and dismissive of the trans community. In an interview with Vogue, Ed Razek said he doesn't think the show should feature trans models "because the show is a fantasy. It's a 42-minute entertainment special."

Later, the Victoria's Secret Twitter account released a statement from Razek: The remarks "came across as insensitive," he said. "I apologize. To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the show." His apology didn't make any mention of other comments he made about plus-size models, which also annoyed some readers. ("We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don't," he said.)

Reminder: Victoria's Secret said in August that it's closing 20 stores this year amid falling sales.

Just briefly:
Super Bowl ad watch: Mercedes-Benz will return to the game as an advertiser after sitting it out in 2018, E.J. Schultz reports in Ad Age. Perhaps this isn't surprising, given that the Atlanta locale that will host February's big game is called the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Are you ready to see your "Fixer Upper"?: Fans of HGTV's "Fixer Upper" have been in mourning since the show wrapped up in April. But now its stars, Chip and Joanna Gaines, "are near a deal with Discovery to rebrand one of its cable channels," The Wall Street Journal reports.

ICYMI: "A former vice president of digital marketing has sued L'Oreal USA for race, sex and disability discrimination in a 40-page complaint describing 'sex-fueled' parties on European business trips and a boss watching porn on his phone," Ad Age's Jack Neff reports. L'Oreal denies the allegations.

Vocab word of the day: "Nanoinfluencers." The New York Times says that's the term for "people who have as few as 1,000 followers and are willing to advertise products on social media."

Top 5: Amazon's nostalgia-filled holiday toy catalog made Ad Age's list of the week's top creativity; check out Ad Age's other Top 5 brand ideas here, courtesy of Ann-Christine Diaz and Alfred Maskeroni.

Ad of the day: To promote a chicken-and-waffles dish, KFC has a new spot spoofing the famous dance scene from the end of "Dirty Dancing." The dancers are Col. Sanders and Mrs. Butterworth. Although, Ad Age's Jessica Wohl writes, "the dance moves aren't on par with the original, in part because a bottle of syrup doesn't have legs." It's not the first "Dirty Dancing" spoof ad this year. Giants quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. reenacted the scene too, in an NFL commercial for the Super Bowl. That was a good one, and here's the link, in case you're in need of a bit of Monday morning procrastination.

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