Bye, Kathie Lee Gifford. Plus, key moments from the Google hearing: Wednesday Wake-Up Call

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Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford
Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford Credit: NBC

Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital 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
WPP has a shimmery new logo to go along with its turnaround plan and its flashy new vision of itself as a "creative transformation company." The logo for the ad giant -- errrr, sorry, creative transformation company -- uses tiny colorful dots to spell out the letters in its name. On the Ad Age internal Slack, it drew comparisons to a Lite-Brite (remember those?) and to colorblindness tests made of tiny dots of color. WPP agencies Superunion and Landor worked on the visual identity, which has some symbolism behind it: All the dots represent the ad giant's "people, agencies, capabilities and markets that work together as one for clients." With the new logo out of the way, now comes the hard part: pushing onward with the restructuring plan. Read Megan Graham's story in Ad Age about WPP's three-year turaround plan.

Kathie Lee Gifford announced her departure from NBC's "Today" in a weepy segment with co-host Hoda Kotb; the production team dangled a box of tissues into the frame so they could dab their eyes. Gifford and Kotb have hosted the fourth hour of "Today" since 2008; Gifford plans to leave in April to work on other projects. As Ad Age's Anthony Crupi writes, her departure might have less impact on the show's advertising than you might think:

"The first two hours of 'Today' are the real moneymakers, with ad sales revenues adding up to north of $500 million per year, according to Kantar Media estimates. The hour patrolled by Gifford and Kotb takes in somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 million in marketing spend."

Who might step in for Gifford? Jenna Bush Hager is one name that's being bandied about.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai had a 3.5 hour hearing in the House Judiciary Committee; here's a super, super abridged version...
1. Pichai was asked to explain why President Trump's photo appears when you search for the word "idiot." His basic message, as summed up by USA Today, was that "search results are based on billions of keywords ranked according to more than 200 factors such as relevance and popularity." While conservatives worry that Big Tech is biased against them, Pichai said the company's algorithms "have no notion of political sentiment."
2. What's the deal with Google working on a search engine for China, where the internet censored? "Right now, we have no plans to launch in China," Pichai said. "We don't have a search product there." (What are we to make of Pichai's use of "right now?" Meaning, maybe later?) Read about it via Bloomberg News.
3. Also, Pichai "had to remind Congress that Google does not make iPhones," The Verge writes. Because for a moment, Rep. Steve King seemed a little confused.

Top 10
Every year, Hunter Public Relations makes a list of the year's top food stories, a sort of year-in-review of the stories that people found memorable. There are food safety issues on there -- because after 2018, we may never look at romaine lettuce the same way. The Dunkin' name change is on the list, and so is Heinz Mayochup -- the condiment combo that was embraced by some and mocked by others. But the No. 1 story on the list wasn't about food, as Ad Age's Jessica Wohl writes. It was about plastic drinking straws and big brands banning them for their impact on oceans and marine life. Read about the ranking here; there's a funny Top 10 countdown video too.

Just briefly:
Elephant in the room:
CBS executives at the company's annual meeting "faced no questions about the investigation into charges of sexual harassment by former Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves," Bloomberg News reports. Amazingly, nobody brought it up.

Progress on programmatic: "Hulu is further automating advertising on the streaming platform with a new private programmatic marketplace," Jeanine Poggi writes in Ad Age.

Out: Two high-level marketing execs have left Under Armour amid a report of inappropriate spending; Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli writes that their "departures come a month after a Wall Street Journal report noting that Under Armour no longer allows employees to expense strip-club visits on their corporate cards."

Meanwhile in France: As protests and riots sweep France, Wired looks at how far-right figures, conspiracy theorists and pro-Kremlin influence groups are taking advantage of interest in the unrest to "spread disinformation, push state-sponsored propaganda, and advance their own political agendas."

Number of the day: Verizon "slashed the value of its AOL and Yahoo acquisitions by $4.6 billion, an acknowledgment that tough competition for digital advertising is leading to shortfalls in revenue and profit," Bloomberg News reports. It's also an admission that Verizon's strategy failed.

Creativity of the day: In France, Uber is offering rides in real cars that look like giant Legos cars. (Apparently it's hoping some of the love for the Lego brand will rub off on it?) You can ride in other life-size toy-like cars too, including a plastic farm vehicle and a rainbow-covered van. After Paris, the cars move to Zurich and Vienna. Check out the DDB Paris campaign here, and read more by Alexandra Jardine.

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