The Lowdown is Ad Age's weekly look at news nuggets from across the world of marketing, including trends, campaign tidbits, executive comings and goings and more.
CoverGirl's first Cover Boy, makeup artist and, as the brand describes him, "social superstar" 17-year-old James Charles, takes the starring role in a new ad for So Lashy! by BlastPro mascara in his first ad since being signed in October.
Backing the campaign is what the brand -- spun off to Coty last month by Procter & Gamble Co. -- describes as its most diverse group of ambassadors to date, also including Sofia Vergara, Katy Perry, Amy Pham, beauty blogger Nura Afia and Sugar Symphony YouTubers Chloe and Halle. Ms. Afia, who makes a brief non-speaking appearance, is CoverGirl's first brand ambassador to wear a hijab. Adding to a lineup that may not play well with some backers of President-elect Donald Trump, Ms. Perry prominently made ads for Hillary Clinton that ran in battleground states earlier this month. CoverGirl has put a significant $350,000 in paid TV support behind the ad in its first two days alone, according to iSpot.tv estimates.
More beauty news: Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. L'Oreal USA is making it about hair styling too. Its Matrix Professional haircare brand has long operated training academies for stylists in the U.S., with 30 to date that instructed 2 million stylists last year. Now, it's launching VR training that could allow celebrity stylists to offer tutorials "from India to Indiana," said Rachel Weiss, L'Oreal USA VP-digital innovation and entrepreneurship. VR specialist 8i worked with Matrix to create an immersive, room-scale holographic experience that reconstructs fine human details such as hair, face, fingers and eyes, so users can step into the stylist's body (or hologram) to see how they style a model's hair in the first person. Matrix will begin piloting the class next year in 25 of its academies, with plans to ultimately make the program global.
Moving along to fast food: There is a lot of chatter about how soon McDonald's will catch up to other restaurants and offer mobile ordering, a feature that was not included in its recent app update.
But first, McDonald's did introduce one new piece of technology specifically for McRib fans. The McRib Finder iMessage app uses the device's location to help patrons find the nearest restaurant that is serving the sandwich during its current limited run, share the location with friends and send McRib-themed stickers. Meanwhile, there's no need for an app to find the Sriracha Big Mac. It is only being offered at 126 restaurants in Central Ohio, and only through the end of 2016. For now, at least, that's the only spot offering the new burger, before customer feedback shows whether it will be offered nationwide. The Sriracha Big Mac sauce is also being offered as a dipping sauce for McNuggets and fries. Why does Central Ohio get first dibs on the spicy take on the chain's classic burger? That region was the successful launching point for the test of the Grand Mac and Mac Jr. sizes this spring.
Speaking of Sriracha, this car is, um, hot: Lexus this week unveiled the Lexus Sriracha IS, a specially modified vehicle that is inspired by the hot sauce made by Huy Fong Foods. The car -- which is on display at this week's Los Angeles Auto Show -- is meant to promote the new 2017 Lexus IS sports sedan. The one-of-a-kind Sriracha version is painted in Sriracha red, including flecks of chili-like flakes. Other spicy details include leather embroidered with the Huy Fong rooster logo and seat warmers and air-conditioning/heating that can be programmed to reach "Sriracha hot" levels. The trunk is stocked with 43 bottles of Sriracha.
Taraji P. Henson is starring in a new TV ad for PepsiCo -- but she won't be plugging Pepsi-Cola, Doritos or any other brand from the global food and beverage giant. Instead, the spot promotes a scholarship contest linked with the upcoming movie "Hidden Figures." The flick, whose cast includes Ms. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe and Kevin Costner, tells the "untold" story of the involvement of three African American female NASA mathematicians during the space race of the 1960s. PepsiCo is partnering with 21st Century Fox and the New York Academy of Sciences on a program called "The Search for Hidden Figures," which is a scholarship contest aimed at finding potential female leaders in science, technology, engineering and math.
Famous Footwear is stepping out with its recently named agency of record the Richards Group with a new campaign. "Step Forward," which includes broadcast, digital video, streaming audio and social media advertising, emphasizes the powerful role that women play. "Every step that I take is a step forward," women in the spot say. Famous Footwear is no stranger to social issues. Last year, the St. Louis-based chain ran a commercial featuring two dads eating dinner with their family. The Caleres Inc.-owned brand spent roughly $9 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2015, according to Kantar Media. This is its first campaign from the Dallas-based agency.
Attention DIYers: Craft retailer Michael's is debuting its own digital talk show on YouTube this week. The Irving, Texas-based chain has partnered with Darby Smart, a San Francisco-based video platform where craft enthusiasts share how-to videos on the new weekly series Make.Talk. Each episode, beginning with a show from Sarah Michelle Gellar, will highlight various DIY projects from makers, musicians, celebrities and chefs.
Timberland wants consumers to know its boots were made for more than walking as the brand continues to evolve its stature into more of a lifestyle label. The company, which has been working with MDC's Assembly since 2014 on several experiential initiatives, will soon debut an interactive window at its Herald Square where shoppers can choose if they are naughty or nice. Stratham, NH-based Timberland, which recently hosted in-store demonstrations with a graffiti artist, is also planning holiday street demonstrations in partnership with Esquire next month in an effort to give its brand more legs. The $1.8 billion company spent $10.1 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media.
Continental Tire is driving deeper into college basketball marketing. The company this week unveiled new ads starring broadcaster Dan Patrick, after growing its university sponsorship footprint. Continental now has 31 deals, adding Michigan State, Florida State and the University of Miami. The ads will air nationally across FOX, ESPN and the CBS Sports Network, as well as on five regional sports networks. The deal was brokered Revolution, a Chicago-based sports marketing and media firm, which also wrote and produced the ads.
Contributing: Jack Neff, Adrianne Pasquarelli, Jessica Wohl, E.J. Schultz.