Friday Wake-Up Call: Rihanna Slams Snapchat, and Nike Probes Inappropriate Behavior

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Rihanna at a conference in Dakar, Senegal in February
Rihanna at a conference in Dakar, Senegal in February Credit: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. What people are talking about today: Rihanna excoriated Snapchat in a social media message ("Shame on you") and Snap Inc. stock dipped; it closed down 3.6 percent yesterday. She's the second celebrity in the space of a month, after Kylie Jenner, to pan Snapchat and hurt the stock price of its parent company. The star was furious about an ad for a game app that appeared on Snapchat; it trivialized her 2009 assault by Chris Brown, asking "would you rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown?" As Ad Age's Garett Sloane writes, Snapchat apologized, called the game ad disgusting and said it never should have been allowed to run on the platform. But Rihanna apparently does not accept the apology. "All the women, children and men that have been victims of (domestic violence) in the past, and especially the ones who haven't made it out yet… you let us down!" she wrote on Instagram. "Shame on you."

Nike's No. 2 is leaving
Nike released an internal memo that contains two big pieces of news: It's been looking into reports of improper workplace behavior, and its No. 2 executive is leaving. The memo, from Nike CEO Mark Parker, reportedly says there have been reports of "behavior occurring within our organization that do not reflect our core values of inclusivity, respect and empowerment," according to an excerpt in Fast Company. At the same time, the memo says Parker is restructuring his leadership team to allow for a sharper focus on the company's culture. It adds: "Trevor Edwards has decided to resign as Nike Brand President and will retire in August." He will stay on as an advisor until then. Until now, Edwards was seen as a likely successor to the CEO, as The Wall Street Journal says. One important note here: According to a Nike spokesman quoted by the Journal, there were no allegations against Edwards. There are a lot of unanswered questions about all this, and Nike will probably be pressed to answer them.

A belated explanation
When John Skipper abruptly left his job as president of ESPN, citing a substance addiction, the media world was stunned. In a must-read interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he explains what happened: "In December, someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me." He says his cocaine use wasn't daily, and that he "never allowed it to interfere with my work, other than a missed plane and a few canceled morning appointments." The whole interview is worth reading. As Ad Age's Anthony Crupi wrote on Twitter, interviewer James Andrew Miller drew the story out with "incisive questions and tenacious, yet empathic, follow-up Qs." Skipper's responses were surprisingly candid and emotional. (Although we'd love to know more about that extortion attempt.)

American graffiti
A spat over an H&M ad has sparked a debate about the nature of art and the rights of graffiti artists. As Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli reports, the fast-fashion retailer featured a street mural from artist Jason Williams, also known as Revok, as the backdrop in a campaign. He sent the company a cease-and-desist letter for shooting his work without his approval, at which point "H&M fired back with a suit against Williams," as Pasquarelli writes. The spat threatened to turn into a much bigger issue, with H&M asking for "a ruling about whether graffiti counts as artwork that can be protected under the Constitution, or illegal vandalism," as Pasquarelli writes. Now H&M seems to be backtracking; on Twitter it said it would withdraw the complaint. "We should have acted differently in our approach to this matter," the brand writes. "It was never our intention to set a precedent concerning public art or to influence the debate on the legality of street art."

Just briefly:
North Pole: One of the last remaining Blockbuster video stores in the U.S. is in North Pole, Alaska. (Yes, that's a real place.) But it's about to close, as The Associated Press reports.

Shows and shopping: Amazon's top shows brought in 5 million new Prime members worldwide by early last year, Reuters reports, citing company data that shows how Amazon is using its entertainment business to woo shoppers.

Members only: "More than in previous years, brands at SXSW seemed to offer unique experiences on a limited, invite-only basis," Ad Age's Megan Graham and George Slefo write. So if you want to see the things everybody's talking about, you need to get on those lists.

Ta ta: Unilever is consolidating its headquarters in the Netherlands, giving up its second headquarters in London. It's "a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May's effort to maintain investment in the U.K. after it leaves the European Union," Bloomberg News writes.

Not bad: TheSkimm digital newsletter has raised a $12 million round of funding led by Google Ventures, along with Spanx founder Sara Blakely, Recode writes.

Chapter 11: IHeartMedia, the biggest U.S. radio station owner, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, CNBC reports. The company also owns outdoor ad company Clear Channel Outdoor, which isn't involved in the bankruptcy proceedings.

More media layoffs: The Tronc-owned Chicago Tribune had layoffs, but it's not clear how many, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Living dead: Ad Age's Simon Dumenco looks at location-based marketing from an existential perspective. Nowadays, people's "physical whereabouts have less and less to do with where they actually are," he writes. Because they're usually in la-la-land, staring at something on their phone.

Creativity pick of the day: How do you advertise a blockchain brand? VeChain uses scenes of a metropolis, a model with sleek blue hair and a lot of neon light. (We get it: It's the future.) Read more from Ad Age's Alexandra Jardine, and watch the spot here.

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