Friday Wake-Up Call: Obama + Netflix? Plus, Toys R Us Eyes a U.S. Shutdown

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Former U.S. President Barack Obama last year in New York City.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama last year in New York City. Credit: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

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What people are talking about today: Former U.S. President Barack Obama has been relatively low-profile during the Trump administration, but that could end: He's reportedly in advanced negotiations on a deal with Netflix. The New York Times says he and former First Lady Michelle Obama have "talked about producing shows that highlight inspirational stories."

The Times writes that

"the Netflix deal, while not a direct answer to Fox News or, would give Mr. Obama an unfiltered method of communication with the public similar to the audiences he already reaches through social media, with 101 million Twitter followers and 55 million people who have liked his Facebook page."

Details on the possible partnership are still hazy. One idea, reportedly, is that Obama could moderate conversations on issues like health care or climate change. Or, as CNN says, he might be off-camera producing. Or both. Amazon and Apple have been interested in Obama too, The Times says. And the former first lady might be on a show, too, talking about issues like nutrition.

So here's a question: Might any conservatives desert Netflix over this? There were a few scattered Twitter threats. One right-wing outlet framed the news this way: "Obama is colluding with Netflix to create a propaganda machine."

More streaming news: Lucasfilm says Jon Favreau will executive produce and write a live action "Star Wars" show for Disney's direct-to-consumer streaming platform.

The truth hurts
It's definitive: When it comes to going on viral, real news just can't compete with fake news. A major new study by researchers from MIT, published in the journal Science, shows that fake news and rumors travel faster and reach more people. The study's scope is sweeping, looking at 126,000 stories on Twitter, tweeted by 3 million people over 10 years. As The Atlantic writes:

"Twitter users seem almost to prefer sharing falsehoods. Even when the researchers controlled for every difference between the accounts originating rumors—like whether that person had more followers or was verified—falsehoods were still 70 percent more likely to get retweeted than accurate news."

One surprising finding is that bots don't spread fake news any faster than humans. There's apparently something about human nature that delights in weirdness and shock value. We can't change human nature; can we change social media? FYI Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says this:

Toys R Us kids: Get ready for bad news
Back in September, Toys R' Us Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Now, Bloomberg News reports, the toy store is preparing for a possible liquidation of its U.S. operations, adding that it hasn't been able to woo a buyer or restructure debt with lenders. Nothing's certain yet, but Bloomberg says "hopes are fading." If the store shuts down in the U.S., it would be another sad chapter in retailpocalypse, disappointing generations of kids who grew up singing along to the ad jingle, "I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid." The company even took the unexpected step of including the jingle's lyrics in its bankruptcy filing, maybe hoping to incite nostalgia among people who could help save the brand. At the time, the company was optimistic it could find a solution, insisting it was "here to stay."

"Black Panther" merch: a missed opportunity?
In other toy news, Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli reports that "Black Panther," a box office blockbuster "could also be kicking ass at retail…if stores had stocked up on more products." Pasquarelli talked to an NPD Group analyst who says that stores averaged 11 "Black Panther" products in the month before its release, compared to 31 "Power Rangers" items in the month leading up to that film's debut last year. As the analyst tells her, retailers "may find they're out of stock and if that happens it's a missed opportunity."

Just briefly:
Adweek reports that a lawsuit accuses Innocean Worldwide and CCO Eric Springer of "sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination." The suit was reportedly filed by a former Innocean director of content.

March for Our Lives: Ad Age is working with the Gun Safety Alliance to support students marching in Washington D.C and nationwide during the March for Our Lives on March 24. Creatives can submit posters and social media messages to help spread their message and get brands and politicians on board. Read more by Ann-Christine Diaz.

Shutdown: Sri Lanka banned access to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp "in an attempt to stem mob violence directed at its Muslim minority," The New York Times says.

Grab: Uber has reached a deal, in principle, to sell much of its Southeast Asia operations to a local rival, Grab, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Bye bye Beetle?: The Volkswagen Beetle will go out of production after this generation, Autocar reports, quoting the company's R&B chief. The New York Post's headline on this: "The Volkswagen Beetle will soon be exterminated."

Frida Kahlo + Barbie: Frida Kahlo's great-niece is not happy about the new Barbie in her likeness, the BBC reports. She says Mattel didn't have the rights (though Mattel says it did), and she wishes the doll looked more like the Mexican artist.

Ladies take note: Corona beer's new Refresca line, "which comes in guava lime and passionfruit lime flavors, will be marketed as a 'premium spiked refresher' targeting women from 25 through 29 years old," as Ad Age's E.J. Schultz reports.

Creativity pick of the day: For International Women's Day yesterday, BBDO proposed rewriting the dictionary definitions for "woman." Look the word up and you'll be surprised to find sub-definitions like "mistress" and "prostitute." Seriously. Click here to read more by Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz.

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