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
Memo to Amazon:
Are we really supposed to believe that the future of Amazon package delivery involves a little plastic robot scooting down the sidewalk? Yes, we saw the promo video for your test of the new robotic delivery critter, Scout, and yes, it's cute. We enjoyed the lighthearted background muzak and the adorable neighborhood the spot is filmed in; it reminded us of Wisteria Lane from "Desperate Housewives." We're happy to learn that your autonomous delivery devices will not collide with and injure our pets.
But forgive us if we're skeptical that robot delivery will be a real thing, after the test you're carrying out in one neighborhood in Snohomish County, Washington. (We're still waiting for your delivery drones, remember?) However, we've got to hand it to you -- as a PR tool, this is quite a clever move. It gives you a chance to remind everyone that you "continually invest in new technologies to benefit customers," as you write on your blog. Also, headline writers will probably find the phrase "Amazon's delivery robot" irresistable, and readers will probably click on it. (See headline above.)
Thanks for the clicks, Amazon, and let us know when you unleash this thing in the wild, for real.
Yes, there's more news about that Gillette ad
After all the hoopla over the Gillette commercial tackling toxic masculinity, what did the ad do to sales? So far, nothing. As Ad Age's Jack Neff writes, Jon Moeller, Procter & Gamble chief financial officer, told a press call yesterday that Gillette sales remain "in line with pre-campaign levels," adding that razors are bought on very long purchase cycles. Moeller also said the campaign was part of an effort to "connect more meaningfully with younger consumer groups," and the company says it's accomplishing that. (But wouldn't it be nice to boost sales too?)
Also: On social media, Gillette is getting flak for a promotion from a few years back in which ladies wore skin-tight blue costumes with the brand name stamped on their derrieres. Gillette responds: "We're not perfect, but we're focused on being better every day – which is what this whole new campaign is about …" Read more about it in the Ad Age Marketer's Brief.
When Super Bowl Sunday meets Throwback Thursday
It's Throwback Thursday, so it seems like the right moment to mention that Super Bowl ads will feature a lot of our favorite stars from '90s/early 2000s TV shows. Sarah Michelle Gellar of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" will star in an Olay ad during the Feb. 3 game on CBS. Christina Applegate of "Married… With Children" is in the M&Ms spot, and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth (who appeared in a couple seasons of "The West Wing") is touting Avocados from Mexico. Maybe Sarah Jessica Parker's "Sex in the City"-themed spot for Stella Artois and Water.org will air during the big game too, though we don't know yet. And lest we forget, Michael C. Hall of "Dexter" is the headliner for Skittles' Super Bowl Sunday live performance on Broadway.
What does this mean? Maybe that marketers have a soft spot for the TV shows of their youths. Or maybe it's part of the general wave of nostalgia sweeping through pop culture, which is what's driving all the TV remakes and reboots. Also, let's get real. How many people over age 25 really have a clue about today's crop of small screen stars -- the YouTubers?
Also worth noting: Pepsi is opting for current A-list stars Cardi B, Steve Carell and Lil Jon in its Super Bowl spot. As Ad Age's E.J. Schultz writes, "That adds up to a pretty hefty talent pricetag for the 30-second spot by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners."
And keep this link handy: It's our running tally of who's buying Super Bowl ads.
Media bad news, part 1: "BuzzFeed is preparing to lay off about 15% of its employees," including in the news division, CNN reports. That amounts to about 220 people. CNN cites an internal memo from CEO Jonah Peretti saying the cuts will help "put us on a firm foundation and allow us to invest and grow sustainably for years to come."
Media bad news, part 2: Verizon Media Group, which includes Yahoo, HuffPost and Tumblr, is laying off 7 percent of its staff, or about 800 people, CNBC reports.
Walls: Condé Nast, whose magazine holdings include The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired, "said it would put all its titles behind paywalls by the end of the year, as pressure builds on major publishers to generate more revenue beyond advertising," The Wall Street Journal writes.
Streaming: The NBCUniversal streaming service, which will launch in the first half of 2020, will carry a light ad load, Comcast says, adding that it hopes to be "a leader in targeted digital streaming advertising." Read more From Ad Age's Anthony Crupi about the service.
Backlash: "One of Naomi Osaka's main sponsors has taken down an online ad campaign that depicts the Japanese tennis player with pale skin after it was criticized as insensitive," The Associated Press reports. Nissin Foods said it pulled the manga-style animated ad featuring the half-Japanese, half-Haitian tennis star.
The end?: WPP's Possible is dismissing a complaint regarding the U.S. Army agency account, which was awarded to Omnicom's DDB in November, Megan Graham reports in Ad Age. Since Interpublic Group of Co.'s McCann recently did similar, the new move "appears to signal the end of a long-protracted battle for the sought-after account."
On the up and up: UPS will begin working with The Martin Agency again. Megan Graham writes: "Martin seems to be picking up steam after the high-profile departure of its chief creative officer Joe Alexander in December 2017, which followed an internal investigation into an allegation of sexual harassment. The shop named MullenLowe's Kristen Cavallo as CEO shortly after."
Non: Google says it will appeal France's recent $57 million fine for violating the European Union's tough new privacy rules, known as GDPR. Read more on Business Insider.
Meanwhile in China: Microsoft's Bing search engine long remained accessible in China, while the government blocked access to Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and many news sites. Now the Financial Times reports that Bing is being blocked by government order.
Podcast of the day: Ad Age Editor Brian Braiker talks to Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini. "The perception of Barstool's controversy and Barstool being a sexist company mostly comes from people who are not intimately familiar and [don't] read Barstool on a daily, weekly, monthly basis," she says in this week's edition of the Ad Lib podcast.
Ad of the day, SFW edition: James Marsden of "Westworld" stars as an astronaut searching the galaxy for Taco Bell nacho fries in a fun ad styled to look like a movie trailer. Brett Craig, CCO of Deutsch's Los Angeles office, told Ad Age's Jessica Wohl: "It's a preposterous premise, but we play it all so straight-faced, and having someone like James Marsden just adds to the satire."
Ad of the day, NSFW edition: It's hard to believe this ad comes from a brand owned by super-wholesome, family-oriented Kraft Heinz. But Devour, the company's frozen food sub-brand, built its marketing strategy on sexual innuendo -- and its new ad involves a gag about "food porn" and references to masturbation. As Jessica Wohl writes, this is a 60-second version of a Super Bowl spot, but whatever airs in the big game will shorter and tamer. Here it is. Try not to blush.