MLB plans shorter baseball ad breaks, and MDC Partners (finally) charts a path: Friday Wake-Up Call

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The umpires at Game Five of the 2018 World Series.
The umpires at Game Five of the 2018 World Series. Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

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
Sephora axed its cosmetics collection created with Olivia Jade Giannulli, the popular YouTuber and Instagram influencer caught up in a massive college admissions cheating scandal. Her parents, actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were among dozens of people accused of lying or cheating to get their kids into college. The makeup collection was called "Olivia Jade x Sephora," and Sephora probably no longer wanted its name attached to hers. As Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli writes, commenters posted Twitter urging the company to drop 19-year-old Giannulli, a student at the University of Southern California. "@Sephora, you gonna fire that Olivia Jade?" one person wrote.

Also: Actress Loughlin "was fired Thursday from the Hallmark Channel, on which she has been a staple," NBC News reports.

'The status quo was unbearable'
MDC Partners, whose agencies include 72andSunny, Anomaly and Crispin Porter Bogusky, reports quarterly earnings this morning. But we already know the holding company's big announcement: Mark Penn's Stagwell Group plans a $100 million equity investment in the holding company, giving it a minority stake, Ad Age reports. Penn, a former Microsoft exec and former advisor to the Clintons, will be CEO. This is welcome news for some within MDC, which has gone through a rough patch, with sales slowing and its stock price dropping. For six months, the company searched for a CEO to replace Scott Kauffman and weighed its options going forward; it had also contemplated a sale. One exec at an MDC agency told Ad Age: "Any movement is good movement. The status quo was unbearable."

CNN's pitch
As upfronts season kicks off, CNN is visiting media agencies to make its case on why advertisers should spend money on its platforms; it's touting its digital capabilities and the upcoming 2020 presidential race, Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi writes. At Horizon Media, CNN President Jeff Zucker told executives, "What you get with us is a place you can rely on, you can feel safe with, and you can count on, and I don't think that's the case with every other outlet that's out there …"

Which news outlets might he be alluding to there? Maybe *cough* Fox News?

Seven minutes shorter
Major League Baseball announced a plan to reduce each national commercial break by 25 seconds. But will the networks play ball? The league doesn't have the networks' approval yet, Ad Age's Anthony Crupi reports. He writes:

"The break-reduction scheme would shave 425 seconds off the length of each nine-frame ballgame, or a little more than 7 minutes. But the cost of keeping things moving would be dear for Fox and ESPN, which rely on the ad sales revenue to subsidize the expense of broadcasting MLB games."

The idea would be to speed up the pace and bring in more young fans to a sport whose median World Series viewer was 56-years-old. But what's really the main issue turning off younger viewers -- the ad load, or the leisurely pace of the game itself?

Just briefly:
'Chaos':
Advertisers say this week's Facebook and Instagram outage led to "chaos" in ad buying, Ad Age's Garett Sloane reports, and "some advertisers reportedly ended up paying upwards of 300 percent more for some ads due to erratic activity in the ad auctions."

Bye: Facebook's Chief Product Officer Chris Cox is leaving; Bloomberg News says he's "the highest-ranking executive to depart since the social-media giant became embroiled in crisis last year." Chris Daniels, who leads WhatsApp, is going too.

Glossy: "Meredith Corporation, the Des Moines, Iowa-based publishing conglomerate, is launching a new magazine—yes, an actual physical, ink-on-glossy-paper thing," Simon Dumenco writes. It's for dog and cat owners, and it's called Happy Paws.

Number of the day: No real surprise here, but Pornhub says its traffic jumped 19 percent while Facebook and Instagram were down this week.

Ad of the day: Who says data is boring? Google Cloud, which has a multiyear sponsorship deal with the NCAA, recruited 30 students to help it dig into data and make predictions about March Madness games, Ad Age's George Slefo writes. In a spot from San Francisco agency Eleven, it looks like the students are having a blast -- their workspace is outfitted like a giant Rube Goldberg machine, and the University of Oregon's duck mascot crashes the party. Check it out here.

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