Can Oprah fix WW? Plus, a new way of looking at Nike's Serena Williams ad: Wednesday Wake-Up Call

The brand formerly known as Weight Watchers has lost its mojo

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Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey Credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for THR

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What people are talking about today
WW -- formerly known as Weight Watchers -- predicted a weak 2019, with fewer new members joining this year compared to last. The forecast sent the company's share price plummeting nearly 31 percent in after-hours trading. What happened? As Ad Age's Jessica Wohl reports, the company put some of the blame on its winter ad push -- its first global campaign since it rebranded to focus on wellness over dieting. The campaign, which de-emphasized weight loss and prioritized overall well-being, didn't recruit as many signups as expected, President and CEO Mindy Grossman said.

The ad from Anomaly also didn't focus much on Oprah Winfrey, who is both the brand's pitchwoman and an investor. Winfrey appeared briefly in the campaign, riding a bike, but she shared the spotlight with other people trying to get in shape or just enjoy life more. "Now, WW admits it needs even more Winfrey" in its marketing, Wohl writes. And it's working to fix that.

A big number: Winfrey owns over 8 percent of WW, and her stake lost $39.2 million of value when the share price dropped after hours, Bloomberg News writes.

About that name change: It's probably a bad sign that most news outlets, from Bloomberg News to CNN, are stubbornly calling WW by its old name, five months later. But if you write WW in a headline, does anybody know what you're referring to? WW seems nondescript. Will people get used to it?

U.S. v. AT&T
The legal battle is over, and AT&T prevailed: Its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner is in the clear after a ruling from a federal appeals court. The U.S. Justice Department had tried to undo the deal on antitrust grounds, but the three-judge panel described its arguments as unpersuasive. The Justice Department says it doesn't plan another challenge to the deal, so the decision effectively "ends the Trump administration's attempt to unravel a tie-up the U.S. said would lead to higher prices for pay-TV subscribers around the country," Bloomberg News reports. And it means there's no lingering doubt over the telecom giant's hold on WarnerMedia, including Warner Bros, HBO and Turner. Uncertainties over this deal have dragged on forever -- the merger was first announced in October 2016, before President Trump was elected.

The next big thing in antitrust: The Federal Trade Commission says it's forming a new task force to "examine potential antitrust violations in the tech industry, signaling tougher scrutiny ahead for the sector's largest firms," The Wall Street Journal writes. The group will even even look at mergers that have already happened.

'Dream Crazier'
The New York Times makes an interesting point about Nike's "Dream Crazier" ad for the Academy Awards, narrated by Serena Williams. The Wieden & Kennedy ad, which has over 6 million views on YouTube, is about how women are branded as "dramatic" for showing emotion, "crazy" for being competitive and ambitious, and "hysterical" for getting angry. Those negative stereotypes about women are nothing new. The Times writes:

"Women being labeled hysterical or crazy as a way to degrade them dates back centuries. 'Hysteria' — which comes from the Greek word for womb, hystera — was one of the first mental health conditions attributed to only women."

The article quotes Elaine Showalter, a feminist scholar and professor emerita of English at Princeton University, talking about how the ad evokes historical themes, including from the movement for women's suffrage. Showalter also tweeted that Nike's commercial was "wonderful."

Just briefly:
'Clear history':
In May, Facebook promised a feature that would let users clear their browsing history, a way to reassure people worried about data privacy after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook Chief Financial Officer David Wehner says the tool will launch this year, though he says it could hurt ad targeting, CNBC reports.

Search: Apple's ad business is borrowing a page from Facebook; it just added a second campaign management partner for search ads, Ad Age's George Slefo writes.

'Today': Jenna Bush Hager will join Hoda Kotb and become the permanent co-host of the fourth hour of the "Today" show on NBC. She will replace Kathie Lee Gifford, who is leaving in April.

Uh oh: "Ratings challenges across the Discovery portfolio are beginning to have a diminishing effect on the company's advertising growth," Anthony Crupi writes in Ad Age.

Agency news: Work & Co. is the new digital product partner for Ikea, and it also opened a new office in Copenhagen, Ad Age's Megan Graham writes.

Backlash: Walmart's plan to change the job description for greeters in 1,000 stores and give the added duties. And the move is sparked a backlash because it "redefines many disabled people out of jobs," Ad Age's Jack Neff writes.

Bonjour again: "Nearly three decades after exiting the U.S. market, PSA Group is coming back with the brand it pulled out: Peugeot," Automotive News writes. (Can Americans really be convinced to buy Peugeots? We sense an interesting marketing challenge here.)

Ad of the day: In case you missed it, Google ran a fun series of short ads during the Academy Awards, imagining Google products inserted into classic movie scenes from "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Ladybird," "Deadpool" and "Scream." They're very Oscars-appropriate, and quite witty. Check them out on Ad Age's chart of the week's most-viewed video ads.

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