Stephen Colbert's fabulous fake Super Bowl commercial, and Amazon's ballooning ad business: Friday Wake-Up Call

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A scene from Stephen Colbert's 'emotionally manipulative' faux Super Bowl commercial
A scene from Stephen Colbert's 'emotionally manipulative' faux Super Bowl commercial Credit: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

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
With two days to go until the biggest event in American advertising (and football), let's spare a moment of appreciation for "The Most Emotionally Manipulative Super Bowl Ad Ever." It's a spoof of ad clichés by Stephen Colbert, and it's side-splitting. (Watch it here.)

As Adrianne Pasquarelli writes in Ad Age, this commercial has it all -- including "a soldier dog who returns to his family, a wheelchair-bound penguin that likes to watch 'Toy Story 3,' a grandmother who counts beans for every day her husband is dead, and an astronaut who blows up while texting and driving a Mars rover." Also, everyone in the ad is actually dead.

And you'll never guess what product it's advertising.

In real Super Bowl news: Google says it will air two spots in the game, but the company isn't giving any hints about the creative approach, Ad Age's George P. Slefo writes.
Here's the magic link: This page is where you can find all the Super Bowl ads as they get released. The game airs on CBS at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Amazon's fast-growing ad business just hit a milestone. As Ad Age's Garett Sloane writes, the company surpassed $10 billion in revenue for the advertising side of its business last year. The e-commerce giant stunned many observers by how quickly it ramped up its ad business to compete with the two biggest digital advertising players, Google and Facebook. As Sloane writes, "At the beginning of last year, eMarketer predicted Amazon would only do $2.8 billion in ad sales" in 2018. That's less than what Amazon achieved in the fourth quarter of 2018 alone. It posted $3.4 billion in quarterly revenue in the "other" category, which is mostly advertising; that number nearly doubled from the same period a year earlier.
Question: Amazon still has quite a way to go to catch up with Facebook, the No. 2 digital advertising player, which just reported $16.6 billion in quarterly ad revenue. But given how fast Amazon's ad business is expanding, is it officially time to stop referring to the "duopoly" of Google and Facebook? Should everybody be calling it a triopoly now?

Hit pause
Soon Hulu viewers will see ads when they pause videos they're watching. As Quartz writes, "Next time you press pause on Hulu to use the bathroom, you might be shown an advertisement for Charmin toilet paper." The ads are overlaid on the screen and are static and silent. Charmin is in on the beta test, as is Coca-Cola. As Quartz writes, Hulu hopes to get half its ad revenue from these sorts of non-disruptive ad formats by 2021.
A footnote to this: These so-called "pause ads" have been ubiquitous for years on China's video services, such as Alibaba-owned Youku. They look very similar to what Hulu's planning. This isn't a new thing, Hulu. Just saying.

To boldly go on a Pedego
"Once upon a time, William Shatner zoomed the galaxy on the USS Enterprise," Ad Age's Megan Graham writes. "These days, his ride is an electric bike." Graham interviewed 87-year-old Shatner about his new ads for Pedego Electric Bikes (he's a fan), and their eclectic and entertaining conversation touched on Super Bowl ads, a scar he's had since childhood, climate change and his recent cross-country motorcycle trip. And also, assholes.

Just briefly:
Amp it up:
Ad Age has been working on something new for our community -- it's called Ad Age Amp, and it's a platform where you can curate your best creative ideas and biggest news. It's for agencies, brands, production companies and people. Check it out here -- there's a video at the bottom that shows you how your page can look.

Fiji Water model vs. Fiji: Model Kelleth Cuthbert, who went viral at the Golden Globes by photo-bombing the stars while holding a tray of Fiji Water, is suing the brand, The Blast reports. She's reportedly unhappy about a marketing campaign that involved cardboard cutouts of her image. Fiji, meanwhile, tells The Blast that the lawsuit is "frivolous and entirely without merit."

New gig: Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who exposed the Cambridge Analytica user data scandal, got a job with H&M, where he'll be working with big data and AI to try to figure out what customers want. Read more from Bloomberg News.

Teamwork: "Facebook and Twitter have been sharing notes on fake accounts tied to Iran that have been trying to manipulate political thought around the world, leading to another wave of takedowns by the social-media sites," Bloomberg News reports.

Cord-cutters take note: The New York Times profiles Locast, a free app that streams network TV in some U.S. markets, calling it "perhaps the most audacious media experiment in years." So far, the networks haven't tried to stop it.

Enlightenment: Abercrombie & Fitch is changing up the marketing for its musky men's fragrance, Fierce, the prevailing odor of mall shopping in the early aughts. WWD reports that a new ad campaign, "Face Your Fierce," include "athletes, LGBTQ+ activists, mental health advocates and volunteer firefighters from Malibu, Calif., who fought the wildfires in that city." In other words, another men's grooming product is using messaging that's sensitive and enlightened, à la Axe and Gillette.

Ad of the day: Bumble released its Super Bowl ad starring tennis legend Serena Williams, and there's something thrilling about the power and grit in her voice as she narrates the spot: "The world tells you to wait; that waiting is polite and good things will just come. But if I waited to be invited in I never would have stood out." The ad's message is about women making the first move, in relationships and business. Jeanine Poggi interviewed Laura Hutfless, partner at FlyteVu Agency, about working with a team made up mostly of women and putting the whole spot together in six weeks. Listen to their conversation on the Ad Lib podcast.

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