Thursday Wake-Up Call: KFC really wants a baby named Harland, plus Trump doubles down on Google

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Ray Liotta as Colonel Sanders last year.
Ray Liotta as Colonel Sanders last year. Credit: KFC

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: KFC has a new promotion, and this one could affect a baby. Forever. Sept. 9 is KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders' birthday (he died in 1980), and the fast-food chain has a contest for any Harlands born that day. Never mind that the name appears to have peaked in popularity around 1918. The first Harland born Sept. 9 will win $11,000 to put away for college tuition. Yes, it's a drop in the bucket so, why $11,000? Eleven herbs and spices, of course. The Ad Age Marketer's Brief has more details about that campaign, and about a White Castle ad that makes a joke about threesomes.

Two tech-related feuds
And now more serious news: Two American political leaders are attacking two tech companies for two very different reasons. Sen. Bernie Sanders is worried about the workers. President Trump is worried about himself.
1. On Wednesday President Trump spent a second day accusing Google that it's biased against him. He pinned a video to the top of his Twitter feed that suggests Google didn't promote his State of the Union addresses, unlike for President Obama. BuzzFeed and other outlets discovered a good explanation for Trump's video: It was doctored. The screenshots in the video, says Buzzfeed, are inconsistent "with Google's logo and homepage doodle [and] uses a Google logo that went out of use the previous year." Google denied Trump's accusations, or in the words of Gizmodo, "Google called B.S. on Trump's claim." In a statement, said Buzzfeed, Google explained that it "did promote a live video stream of Trump's address in 2018. The year before, in 2017, a video wasn't promoted on the homepage because Trump delivered a joint statement to Congress, not a State of the Union."
2. Amazon generally tries to stay out of political debates, but on Wednesday it responded to continuous attacks from Sanders. As CNBC reports, Sanders has been

"claiming the company doesn't pay its lower-level employees a fair wage. He recently issued a call for Amazon employees to share their experiences in a form that asks, 'Have you used public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid or subsidized housing, in order to make ends meet?'"

Amazon responded in a blog post: "While Senator Sanders plays politics and makes misleading accusations, we are expending real money and effort upskilling people." (Note to corporate America: Do you really have to use the word "upskilling"? Guess "training" isn't jargony enough for you?)
Also: ICYMI, Amazon has enlisted staff in its fulfillment centers to engage with critics on social media, as The Seattle Times reports. They call themselves "Amazon FC ambassadors" and they paint a flattering view of the company. Sample tweet: "The way Amazon treats its employees is GREAT, we work hard, have fun and are always ready to make history."

The New York Postly News
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. already owns the New York Post. What if he stepped in to buy its rival, the New York Daily News? Ken Doctor, media analyst at Harvard University's Nieman Lab, unspools a complicated scenario about what could happen to Tronc and the newspapers it owns, including the Daily News. Citing several unnamed sources, he writes that "it looks like Tronc is about to be chopped up and sold for parts." Donerail Group, an investment group led by Will Wyatt, has gotten the financing to buy Tronc, he writes. But the deal-making wouldn't end there, Doctor says, because Donerail would likely sell off Tronc papers to individual owners. He writes:

"Donerail would probably want to quickly dispatch the financially problematic New York Daily News. There, says one source, Rupert Murdoch, owner of the rival New York Post is set to pounce, paying $1 for the paper."

Nothing's done yet, and this scenario involves conditionals and complex deals. Bloomberg News followed up on Doctor's piece and checked in with Tronc, which declined to talk about it, and with News Corp., which didn't have an immediate comment. But it's something to watch.
Some (rare) happy news for the newspaper industry: After a surprise decision, the U.S. will do away with tariffs on Canadian paper imports, Bloomberg News reports. The tariffs had raised the price of newsprint and "squeezed margins at struggling newspapers."

Snapchat
Snapchat is finally coming to the NewFronts, where video publishers pitch ad buyers on their shows. Ad Age's Garett Sloane reports that the company is on the lineup for a new West Coast version of its annual Digital Content NewFronts. Sloane writes:

"While Snapchat has avoided the East Coast's annual digital upfront circuit for years, this one, in Los Angeles, will be in its backyard. More than proximity may have finally lured Snapchat in, however: The company's ad model depends entirely on video, and it could really use the extra promotion time with brands."

Snapchat's video programming ranges from sports to crime to reality shows such as "Phone Swap," which it describes as a "super-awkward dating show." Daters hand each other their smartphones and discover weird quirks about each other that might be better left unknown.

Just briefly:
Arrows flying:
Sinclair Broadcast Group is countersuing Tribune Media Co. after their proposed merger fell apart, Reuters reports.

Going international: "Facebook has announced the international rollout of Facebook Watch, its video destination for episodic content, which first launched in the U.S. a year ago this month," Variety writes.

Amazon's ambitions: The Information reports that Amazon is planning to launch a free, ad-supported video service for users of its Fire TV streaming video devices. Friendly reminder: Ad Age's Garett Sloane had a similar story back in November.

Crystal ball: Ad Age's Anthony Crupi predicts which NFL games this season will draw the largest audiences. The biggie, he thinks, will be Green Bay at New England, on NBC "Sunday Night Football" Nov. 4. Note: He calls these things pretty damn well.

Speaking of "Sunday Night Football": Hyundai Motor America won sponsorship rights. Read it from Automotive News.

Silver screen: Movie theaters had a great summer, and ComScore estimates that "North American ticket sales will close out the summer season with a more than 14 percent increase," Bloomberg News reports.

Listen: For this week's Ad Lib podcast, Ad Age Editor Brian Braiker talks to Michael Ventura, founder of the New York strategy and design consultancy Sub Rosa. He's a man of many pursuits: He publishes a newsletter called La Petite Mort (a French expression for orgasm), and also runs an eastern and indigenous medicine and healing practice. Also, he wrote a book called "Applied Empathy."

Ad of the day: In a new spot for Match.com, a jittery single mom gets ready for a very important visitor: the babysitter. As Ad Age's I-Hsien Sherwood writes, "Now subscribers to the online dating service in the U.K. and France can get up to three hours of free babysitting, enough for dinner and conversation." Which is a very nice idea. The spot is by Paris-based agency Marcel; watch it here.

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