Your Thursday Wake-Up Call: Trump's Facebook Ads, Google's Hardware Play and Other News

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Morning Wake Up Call_3x2 Credit: iStock

Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital-related news. What people are talking about today: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged a big failing at the company, the fact that it was possible until recently to target ads at people with anti-Semitic or racist interests. "The fact that hateful terms were even offered as options was totally inappropriate and a fail on our part," Sandberg wrote in a blog post. (Read a thorough take on this topic by Ad Age's Garett Sloane.) To fix things, Sandberg said, Facebook is "adding more human review and oversight to our automated processes." She didn't give details on how that human review would work, or how many staff members would be on the team. The whole humans vs. algorithms debate is at the heart of so many of Facebook's problems right now, including the whole uproar over fake news. The company needs to get the balance right.

Trump's wall
There's more news about Facebook ads. President Trump is reportedly using targeted Facebook ads to reassure supporters that he really will get a wall built on the Mexican border. One such ad from his campaign, as Buzzfeed reports, asks for donations after proclaiming: "WE WILL BUILD A WALL (NOT A FENCE) ALONG THE SOUTHERN BORDER OF THE UNITED STATES..." What's interesting is that the president's exact stance on the border wall has been confusing lately, and the targeted digital ads send a different, much clearer message to his base than his public proclamations do. You can't look the ads up, so they're not out in the open. "When the president sends one subset of the population a message that the rest of the population can't see—especially one that's at odds with reality—it feels like a fundamental failure of government transparency," Wired writes. The word "transparency" is popping up a lot lately. The internet was supposed to put everything out in the open. Things didn't go quite as planned.

Also: A group of Democrats in Congress wants new guidance from the government on how to stop foreign advertisers from buying digital ads on Facebook and Google to try to influence U.S. voters, Recode reports.

Google's hardware play
Google plans to acquire a piece of Taiwanese smartphone company HTC for $1.1 billion, as The Wall Street Journal reports. A HTC team that worked on Google's Pixel smartphone will join the California company. "After years of half-heartedly and occasionally ham-fistedly building gadgets, Google's finally all-in on the hardware game," Wired says. Will this new deal be more successful than Google's 2011 Motorola acquisition?

There's a legal battle brewing over the marketing of flushable wipes, and whether it's really wise to drop them in the toilet. A new law in Washington D.C. says wipes sold there can bear the "flushable" label only if they break apart soon after flushing. As The Washington Post reports, manufacturer Kimberly-Clark says D.C.'s law is unconstitutional; it also says it's "fighting for our consumers and standing up for our brands." Why does all this matter? Perhaps you read recently about the horrifying fatberg in the London sewer, a 140-ton mess of disposable wipes, grease and other gunk.

Just briefly:

Because there are never enough awards: The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is introducing yet another award category in 2018 (it's related to the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals.) Read more from Ad Age's Lindsay Stein, who interviewed the CEO of Cannes' parent company.

T-Mobile and Sprint: If a potential merger between T-Mobile and Sprint happens, a tie-up would be bad news for Madison Avenue, as Ad Age's Simon Dumenco notes.

CNN: Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is joining CNN as a senior legal analyst, Politico says. Bharara was fired by President Trump in March.

Netflix: Netflix is embroiled in a trademark dispute with the family of Pablo Escobar, whose life was depicted in the hit show "Narcos," The Hollywood Reporter says. A company run by Escobar's brother filed U.S. applications to use the "Narcos" and "Cartel Wars" marks to sell products, such as ringtones, magnets and temporary tattoos, the report says.

Uber lawsuit: Alphabet is seeking $2.6 billion from Uber for "allegedly stealing a single trade secret," Recode reports.

Happy meals?: Panera's CEO is challenging the chief executives at McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King to eat their chains' kids meals for a week, or else rethink their offering to children, as Ad Age's Jessica Wohl writes.

Headline of the day: "Unlikely Super Bowl Advertiser Death Wish Coffee Issues Recall Because of, Yes, Death Risk," by Ad Age's Simon Dumenco.

Creativity pick: A campaign from Halo pet food says its products will enable your cat or dog to make fantastic poop, as Creativity Online's Alexandra Jardine writes. The star of the ad is a "halo-ed poop-emoji style animation named 'Poopsie.'"

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