TikTok CEO quits, and NBA Playoffs pause for Jacob Blake protests: Thursday Wake-Up Call
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TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer has resigned, having found himself in a more twisted position than he could have possibly predicted when he joined just months ago. Mayer stepped into the CEO role in May, leaving his post as Disney's head of video streaming services, where he helped launch Disney+. Now, TikTok is embroiled in an international tug of war, and Mayer may have had some buyer's remorse. According to the Financial Times, people close to Mayer said he did not sign up to get caught in the middle of a cold war between America and China. (Mayer's departure was first reported by The New York Times.)
TikTok, owned by Chinese-based ByteDance, is being forced to sell its U.S. holdings because President Donald Trump has deemed it a national security threat. Microsoft and Oracle have been involved in talks to buy the hot video-sharing app that has more than 100 million monthly active users in the U.S.
“Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company,” Mayer wrote in a letter to employees. “I understand that the role that I signed up for—including running TikTok globally—will look very different as a result of the U.S. administration's action to push for a sell off of the US business.” The FT reports that Vanessa Pappas, TikTok's U.S. general manager, will take Mayer's place in the interim.
The NBA postponed Game 5 of the Playoffs, and not because of fears of coronavirus infections. The league rescheduled games between the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers after the Bucks boycotted their game to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin. An attorney for the Blake family says Jacob is now paralyzed from the waist down. During protests in Wisconsin on Tuesday night, two more people were shot and killed. A white 17-year-old has been charged with homicide.
“The decision came about an hour after the Bucks refused to leave their locker room for the start of their 4 p.m. game Wednesday, ESPN reported,” writes Ad Age’s Ilyse Liffreing. Later on Wednesday night, the protest spilled over to another sport, when both the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds canceled their planned MLB game.
Five months ahead of the Super Bowl, brands and agencies are pondering whether the Big Game will even happen—and whether they should be working on spots that might never run in front of the largest audience of the year.
“You have to take a ‘let’s assume it’s happening’ approach, but build backup plans and adjust if things change,” David Campanelli, chief investment officer at Horizon Media, tells Ad Age’s Jeanine Poggi and E.J. Schultz. Agencies like VaynerMedia and TBWA\Chiat\Day New York are moving forward, too, though tentatively, like with many projects during the pandemic.
For its part, CBS is still selling spots in the game for a Super Bowl-sized price, $5.5 million for 30 seconds, in line with what was charged last year. But brands with cash on hand might not be taking a huge risk, at least in terms of the media buy, since CBS has agreed to refunds if the game is canceled. The question is whether fans will even tune in.
“It will either be the least-watched Super Bowl of all time or most-watched,” says Rob Reilly, global creative chairman at McCann Worldgroup. “I don’t think it will fall in the middle, so it is a big bet to take.”
Facebook posted a job opening for a new chief marketing officer to replace Antonio Lucio, who leaves the company Sept. 18. “It’s a fairly standard job ad, but the challenges for Facebook’s CMO will be anything but routine,” writes Ad Age’s Garett Sloane. “The company is in the middle of one of its most tumultuous periods with critics swarming to call out Facebook’s missteps at every turn.”
This could be an opportunity for the tech giant to improve racial diversity in its C-suite. Organizers of the “Stop Hate for Profit” boycott, including the NAACP, have called for the company to hire a Black executive with experience in civil rights, and now there’s an obvious opening. Lucio himself cited the need for more diversity in the industry as one of the reasons he is stepping down.
Anheuser-Busch InBev is playing it safe. The alcohol behemoth scrapped plans for a global media review this year and is sticking with its incumbent agencies: Dentsu’s Vizeum, Publicis’ Starcom and WPP’s MediaCom.
“According to AB InBev, the company hired consultancy MediaSense to help ‘develop a new Data & Media Operating Model,’” writes Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse. “Still, people close to the matter claimed AB InBev had engaged MediaSense late last year to conduct a global media review before the pandemic struck.”
In May, the company said it would cut its media spend in the U.S. in the midst of sales declines fueled by bar and restaurant closures.
Up and out: Salesforce’s stock price surged this week after the company reported a 29 percent increase in revenue in the second quarter and rosy predictions for the third quarter, reports Bloomberg. But on Wednesday Salesforce also announced 1,000 layoffs. In March, CEO Marc Benioff had pledged no significant layoffs for 90 days.
Out of bounds: According to The Washington Post, Dan Snyder, owner of The Washington Football Team, propositioned one of the team’s cheerleaders. Allegedly, he had also requested that the video team create a DVD of outtakes from the cheerleaders' calendar shoot, including when the women were momentarily exposed between shots, a former staff member told the Post.
Maskless mayhem: New CDC recommendations warn retail and service workers not to argue with customers who refuse to wear masks, reports CNN. The CDC also issued new testing guidelines that suggest asymptomatic people don’t need to be tested for coronavirus. Anthony Fauci says he’s concerned it will make people think that those without symptoms can’t spread the disease.
That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call. Thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.
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