Tuesday Wake-Up Call: New Leadership For Vice? Plus, Another Worry For Ad Giants

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Nancy Dubuc, who is reportedly in talks to head Vice Media, at a Hollywood Reporter event in December.
Nancy Dubuc, who is reportedly in talks to head Vice Media, at a Hollywood Reporter event in December. Credit: Jesse Grant/Getty Images

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What people are talking about today: Rumblings of change in the ad industry are getting louder. Consider these four stories from the last 24 hours, which are all related to women in the industry or to the Time's Up/#MeToo movement:

1. A symbol?: Nancy Dubuc left her job as CEO of A&E Networks and is in advanced talks to become CEO of Vice Media, as Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi writes. If the discussions are finalized, she'll take over from Shane Smith, co-founder of Vice, a company portrayed in a New York Times investigation as a "degrading and uncomfortable" place for women. Smith had long talked about his interest in stepping back from day-to-day managment but it's only happening now. He's expected to stay at the company in some capacity. Could Dubuc change the tone?

2. A sexist tradition, denounced. A London ad planner sent around an email ranking women in his agency, The&Partnership, by their looks (Top 5 and Bottom 5), as Ad Age's Alexandra Jardine writes. He apologized and says he meant it in an ironic way. But as Jardine writes, the episode also revealed that such "Top 5" emails were, "at least until recently, common practice in U.K. agency culture."

3. Yet another top creative suspended. "Ad agency Innocean has put chief creative officer Eric Springer on leave amid sexual harassment allegations," as Ad Age's E.J. Schultz reports.

4. A movement forms: Over 180 of the most senior women in advertising have partnered with the Time's Up movement to fight sexual harassment, old power dynamics and lack of diversity in the industry, as Ad Age's Lindsay Stein reports. Their letter reads: "We've agreed that we have the power to change this business we love until it looks more like the industry we want to lead." You can see who signed on here.

What does all this mean, exactly? It's hard to see the big picture when you're right in the middle of it. But these four stories, taken together, are pretty representative of this messy/infuriating/inspiring moment.

"Bearish bets"
For those fretting about the health of the ad industry, add this to your list of worries: The Financial Times reports that "hedge funds have amassed bearish bets of more than $3 billion against the world's largest advertising companies in an attempt to profit as the industry undergoes wrenching disruption and slowing growth."

In one example, the FT cites data from Markit, saying hedge funds have taken short positions worth $2.2 billion in shares of Omnicom Group, "equivalent to 13 percent of its total shares." Pressures on the holding companies include budget cuts by big consumer groups like Procter & Gamble. One person shared the FT's article on Twitter with the terse comment, "Ouch."

'Real News. Real Honest Opinion.'
After CNN and The New York Times, it's Fox News' turn to debut a new marketing campaign. As Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi writes, the tagline for the upcoming campaign is: "Real News. Real Honest Opinion." Instantly, there was a lot of chatter about the slogan. Here's a conservative POV, via Twitter: "Fox is wasting its money, since people who consume news already know Fox is the most accurate, balanced & fairest…but not perfect." And an opposing view: "George Orwell is rising from the dead to file an IP claim against Fox."

Keep up to speed on South by Southwest via Ad Age's blog from our team there. Courtesy of reporter Megan Graham, here's one quotable quote you may have missed:

"I'm the kind of woman who wears, like, frickin sequins in the middle of the daytime, you know what I mean? I'm not really afraid of a lot," said Uber's chief brand officer, Bozoma Saint John, of her decision to join the company when she did. "I intend to step right in there with my sequins and bust it right open."

Also from SXSW, for Ad Age's "Remotely Entertaining" video series, Ad Age's George Slefo talks to The New York Times about its hit podcast The Daily, which is free for listeners but already generating a profit. It's also a gateway for new audiences: Sam Dolnick, assistant managing editor at the Times, calls it "the best billboard the New York Times has ever had."

Justice for vibrator ads?
On social media platforms, condom ads are allowed, but ads for vibrators? Nope. As Lauren Smiley writes in Ad Age, Facebook allows ads for "family planning" and "contraception" (including condoms) but not "sexual pleasure or sexual enhancement" (as in vibrators.) She talked to Polly Rodriguez, who founded a sex tech company called Unbound, who has this to say: "So we're implicitly saying it's OK for men to orgasm. So why can't we have the same for women?"

Just briefly:
"Frenetic facial contortions":
Taylor Swift's new music video, "Delicate," (in which she crazy-dances and makes weird expressions) has many similarities to a 2016 Spike Jonze ad for Kenzo perfume, starring Margaret Qualley. As The Cut writes, "The gowns are similar, as is the premise and the setting and the frenetic facial contortions." Qualley is a better dancer, though.

"Idol": ABC's revival of "American Idol" had 10.3 million viewers for its first episode, according to preliminary Nielsen data, and Ad Age's Anthony Crupi says the singing contest delivered "strong numbers for a Sunday night in 2018."

National Geographic: The magazine is acknowledging its racist coverage from the past, and it brought in a historian to analyze it. (Consider this shocking 1916 caption from a photo of two Aboriginal people: "South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.")

Gun violence: Eighteen students who survived the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, want help from businesses to fund their upcoming March For Our Lives, as Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz reports. And they thanked brands including Delta and United, which have distanced themselves from the NRA.

Quote of the day: From George Slefo's Ad Age interview with John Legere, about the T-Mobile CEO's cash reward to call center employees who improved their performance: "I went to a Chase bank and told them I wanted $40,000 in small bills—this is all from my account—and they filled a trash barrel and big bags with the cash. I then got onstage and told them how well they did, and then dumped tens and twenties."

Creativity pick of the day: Up-and-coming indie artist Clairo has a new music video for her song "Flaming Hot Cheetos," and it involves dancers in "chili-red cheese costumes," as Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz reports. It's apparently free publicity for the zeitgeist-y snack, since Pepsico Frito-Lay says it wasn't involved in the production in any way. Read more by Diaz, and watch it here.

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