Your Tuesday Wake-Up Call: Uber Sues an Agency For Fraud. And Toys R Us Files For Bankruptcy

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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: Uber has sued Dentsu-owned Fetch Media, accusing the mobile agency of running "a wild west of online advertising fraud." The ride-hailing service says Fetch improperly billed it "for 'fake' online ads and took credit for app downloads it had nothing to do with," as Bloomberg reports, adding that Uber plans to ask for at least $40 million in damages. Fetch shot back, saying the claims are "unsubstantiated, completely without merit, and purposefully inflammatory so as to draw attention away from Uber's unprofessional behaviour and failure to pay suppliers."

Uber, of course, has had plenty of its own troubles lately. But whatever the outcome of the dispute, Uber is putting the issue of ad fraud back in the spotlight, again.

The digital advertising ecosystem has been dogged by questions over fraud and transparency, and despite various efforts to clean things up, observers say billions of dollars are lost to ad fraud every year. The stakes are getting higher, since spending on digital channels surpassed television spending in the U.S. last year for the first time, according to eMarketer. Marketers and agencies will be watching the Uber case. Closely.

Toys R Us and the retailpocalypse

There were hints this day was coming, but it's still going to hit some people hard: Iconic children's retailer Toys R Us Inc. says it has filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. and Canada. A restructuring plan is reportedly underway; the Wall Street Journal says underperforming stores will close, while "remaining locations would be reconfigured to be more experienced-based, incorporating amenities such as in-store play areas." Outside the U.S. and Canada, operations won't be affected, the chain says. Toys R Us joins a list that includes Payless, Gymboree, rue21 and Perfumania, all of whom filed for bankruptcy protection this year. If you're feeling a little nostalgic, feel free to watch this retro commercial and surrender to one of the great earworms of 1980s television, the "I Don't Wanna Grow Up, I'm a Toys R Us Kid" jingle (written by Linda Kaplan Thaler.)

Super Bowl shuffle

It's that time again: Ad Age is kicking off its annual coverage of who's buying time during the Super Bowl. Stella Artois beer is the first brand to publicly confirm an ad buy for the game on Feb 4, as Ad Age's E.J. Schultz reports. The brand is making its first Super Bowl appearance since 2011 as part of Anheuser-Busch InBev's ad buy. Meanwhile, if you're an advertiser with Super Bowl performance anxiety, NBC has some tips for you, after analyzing the effectiveness of ads from the last four years. As Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi writes, NBC discovered that "less is sometimes more. Don't, for example, include both a puppy and a cute kid."

Just briefly:

Pump up the volume: Instagram is changing its volume settings, as Ad Age's Garett Sloane reports. "Now, users who turn on the volume for any video on Instagram will automatically hear sound on every other video for the rest of the session (unless they turn it off again). Previously, users had to activate the sound on each video individually."

Hasta la vista, baby: Restaurant chain Chili's is saying goodbye to some of its menu items in an unusual social campaign, as Ad Age's Jessica Wohl reports. Goodbye, ancho-crusted steak.

Musical chairs: John Osborn is leaving his job as CEO of BBDO New York to become U.S. CEO for OMD. Kirsten Flanik will replace him, as Ad Age's Lindsay Stein and Megan Graham report.

Strangely sweet: Netflix has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a Chicago pop-up bar that had a "Stranger Things" theme, as Variety reports. But the letter is charming and full of references to the show.

Pepe the Frog: The creator of cartoon figure Pepe the Frog is going "legally nuclear against the alt-right," Vice's Motherboard reports. In other words, he's getting aggressive to enforce his IP.

Words of the day: The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has added new entries including "troll," "alt-right" and "dog-whistle," as The Washington Post reports. Also, "froyo."

Creativity of the day: A couple flirts and declares their love for each other via creative doodles and messages sent on their Samsung Galaxy Note 8s. Watch the ad here, with more details from Creativity Online's Alexandra Jardine. The sweet spot from Wieden + Kennedy Portland aired during the Emmys broadcast.

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