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
Ad Age Next, our conference on the future of marketing and tech, opened yesterday in New York and continues today. So far we've heard about the future of the cannabis business, the latest in voice technology and a robot that makes bread. One theme: The need for brands to build human connections, despite all the tech in our lives. A few thoughts from our speakers:
-- Brands need to ease into the conversation online and not just barge in with their product pitch, Reddit COO Jen Wong says: "There needs to be a little bit of an exchange before you put a proposition in front of them." Read more on Wong's talk from Garett Sloane.
-- "How can you learn without failing? It should be a celebrated thing." -- Girlboss CEO and founder Sophia Amoruso, talking about the time she "faceplanted on a very large stage, at a very large scale." But she moved on.
-- "If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun." – Katharine Hepburn as quoted by David Shing, digital prophet at Oath.
Some news that broke overnight: Jerry Buhlmann, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network, is stepping down on Dec. 31. Japanese ad giant Dentsu Inc. announced the news; it owns London-based Dentsu Aegis Network, which groups together the company's ad businesses outside Japan and includes agencies such as Carat, iProspect, Isobar and Merkle.
Buhlmann's CEO job will be taken over by a familiar face: Tim Andree, who is already the network's executive chairman and holds other top roles at Dentsu. Starting in January, Dentsu says, Buhlmann (who is also an avid triathlete) will be a special advisor to Dentsu. Buhlmann, Andree and the rest of the Dentsu team have overseen steady growth at a time when some rivals, such as WPP, have faltered. Dentsu Inc. reported 4.4 percent organic growth for all its businesses, both inside and outside Japan, in the first nine months of the year.
HQ2 X 2
Nearly 240 cities bid to be Amazon's next headquarters; after months of speculation and media hype, Amazon picked two locations, Long Island City in Queens and National Landing in northern Virginia, near Washington D.C. It's also setting up an operations hub in Nashville. What's the takeaway? "Amazon's HQ hunger games are over, and Jeff Bezos won," as Wired reports. That's because Amazon managed to get over $2 billion in incentives for its new locations
Say what?: Amazon's selection of Virgina's "National Landing" created some confusion, because nobody had ever heard of such a place. After the announcement, a Washington D.C.-based reporter for the local NPR station tweeted: "The HQ2 question being asked across Washington-area newsrooms right now: WTF is National Landing?" The Arlington County government explains that it's a "newly branded neighborhood encompassing parts of Pentagon City and Crystal City in Arlington and Potomac Yard in Alexandria." If you're not a fan of new name, don't blame Amazon for the rebrand – it reportedly comes from local authorities.
Alexa, say you're sorry: Agency McGarrah Jesse is playing a joke on Amazon – it's making voice assistant Alexa apologize to cities that lost the HQ2 race, like Austin, Chicago and Toronto, Fast Company writes.
The Department of Justice has been investigating ad agency production practices since 2016 – the question was whether agencies were unfairly sending business to their in-house departments instead of to independent shops. Now the biggest players say they've been cleared. As Ad Age's Megan Graham reports, "MDC Partners, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe, WPP and IPG have confirmed the investigations into their subsidiaries have been closed without any action taken."
So … is that it for the probe? It's not clear. The Department of Justice declined to comment on whether the investigation is still ongoing in some way.
Win: "Heineken USA has brought on Canvas Worldwide as its media agency of record in the U.S., marking a major win for the three-year-old agency," write Ad Age's Megan Graham and E.J. Schultz.
Layoffs: Starbucks plans to cut about 5 percent of its global corporate workforce, and "about 350 employees in marketing, creative, product, technology and store development will be impacted," CNBC reports, citing a memo from CEO Kevin Johnson.
Bye: Juul, the e-cigarette brand popular with teenagers, says it's shutting down its Facebook and Instagram accounts. "We understand that many young people get their information from social media," Juul says, adding that it wants to remove itself from the online conversation about vaping.
Trump vs. CNN: "A long-simmering battle between President Donald Trump and CNN escalated Tuesday with the cable news network suing Trump and his top aides over the revocation of press credentials of its correspondent Jim Acosta," Bloomberg News writes.
Number of the day: Digital ad spending revenue is on pace to hit $100 billion this year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau says in a report prepared by PwC. Read more by George Slefo in Ad Age.
Ad of the day: SodaStream, the brand for DIY soda-making, has a new ad mocking Coke's iconic 1972 Hilltop ad. The folks in SodaStream's ad are standing not on a hilltop but on a pile of discarded plastic bottles – a message stressing SodaStream's environmentally friendly credentials. What makes things a bit awkward is that SodaStream is about to be bought by PepsiCo, which makes plenty of plastic bottles. Read about it from Ad Age's E.J. Schultz, and watch the spot here.