New allegations about Les Moonves' downfall: Thursday Wake-Up Call

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Les Moonves in 2014
Les Moonves in 2014 Credit: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

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
The New York Times has a stunning, detailed exposé on "how Les Moonves tried to silence an accuser." Moonves was pushed out as CEO of CBS in September amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault, and the company still has to decide whether he should get a $120 million exit package. A string of text messages featured in The Times' story will likely play a role in deciding if he gets any money. The report includes an actress' allegation that Moonves forced her to perform oral sex on him during a business meeting in the 1990s, and details on how he allegedly schemed with a talent manager to try to make the actress stay quiet years later -- by looking for work for her at CBS. (Moonves told The Times the encounter was consensual.) But there's more, too. Carolyn Ryan, assistant managing editor at The Times, tweeted: "This story has everything: a down-on-his-luck Hollywood agent; a power-hungry TV executive; a surprising birthday party; mysterious jaw pain; frantic text messages; suggestions of blackmail; a disturbing incident in Burbank; a visit to the Spam Museum." Yes, this story has plot twists worthy of a made-for-TV movie.

There's been a lot of hand-wringing about the effect that social media has on teenagers, and how it's a waste of time that actually exacerbates their feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. But a new survey suggests that U.S. teens themselves aren't worried about it. According to the Pew Research Center poll:

"Roughly eight-in-ten teens ages 13 to 17 (81%) say social media makes them feel more connected to what's going on in their friends' lives, while around two-thirds say these platforms make them feel as if they have people who will support them through tough times."

Note that this is an independent study-- as BuzzFeed notes, it "wasn't secretly funded by Facebook," in case you had your doubts.

EBay plays a big role in the Disney animated movie "Ralph Breaks the Internet," which was No. 1 at the box office over Thanksgiving weekend. There's even an eBay character in the movie called eBoy. Interestingly, as Adrianne Pasquarelli writes, it's not a paid placement. So what is Disney getting out of this? Pasquarelli writes,

"Disney benefits from the exposure eBay is giving the movie via its own paid advertising. For instance, eBay is running a 30-second TV spot showcasing its starring turn. It also amped up its social mentions about the film, and has a dedicated merchandise site."

And mighty Amazon? Pasquarelli writes that it's "barely a blur on the Internet landscape in the film."

From cheery to chilling
Amazon released a super-cheery holiday ad in which its cardboard delivery packages sing The Jacksons' hit "Can You Feel It." Filmmaker Omar Najam changed the soundtrack – to the forboding theme music for "Captain America: Winter Soldier" – and instantly turned it into a chilling, dystopian, Stanley Kubrick-esque tale. Amazon's employment practices have come under scrutiny lately, and Najam tweeted that he made the remix because Amazon's original ad has a scene portraying "happy cheerful warehouse workers. That one did not sit well with me." His creepy altered rendition has nearly 1.6 million Twitter views. Watch both versions (here and here) and marvel at the power of music to set a mood.

Just briefly:
Marlboro + Juul? :
The maker of Marlboro cigarettes "is in talks to take a significant minority stake in e-cigarette startup Juul Labs," The Wall Street Journal reports. Altria Group's brands include Marlboro, Parliament and Skoal.

Turkey Day takeaways: NBC's presentation of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade averaged 23.7 million viewers, "making it the fourth most-watched Macy's parade in the modern Nielsen era," Anthony Crupi writes in Ad Age.

Sneaky: As Amazon chases more digital ad revenue, it's loading up its pages with sponsored products. Some shoppers have been annoyed to find Amazon inserting sponsored items – products they never requested – onto their gift registries for new babies, The Wall Street Journal reports. Amazon says it's phasing the tactic out.

Facebook woes: Several years ago, Facebook discussed changing its stance and charging companies for access to user data, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing internal emails in court filings. Facebook told The Journal it had discussions on the topic but decided not to take that path.

The wind beneath their wings: "Buffalo Wild Wings picked The Martin Agency as its lead creative agency and is now working with Mindshare on media as it plans for a brand relaunch in 2019," Jessica Wohl reports in Ad Age.

Goodbye: National Basketball Association Chief Marketing Officer Pam El will retire at the end of the year, Ad Age's E.J. Schultz writes.

The suspense is killing us: Burger King tweeted this seemingly random string: "gb;sughalugpaewyhg;irhdl!hflg..gss..hhrtdtudjytjghc>-8*tfls<9jdgblsvakyefe124352.b?jifdg;sualbnjg;ihs=0u65484hliugresHFUGILBSPJGMnfsig0947ws." Why? We have no idea. But we assume there will be a reveal.

Listen: Time Out CEO Julio Bruno talks to Ad Age Editor Brian Braiker about how he turned the publisher's fortunes around. Listen to the Ad Lib podcast here.

Gross headline of the day: "Poo found on every McDonald's touchscreen tested," says the UK's Metro, which had scientists check the screens used for ordering meals. McDonald's told Metro that the screens are regularly cleaned and that restaurants have sinks where customers can wash their hands.

Ad of the day: Excuse us for one more potty-themed item. But our ad of the day, from Germany, is a stunt promoting toilets. Home improvement chain Hornbach built a fancy restroom in the Berlin and invited 100 people to experience it; one man pronounced it "the most poetic toilet I've ever seen." As Ad Age's Alexandra Jardine writes, the toilet was "designed to resemble an altar in a cathedral." Check it out here.

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