Tuesday Wake-Up Call: Amazon Prime Day has issues. And Papa John's founder makes an odd claim

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Credit: Julie Clopper/iStock

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: Amazon Prime Day started Monday, and a lot of people had technical difficulties trying to shop for deals. Error pages kept popping up. "Those attempting to shop on the Amazon app were treated to an image of a dog -- such as a yellow Lab -- and text that read, 'UH-OH Something went wrong on our end,'" Ad Age's Adrianne Pasqurelli writes. The cute Labrador in the error message looks sheepish, the way a dog might look after trying to eat your slipper. But Amazon, perhaps surprisingly, isn't actually apologizing to customers. On Twitter, it said it was working to resolve the issue and boasted that many people were "shopping successfully -- in the first hour of Prime Day in the U.S., customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year."
Meanwhile in Europe: Amazon workers in Germany, Poland and Spain are striking on Prime Day to protest their working conditions, NBC News reports.

'They wanted $6 million to make it go away'
There's another bizarre twist in the Papa John's saga: Founder John Schnatter has accused one of the pizza chain's former agencies of attempted extortion. Schnatter stepped down as chairman last week after acknowledging that he used the n-word during a training exercise on a conference call with agency Laundry Service. In an interview with Kentucky's WLKY, Schnatter suggested the shop asked for money to keep silent about the incident. "They wanted $6 million to make it go away .... They made it pretty clear, the words were, 'if I don' t get my f-ing money, I'm going to bury the founder,' said one of the executives," Schnatter said. (He didn't use the name Laundry Service in the WLKY interview, but that's the agency that was on the phone call. Ad Age's Megan Graham asked the shop about the accusation, and it declined to comment.) CNBC writes: "It's now clear why Papa John's board of directors asked former Chairman John Schnatter to stop talking to the press." The company, which has been distancing itself from the founder, also said Schnatter can no longer use office space in its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. Oregon State Universtiy said on Monday that it was suspending its sponsorship deal with Papa John's.

Axciom's next move
Now that data-marketing giant Acxiom has sold its marketing solutions platform to Interpublic for $2.3 billion, eyes are turning to Axciom's other big business: LiveRamp, which helps brands link their data with real people. While observers wonder whether LiveRamp will also go on the block, the company is announcing a deal with Sonobi, which helps publishers sell digital ad inventory, that will let marketers upload their data to LiveRamp and then target signed-in users across leading publishers such as The Guardian, USA Today, Scripps and CBS. LiveRamp had not previously offered planning, buying or measurement, Ad Age's George Slefo writes, instead offering its services as one piece of the larger "tech stack" that brands assemble for programmtic advertising.

Game over?
Is Sinclair Broadcast Group's attempt to buy Tribune Media doomed? As Bloomberg News reports, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said he had serious concerns about the $3.9 billion deal and proposed sending it to a hearing, "a step that implies months of delay and can kill a deal." If the acquisition were to happen, Sinclair -- already a major owner of local TV stations in the U.S. -- would have over 200 TV stations in the United States. Sinclair leans right and is seen as Trump-friendly, and some Democrats have been very critical of its plan. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, tweeted that "Sinclair's proposal relies on sham legal loopholes to skirt media ownership limits" and wrote that he had urged the FCC to consider the merger carefully. Sinclair said it was "shocked and disappointed" and said it would work with regulators to make the merger happen.

Just briefly:
Something to watch today:
Omnicom Group releases its second quarter financial results.

Wins and reviews: "Gaming giant Activision, publisher of the popular 'Call of Duty' franchise, is sticking with 72andSunny after conducting an agency review," Ad Age's Megan Graham and E.J. Schultz write. Meanwhile, WPP's VML, IPG's MullenLowe, independent shop Droga5 and IPG's McCann are finalists in an agency review for United Rentals -- "the world's largest equipment rental company you may have never heard of," Graham writes. If it seems striking that such high-powered shops are chasing a relatively obscure account that up until now hasn't invested much in advertising, she cites a couple of possible motivations.

Nah: "Comcast is unlikely to make another bid for Twenty-First Century Fox's movie and television assets," CNBC reports. That would clear the way for the Walt Disney Co. to move ahead on its own deal for the Fox assets.

A mere 5.2 million: Netflix gained 5.2 million users in the second quarter, but the news sent the company's stock dropping because it was about a million fewer than the company had forecast. And the third quarter now looks headed for deceleration in user growth. Read more on Bloomberg News.

Out: CVS Health says it fired two employees at a Chicago store after a black customer filmed one of them calling the police on her, The New York Times says. She was trying to use a coupon, and the employee apparently suspected it of being fake.

Surreal and disturbing: Watch the most talked-about clip from Sacha Baron Cohen's new Showtime show, "Who is America?", in which he gets politicians to endorse a supposed Israeli program that arms young children. (The politicians don't know it's fake.) As Ad Age's Simon Dumenco writes, "it's surreal, it's disturbing, it's outrageously funny -- and it's very America circa 2018."

Crossing a line?: After the highly, highly unusual news conference in which President Trump seemed to defer to Russian President Vladimir Putin, several Fox News hosts had harsh words for Trump, as The Daily Beast writes. Neil Cavuto called the presser "disgusting." And Abby Huntsman, a Fox & Friends Weekend host and daughter to the U.S. ambassador to Russia, tweeted: "No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus." (Sean Hannity praised the president, though, saying he was "very strong.")

Ad of the day: Is shopping for back-to-school supplies stressful? Or is it a delight, a chance to make a fresh start with pencils that haven't been chewed on yet, a new bottle of glue that's still pristine and unsticky? An ad from Staples wants to convince you to bliss out in the pens-and-pencils aisle. Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli writes that "in a 30-second spot, crayons, glue, markers and calculators engage in a circular Esther Williams-style ballet as a hypnotic voiceover seeks to soothe anxious consumers. "Breathe," the voiceover says. "Let the back-to-school shopping wash over you like a warm summer wind." And why not?

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