Wednesday Wake-Up Call: Blue Apron Gets an Odd Endorsement. And Netflix Snags a Hit-Maker

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Credit: Blue Apron

Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital-related 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 Blue Apron brand is all over the news after getting roped into a White House discussion about food aid for low-income families. A Trump administration official proposed reducing food stamps, known by the acronym SNAP, and launching a "Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash," as The Washington Post writes. Some commenters saw the comparison as clueless, and heartless. The box of canned food the administration is proposing bears no resemblance to Blue Apron's fresh meal kits, which go for about $10 a serving and make recipes like "salmon and dukkah-spiced vegetables with orange and endive." Blue Apron doesn't appear to have commented on the White House's name-check, though people offered suggestions on what it should do.

In the meantime, @BlueApron's Twitter has been running Valentine's Day food tips. Everything's fine.

NBC, Shaun White and #MeToo
NBC leaned heavily on U.S. snowboarder Shaun White to promote its broadcasts for the 2018 Winter Olympics. His comeback story was the subject of a triumphant NBC ad set to Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," with the tagline, "Shaun White is the best of U.S." And he just won a third gold medal at the Games. But Slate asks, "Why isn't NBC talking about the sexual harassment allegations against Shaun White?"

The claims aren't new, but people mostly forgot about them. In 2016, Deadspin ran a story about a legal complaint by a bandmate who alleged White of trying "to control her appearance, showing her porn, and sending her sexually explicit text messages, including pictures of other men's penises." The two reportedly reached an undisclosed settlement last year. Now more media outlets, including USA Today and Glamour, are wondering why this isn't part of the Shaun White narrative. And The Daily Beast says that "an honest assessment of Team USA would tack an asterisk on to all of Shaun White's promotional material."
More on the Olympics: Ratings for NBC's Olympics broadcast are higher than expected, and the ad sales team "has some bonus available inventory on its hands," Ad Age's Anthony Crupi writes.

Up to $300 million
Another talent is jumping the fence from traditional TV to Netflix. The New York Times reports that the streaming service "poached the hit-making producer Ryan Murphy from 21st Century Fox." Murphy has worked on "Glee," "Nip/Tuck," "American Crime Story" and "American Horror Story," and his contract at Fox expires this summer. A few months ago, Netflix lured Shonda Rhimes ("Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal") away from ABC Studios. Rhimes' four-year deal was reportedly around $100 million, while Murphy's five-year contract is worth up to $300 million, The Times says. Discuss.

Publicis Groupe just scored a big win. Mercedes-Benz hired the company as its global agency network for creative and digital transformation after a six-month review, as Ad Age's Lindsay Stein reports. The assignment covers 40 markets, excluding a few biggies; the U.S., Germany and China are handled by Merkley & Partners, Antoni and BBDO respectively. Publicis created a new agency for the assignment, called Publicis Emil, which is a reference to Emil Jellinek, an early automotive pioneer who named his daughter Mercedes. Between Marcel and Emil, Publicis apparently has a thing for European retro-chic names.

Just briefly:
Job hop:
Chipotle has hired Brian Niccol, the head of Taco Bell, to be its CEO, Bloomberg News reports. Niccol has had hits with products like Doritos Locos Tacos.

New troubles at Vice: A woman who used to work at Vice Media filed a lawsuit saying the company systematically pays women less than men, the Los Angeles Times reports. This detail stings: According to the suit, the woman "learned that a male subordinate — whom she hired — made about $25,000 more per year than her."

Transparency: Ad Age's George Slefo writes that the Coalition for Better Ads, a trade group leading a push against "annoying ads," has quietly fueled its effort with data from Google. And the revelation could raise questions about transparency.

Layoffs watch: Turner laid off about 30 people in its ad sales division, Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi reports. CNN says its digital news operation is parting with "fewer than 50" people. In retail, Walmart is trimming some store management positions, The Wall Street Journal says. And JC Penney is shedding 670 jobs as it closes a distribution center in Wisconsin, The Milwaukee Business Journal says.

Not an ultimatum: Unilever CMO Keith Weed threatened to stop doing business with social media that "breed division in society or fail to protect children," but he says it's not an ultimatum with a firm deadline. Read how he plans to handle things in an interview with Ad Age's Jack Neff.

More 'Stories': Google's new AMP Stories is "a feature that lets publishers create content similiar to Instagram Stories, but for mobile websites," writes Ad Age's George Slefo.

Snapchat redesign: While consumers are griping about Snapchat's redesign, Nascar loves it; the brand tells Ad Age's George Slefo that it's getting 80 percent more viewers who watch its stories.

The future of print: The New York Times CEO believes the paper's print edition will exist for "at least 10 years." (At least?) Watch the CNBC interview.

The future of basketball: Magic Leap, the augmented reality startup, has teamed up with the NBA and Turner to make viewership more interactive, the companies say. Read more on Recode.

Quote of the day: "If anyone feels this isn't the right platform for them, they should not be on Facebook. Let's be clear about that. This is not about us trying to make everybody happy." -- Campbell Brown, head of Facebook's news partnerships team, speaking about publishers during a Recode conference.

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