Google remakes 'Home Alone,' and Budweiser's owner gets into cannabis: Thursday Wake-Up Call

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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
Just in time for the holidays, Google made a funny, charming remake of "Home Alone," with a 38-year-old Macaulay Culkin reprising the role he played as a kid. This time, he's a little less alone, though, because he has a Google Assistant to entertain him and help with household tasks. As Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz writes, the ad is a way for the tech giant to insert itself into a classic holiday tale. As the nostalgia washes over you, you might even forget momentarily about 2018's big backlash against Google and Facebook. Who doesn't have fond holiday memories of "Home Alone"?

Speaking of the backlash against Big Tech …
Nearly two dozen consumer and privacy groups have lodged a complaint against Google, saying it distributes apps for kids that are inappropriate and that might violate rules safeguarding children's privacy. Bloomberg News reports that the complaint, filed with the Federal Trade Commission, argues that "kids' apps in the Play store on the company's Android devices can expose children to ads showing alcohol or that promote gambling." The complaint from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy and other groups also say some of the games themselves aren't fit for kids. Bloomberg writes:

"A medical-themed game told kids 'to pry open the patient's eyes with clamps and use tweezers to pick out eyelashes' and depicted sharp instruments hovering over a pair of cartoonishly red, swollen eyes, according to the complaint."

What Google says: "We take these issues very seriously and continue to work hard to remove any content that is inappropriately aimed at children from our platform."
And now for the latest on Facebook's woes: Facebook has been sued by the District of Columbia over the Cambridge Analytica user data scandal, Bloomberg News reports. And once you've read up on that, check out Garett Sloane's timeline of Facebook's very bad year. Facebook's share price closed down 7 percent yesterday following a report from The New York Times about the company sharing user data with other tech companies.

'This bud's for you'
Is anyone surprised by how quickly cannabis has been embraced by mainstream marketers? Anheuser Busch InBev, the owner of Budweiser, is the latest brand to dive in, announcing a research partnership with Canada-based cannabis company Tilray, E.J. Schultz reports in Ad Age. (All credit goes to Schultz for thinking up the sub-headline on this item, "This bud's for you.") Schultz writes that "each company plans to invest up to $50 million in the venture, which is limited to Canada, where recreational cannabis became legal two months ago." The plan is to research non-alcoholic beverages containing both CBD (a cannabis ingredient that won't alter your mental state) and THC (the ingredient that gets you high.) Constellation Brands, Molson Coors and Heineken-owned craft brewer Lagunitas have all already started exploring the cannabis business in various ways.

Just briefly:
Samsung, SodaStream, Pfizer and SanDisk are the latest in a list of 20 brands that have vowed to stop advertising on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight," The Hollywood Reporter says. The host is under fire for saying that immigration makes the U.S. "dirtier."

Phew: "A federal judge on Wednesday ruled in favor of BuzzFeed in a defamation lawsuit over the infamous Trump dossier the outlet published last year," HuffPost reports.

Vaping: Altria Group is close to a deal to take a 35 percent stake in e-cigarette maker Juul Labs, The Wall Street reports, adding that the investment "would make Juul one of the most valuable private companies." (Juul is in the headlines for another reason too, because its employees can no longer vape on the job. Read about it in Quartz.)

Actually: "T-Mobile US Inc. is delaying the debut of its much-anticipated video service after the project proved more complex than expected," Bloomberg News reports.

IPO alert: Pinterest is looking at an IPO early next year, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Wins: Anomaly is the new agency of record for Petco, Ad Age's Megan Graham and Adrianne Pasquarelli report. Also, Anheuser Busch InBev is working with Deutsch New York for a Budweiser global soccer marketing assignment, E.J. Schultz writes.

ANA: The Association of National Advertisers is urging the Federal Trade Commission to pass federal privacy legislation on user data; it's worried about efforts at the state level (read: California.)

Ketchup: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and ketchup devotee, has signed an endorsement deal with Hunt's. Ad Age's Jessica Wohl writes that the announcement was accompanied by some awfully canned-sounding quotes from Mahomes. Such as: "I've been a fan of ketchup for as long as I can remember, and the thick, rich flavor of Hunt's ketchup delivers every time."

Year in review: What happened in 2018? A lot. Ad Age is kicking off a series of lists looking back at an eventful year. Megan Graham weighs in on the year's seven big agency mergers, acquisitions and shake-ups, while Jack Neff looks at 2018's surprises for the consumer goods industry.

Audio of the day: Ad Age Editor Brian Braiker talks to the founders of Verb, a hybrid experiential shop/consultancy, who believe that "riches are in niches." "We hate when we go into meetings and ask, 'what's your target?' and they say, 'Men and women, 18-54'," says co-founder Shannon Simpson Jones. Listen to their conversation on the Ad Lib podcast.

Video of the day: HGTV is renovating the house used for exterior shots on "Tne Brady Bunch," and for the occasion it's reunited the six actors who played the Brady kids. Here's a teaser for the show, "A Very Brady Renovation," because HGTV + "The Brady Bunch" = a reason to look forward to 2019.

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