Thursday Wake-Up Call: MDC Partners' CEO is leaving. And the chief of CBS' '60 Minutes' got fired

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Scott Kauffman of MDC Partners
Scott Kauffman of MDC Partners Credit: MDC Partners

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: These are polarizing times for Americans, and Hershey thinks chocolate is something we all can agree on. As Ad Age's Jessica Wohl reports, the chocolate maker is sharing the true story of a 93-year-old Iowan who's spent two decades giving away jumbo chocolate bars to people he meets. As Wohl writes, Bob Williams "keeps stacks of Hershey's bars in his freezer (which is about the cutest thing we've seen in a video in some time, even if it the closeup is extreme product placement)."
Hershey's video is uplifting, old-fashioned and totally non-controversial. To experience its full heartwarming benefits, watch it, then stay away from the political memes on Twitter this morning.

An exit
MDC Partners, which owns agencies including 72andSunny, Anomaly and CP&B, has been struggling this year, with clients trimming their spending and less new business coming in. "Our results are unacceptable and we know that," Chairman and CEO Scott Kauffman said during an earnings call and May. There were layoffs of the corporate team in July, and now Kauffman says he will step down after a successor is found, as Ad Age's Megan Graham writes. One board member thanked him for leading MDC for three years, "during a challenging transition time for the Company and the industry." Who's game for a challenge?

Another departure
It's official: CEO Tim Armstrong will leave Oath, the Verizon media business that includes Yahoo and AOL. He'll be replaced by Oath's president and Chief Operating Officer Guru Gowrappan, a former Alibaba Group executive who joined in April. What's the backstory? As Ad Age's George Slefo reports, new Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, a former Ericsson exec,

"sees the future of the company with 5G, not media, according to a senior level executive who asked to remain anonymous. The executive said that prompted Armstrong's decision to leave."

Armstrong is staying on for a while as a strategic adviser. After that, he has plenty of options.

And yes, one more exec exit
CBS fired longtime "60 Minutes" executive producer Jeff Fager, saying he violated company policy, Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi writes. Fager has been under scrutiny for weeks, since the New Yorker reported allegations that he inappropriately touched employees and protected men accused of misconduct. (Fager says the allegations aren't true.) The network says his dismissal isn't directly about those allegations, and Fager says he was let go because of a text message he sent to a CBS reporter who was working on a story about him. According to CBS News' own coverage yesterday, Fager warned the reporter to be careful and added, "There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me …" Fager concedes that his language was tough but adds: "Despite the fact that journalists receive harsh demands for fairness all the time, CBS did not like it. One such note should not result in termination after 36 years, but it did." (But … is this really just about the text message?)
Also: Fager's firing comes days after the exit of CBS CEO Les Moonves, who stepped down amid sexual misconduct allegations also reported in The New Yorker. Don't miss "Designing Women" creator Linda Bloodworth Thomason's piece in The Hollywood Reporter about Moonves and how he kept her shows off the airways. ("People asked me for years, 'What happened to you?' Les Moonves happened to me.")

Just briefly:
Hurricane Florence:
Brands and agencies were getting ready as the storm headed toward the Carolinas, Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli writes. Home improvement store Lowe's has closed some stores, mostly on the North Carolina coast. And staffers at some agencies, including McKinney's Durham, North Carolina office, were working from home.

República: "One of the largest independent Hispanic agencies in the U.S. is independent no more: República has sold a stake to Havas and will be renamed República Havas," Ad Age's Megan Graham writes.

Win: Peloton, the fitness bike company, has hired Horizon Next as its media agency of record after a review. Read more by Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli and Megan Graham.

Layoffs: "Meredith Corp. plans to merge Cooking Light magazine into EatingWell magazine and will lay off an estimated 200 employees throughout the company as it continues to adjust its portfolio," The Wall Street Journal reports.

Just say no: "The Food and Drug Administration is threatening to pull flavored electronic cigarettes like Juul off the market if the tobacco industry doesn't do more to combat growing use of the products by children and teens," Bloomberg News reports.

Meanwhile in Europe: "European lawmakers have approved new rules that could force Google and Facebook to stop users uploading copyrighted content and to share revenue with writers and musicians," CNN writes. Which is a big deal for Big Tech.

Podcast of the day: Ad Age Editor Brian Braiker talks to Reza Izad, co-founder of Studio 71 media agency, which works with vlogging stars. "A former talent manager who has worked with the likes of Prince, Kanye West and comedian Katt Williams, Izad explains why he moved into the direct-to-consumer video space in the first place," Braiker says.

(Pervy) headline of the day: "Beat the Meatles," from the New York Post. If you didn't read the remarkable GQ interview of Paul McCartney, the headline is a reference to McCartney talking about long-ago group masturbation with John Lennon and friends. Ad Age's Simon Dumenco calls the Post's cover "pervy and puntastic."

Creativity pick of the day: As you might have heard, Apple announced some new iPhones yesterday. The opening film at the keynote was "Mission: Impossible"-themed, as Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz writes. It's about an employee racing through Apple's spaceship-shaped campus to deliver a suitcase to CEO Tim Cook in time for the big event. Diaz writes that she "she sprints across tables, slides across floors, leaps from staircases and skips across a pond"; the video also gives us all a tour of Apple's fancy glassy campus. So if you might never visit IRL, you can at least check it out virtually here.

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