Friday Wake-Up Call: Layoffs at Snap, Spotify's 'Visual Podcasts' and Other News

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Snapchat's logo
Snapchat's logo Credit: Snapchat via YouTube

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: Mars Inc. wants to simplify its agency relationships and work with a single media agency globally. It's launching a review process that "could take the rest of the year," as Ad Age's Jessica Wohl writes. This is big; the maker of candy, packaged food and pet food is the world's 21st biggest advertiser, according to the Ad Age Datacenter, putting it ahead of McDonald's, Nike and Walt Disney Co. For now, WPP's MediaCom does media planning globally. Publicis Groupe's Starcom does buying most local markets, while in some it's handled by Mediacom and Omnicom Group's OMD. All three have been invited to join the review. For some agencies, it could be a long 2018.

Snap layoffs
Snapchat's parent company has laid off about two dozen people, many of them in the content division, as Cheddar, the streaming financial news network, reports. Snap also asked a "handful" of employees in New York and London to relocate to Los Angeles, where the company is based, the report says. The layoffs were a minute percentage of the total workforce, which was 3,000 at the end of the third quarter of 2017. But the news comes after reports that some of Snapchat's efforts on content haven't taken off as the company might have hoped; The Daily Beast recently reported that only about 20 percent of Snapchat users look daily at the app's "Discover Editions," featuring content made by media publishers, from BuzzFeed to The Washington Post. Maybe people are too busy sending each other goofy photos.

Spotify goes multimedia
Spotify has a new content format, and we're not quite sure how to describe it. It's called Spotlight, and TechCrunch refers to it as "a podcast with visual elements." Reports say Spotlight will feature offerings from media outlets including Gimlet Media, Crooked Media, Cheddar, BuzzFeed News, as well as Spotify's own original series. This seems like a bid to try to entice listeners away from Apple's podcasts by doing something different. But let us play devil's advocate here: Do people want something to look at while they're listening to podcasts? Isn't the whole point of podcasts to have a break from staring at a screen?

'Frat-boy executive'
Tronc, the parent company of the Los Angeles Times, is investigating the paper's new publisher following "allegations of inappropriate behavior." You can read about it in … the Los Angeles Times, which has a story about the trouble its new CEO and publisher faces. Ross Levinsohn took the paper's top job in August. Tronc's investigation follows an investigation from NPR revealing that Levinsohn has been a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits. Levinsohn's previous roles included top jobs at Yahoo; the NPR story includes an anecdote about a yacht that he reportedly booked for Yahoo during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, where models were paid to come on board and hang out with guests. In general, NPR says its reporting and interviews for the story paint a portrait of a "frat-boy executive." Levinsohn has not commented on the reports.

Just briefly:
Panera is pressing the U.S. FDA to give a clearer definition of the term "egg," as Ad Age's Jessica Wohl writes. And yes, that's a stunt, a way of promoting its own egg sandwiches over rivals' products that use additives or colors.

Remember when?: Model and actress Charlotte McKinney was the star of Carl's Jr. racy 2015 Super Bowl spot, the one where she appeared in a bikini top biting into a burger. She tells Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi, "That was my breakout; that was my big moment. I'm not ashamed of it." ICYM, also check out Poggi's story on Super Bowl ads and the scrutiny they'll face in a #MeToo moment.

Super Bowl: Pringles bought a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl, and it stars Bill Hader of "Saturday Night Live" fame. It's by Grey New York, and the concept is about stacking different types of chips to customize the flavor. Read more from Ad Age's Jessica Wohl.

Huh: Unilever nearly bought the Halo Top ice cream brand but backed out, The New York Post reports.

Embarrassing: Whole Foods customers have been complaining about shortages of food; Business Insider reports that the problem is an inventory management system that the chain put into place last year. (So don't blame Amazon.)

Creativity pick of the day: KFC for some reason has released films to help you meditate. As Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz writes, "all the ohm-ing over the creamy goodness of chicken pies seems more likely to pull us out of lotus position and straight to the nearest bucket of KFC." Watch it here.

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