Thursday Wake-Up Call: WPP sends Martin Sorrell a warning, and Amazon channels Toys R Us

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Martin Sorrell
Martin Sorrell Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

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: A legend just got more legendary. Competitive eater Joey Chestnut swallowed 74 hot dogs and buns to win the men's title at the Nathan's Famous 4th of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest on Coney Island. It's Chestnut's 11th title. Here's footage of Chestnut shoving food into his face, via ESPN YouTube, but don't watch unless you have excellent control over your gag reflex. Ad Age's Jessica Wohl checked in with Chestnut as he was fasting in preparation for the event, which aired live on ESPN2. In case you wondered, Chestnut apparently does eat hot dogs outside of competition, too. Chestnut told Wohl: "If I'm at a baseball game, I'll definitely have some hot dogs. It's always tempting." He'll probably abstain today, though. (Just a guess.)

Game on
Is Martin Sorrell's big exit package from WPP at risk? The holding company's lawyers reportedly fired off a warning message to Sorrell, according to Sky News, who founded the company and was its CEO until mid-April. The letter allegedly says he risks losing his share awards if he doesn't uphold his confidentiality obligations to the firm, Sky News reports. The backstory: Both WPP and Sorrell's new venture reportedly are competing to acquire the same company, Netherlands-based digital agency MediaMonks.
Sorrell's exit package could be worth $26.5 million, based on the company's current share price, Sky says. (A source close to Sorrell's company sees the WPP move as "a feeble attempt to destabilize its bid" for MediaMonks, Sky says.) But beyond Sorrell's personal payout, the larger story here is that "Sorrell is positioning his new firm, to be named S4 Capital, to go head-to-head with his former company and other major advertising firms that are targeting similar acquisitions," The Wall Street Journal writes. The Journal also says Sorrell sent shareholders of his new firm a letter asking for their approval to raise $1.32 billion to pay for acquisitions.
This is all happening with stunning speed. Sorrell stepped down from WPP less than three months ago, amid controversy. In April, would anyone have predicted where Sorrell is at now?

Toys R Amazon
Toy R Us's U.S. stores shut down last week, and the company's website is now covered in sad farewell messages to customers, such as: "Promise us just this one thing: Don't ever grow up. Play on!" Amazon, meanwhile, apparently sees an opening in the chain's demise. Bloomberg News reports that Amazon plans to print a holiday toy catalog. Yes, a catalog, made of actual paper. Bloomberg says "the printed guide will be mailed to millions of U.S. households and handed out at Whole Foods Market locations, the grocery chain Amazon bought last year." What's old is new again.

Just briefly:
"Barring a last-minute breakthrough, the Trump administration on Friday will start imposing tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese imports. And China will promptly strike back with tariffs on an equal amount of U.S. exports," on products ranging from SUVs to whiskey, CBS News reports.

Message from India: India's government wrote to Facebook-owned WhatsApp expressing "deep disapproval" following false kidnapping rumors that spread on the platform, leading to mob violence and killings, The Wall Street Journal says. WhatsApp responded that it was "horrified by these terrible acts of violence."

Apologies: An Australian eyewear company, Valley Eyewear, apologized for running ads shot on the site of a World War II death camp in Croatia. The director of the company told The BBC, "We didn't know it was a death camp at the time."

Out: Barnes & Noble fired CEO Demos Parneros for violating company policies, but the company declined to say why. Read more by Bloomberg News.

'Impeach 45': "Walmart is in consumer crosshairs after shoppers discovered the retailer's line of 'Impeach 45' apparel," Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli writes. Supporters of President Trump called for a boycott.

Win: "Kimberly-Clark Corp. has awarded a new global family-care strategic and creative assignment to Interpublic's FCB, a new addition to the company's roster," Ad Age's Jack Neff writes. The assignment includes work on Kleenex, Cottonelle and Scott.

Quote of the day: "Advertising is just a lot less important than it used to be. One thing the holding companies are suffering with right now are these legacy agencies that were built for a world where the advertising drove the brand positioning. And that's just not the case any more." That's Mark DiMassimo, DiMassimo Goldstein CEO and chief creative officer, speaking to Ad Age Editor Brian Braiker. Listen to their conversation in this week's Ad Lib podcast.

On the newsstands: For July 4, the New York Daily News put Donald Trump on its cover, in clown makeup. The tagline referred to "the clown who plays king," and there's a piece from the editorial board attacking his immigration policies. Read Simon Dumenco's take on it in Ad Age.

Creativity pick of the day: Detroit-based brand Shinola filmed portraits of newly naturalized U.S. citizens, and gave each of them limited-edition watches engraved with the Statue of Liberty. As Ad Age's I-Hsien Sherwood writes, the timepieces were "packaged in a box bearing the phrase 'From this second forward, you are as American as the rest of us.'"

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