Wednesday Wake-Up Call: WPP's Sorrell under pressure. Plus, the latest on the YouTube shooting

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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. What people are talking about today: WPP confirmed that its board is investigating CEO Martin Sorrell after an allegation of "personal misconduct." There are few details about what exactly the board is looking into; as Ad Age's Megan Graham writes, Sorrell released his own statement alluding to reports of "an allegation of financial impropriety" involving the use of company funds. He added: "I reject the allegation unreservedly but recognize that the company has to investigate it." In London trading early Wednesday, WPP shares dipped about 1.5 percent. WPP has confirmed that it appointed independent counsel for an investigation after what it described as a claim against Sorrell alleging "personal misconduct," adding that "the allegations do not involve amounts which are material to WPP." Sorrell, 73, built WPP into the world's largest advertising group. The company lowered its long-term forecast for growth last month, causing its share price to plummet. This is another worry for a company stuck in a rough patch.

Shooting at YouTube
There was a surprising development overnight after the shooting that injured three people at YouTube's headquarters: The woman suspected of opening fire there was identified as a video creator angry about the company's policies and about how little money she made from her content, according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle. Online, the suspect had criticized YouTube "for taking down some of her videos and for skimping on revenue driven by the traffic to her YouTube page," the Chronicle writes. She fatally shot herself on the scene, the report says. The videos she had posted included topics like vegan cooking, workouts and music video parodies, the Chronicle says.
More on YouTube: BuzzFeed News compiled a list of all the misinformation that spread on social media after the shooting; it counted 25 people falsely identified as the suspect. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted that the company was "aware of the misinformation being spread on Twitter. We're tracking, learning, and taking action." In one case, a YouTube employee who tweeted about the attack had his Twitter account hacked for a time. The employee, Vadim Lavrusik, later thanked Twitter and Jack Dorsey for helping him retrieve it.

Game on?
The U.S.-China dispute over tariffs is heating up, a lot. China just said it would slap 25 percent tariffs on imports of over 100 U.S. products including soybeans, airplanes and cars, Bloomberg News reports. China's move was a response to the U.S. proposal for duties on Chinese tech goods. This is a tit-for-tat fight between the world's two biggest economies. Take note, though: Headlines aren't proclaiming this a full-on trade war yet. The New York Times says, cautiously, that China's move is "likely to spark fears that the countries' escalating confrontation could become an all-out trade war."

'Yes,' 'no' and 'f--- you'
CBS Corp. has formally submitted its bid to take over Viacom, and the all-stock offer values Viacom at less than its current market value, $12.5 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports. Variety says the offer sets the stage "for tough negotiations over the valuation of Viacom assets and management structure of the combined companies." If the deal happens, it would reunite the two companies over a decade after they were split up by media mogul Sumner Redstone. Both companies are controlled by his holding company National Amusements Inc. Redstone is 94 and reportedly has difficulty speaking; he has one vote among seven board members in any merger deal. The Journal writes that "some people who recently have met with him say that he has an iPad loaded with snippets of his voice, connected to buttons for words or phrases including 'yes,' 'no' and 'f--- you.'''

The "Starbucks of Cannabis"
"As marijuana enters the mainstream, plenty of ad sellers are still just saying no," reports Ad Age's E.J. Schultz. Putting ads on TV and radio, as well as on Facebook and Instagram, is a no-go, and "acceptance of outdoor ads is inconsistent," he writes. While recreational marijuana has been legal in California since Jan. 1, California cannabis retailer MedMen (sometimes referred to as "the Starbucks of Cannabis") has been "forced to become resourceful, including placing ads on the sides of trucks that deliver fruit and office supplies," Schultz writes. MedMen's new campaign urges people to forget stereotypes about stoners and features people including a grandmother, an entrepreneur and even a police officer.

Just briefly:
Russian trolls:
Facebook is banning 270 Facebook and Instagram accounts run by the Internet Research Agency, which has links to the Kremlin, Recode says.

Trump 2016: "Trump's campaign said it was better at Facebook. Facebook agrees," says Bloomberg News, writing about a Facebook white paper published internally soon after the 2016 election.

Houseparty: Snapchat just launched a group video chat, and there's an interesting reason for that. As Garett Sloane writes in Ad Age, group chatting is "the core activity in Houseparty, an app growing in popularity among teens and the younger digital set."

Six-step plan: Rupal Parekh, director of brand at Work & Co and a former reporter and editor at Ad Age, has six tips for agencies. She argues, for example, that they should be "allergic" to innovation: "Close up those labs, incubators and other gimmicks that no longer attract clients or talent."

"Strange"-ly similar: The director of a short film about paranormal activity has filed a lawsuit accusing the makers of "Stranger Things" of stealing his idea, Variety reports.

March Madness: Ratings for Turner's coverage of the NCAA Div. I Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship Game sunk to a new low, down 28 percent from CBS' broadcast of last year's game, writes Ad Age's Anthony Crupi. Carrying the game on cable was always going to mean fewer viewers than on broadcast, and the blowout didn't help.

Out: A female executive of South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor has "resigned after being accused of pressuring female subordinates to pour drinks for, and dance with, senior male members of staff," Reuters reports, citing South Korea's Yonhap news agency. Also worth noting: Reuters says Hyundai Motor had just three women among 298 executives at the end of last year.

Tim Gunn: The fashion mentor, TV personality and new spokesman for 3M's Command brand talks to Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli about #MeToo, staying (mostly) off social media and writing his book. Also, he's got a fashion tip for spring: Florals are in.

Creativity pick of the day: Toyota New Zealand's new campaign features a whole lot of fantastic beasts. An ad from Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand depicts "consumers' car-buying frustrations by turning those woes into creatures straight out of 'Where the Wild Things Are,'" as Ann-Christine Diaz writes in Ad Age. The "pressure to buy before it's gone," for example, is a hairy beast who pokes your head while you're in the bus, muttering, "Buy it, buy it." Watch the ad here.

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