Friday Wake-Up Call: Advertisers Trim NFL Spending, and CNN Breaks Up With a YouTube Star

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Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images; iStock. Illustration by Ad Age.

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

Thank you, Vanity Fair, for giving us so many things to discuss on a Friday. First off, James Franco was reportedly supposed to join the A-list stars on the cover of the magazine out this week. But as The Hollywood Reporter says:

"According to multiple sources familiar with the shoot, James Franco sat for a photo shoot and interview and was to be featured in the magazine's Annie Leibovitz-shot portfolio. He was removed from the cover digitally, however, due to allegations of sexual misconduct that surfaced in the wake of his Golden Globe win for The Disaster Artist."

That's not the only surprise. As many people pointed out on Twitter, Oprah Winfrey appears to have three hands in one of the magazine's shots. And some people think Reese Witherspoon seems to have an extra leg on the cover. Witherspoon tweeted: "Well … I guess everybody knows now … I have three legs. I hope you can still accept me for who I am."

Winfrey responded to her with this.

More on Oprah: Winfrey told InStyle that she wouldn't run for president, but that interview reportedly happened weeks before her Golden Globes speech got everyone wondering if she had big ambitions for 2020. So, who really knows? While we're awaiting clarity, read this from Ad Age's Simon Dumenco: He wonders why Vanity Fair made a video of Winfrey explaining the best way to clean up dog poop. Is it supposed to make her seem more relatable? More electable?

Mute this ad
There are some online ads you just can't escape -- they follow you around the internet, reminding you to buy that handbag/electric toothbrush/underwear you looked at once. Google is giving us all a little more control over that. As Ad Age's George Slefo writes, Google's Mute This Ad program already exists to let you block an ad on an individual device, but now it will also "allow users to keep ads from following them across all devices." In a blog post, Google gives its own random example of an annoyingly persistent ad for a snow boot you don't need anymore. So, "If you mute an ad for Snow Boot Co. on your smartphone, it will also be muted on your laptop," it says. Good to know.

NFL ad spending
NFL ratings have been down, and now there's another data point to worry about. Ad revenue from in-game NFL programming dipped slightly during the 2017 regular season, The Wall Street Journal says. Citing data from Standard Media Index, The Journal says the figure was down 1.2% to $2.42 billion. In 2015 and 2016, spending had increased. If you're looking for an upside, though, NFL broadcasts are still the biggest thing on TV. As Ad Age's Anthony Crupi has written, 13 of the top 20 U.S. broadcasts last year were NFL games.

Also: "Vince McMahon is rebooting the short-lived 2001 curiosity that was the XFL," Crupi writes. And McMahon says his NFL alternative will be more family-friendly this time.

CNN hired YouTuber Casey Neistat and bought his video-sharing startup, Beme, for a reported $25 million back in 2016, but things didn't work out. As Ad Age's Garett Sloane writes, "The YouTube star, who was tasked with reshaping digital news for a new generation of CNN viewers, parted ways with the media company after failing to launch a much-hyped news program." BuzzFeed News was the first to report that Beme was "effectively shutting down;" Neistat says Beme will be absorbed into CNN. In this video, which he says he re-recorded "like, 10 times," he adds: "Maybe I struggled more in that environment than I had anticipated, but ultimately, I'm very proud of the work we did there."

Just briefly:
Go east:
BuzzFeed is getting a foothold in China through a licensing deal with a huge local media player, Beijing Bytedance Technology, Bloomberg News reports.

FiveThirtyEight: Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN is looking at options for the future of its data journalism site FiveThirtyEight, including a possible sale, The Big Lead reports.

Equal pay: Some top male BBC presenters have agreed to take a pay cut after revelations that women were earning less, the BBC reports.

Unexpected: DigitasLBi made an internal docuseries about the hidden talents of its staff, and there was an unexpected result: a spike in job applications, as Ad Age's Lindsay Stein writes.

Creativity pick of the day: The first woman to play KFC's Colonel Sanders is country singer Reba McEntire. In a spot for Wieden & Kennedy Portland, she sings the praises of Smoky Mountain BBQ fried chicken in a bar, and the crowd gets wild. Police officers are called in, but they start dancing too. Watch it here, and read more by Ad Age's Jessica Wohl.

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