Wednesday Wake-Up Call: Serena Williams' Husband Writes Love Letters on Billboards, and Other News

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One of four billboards Alexis Ohanian put up to cheer on Serena Williams
One of four billboards Alexis Ohanian put up to cheer on Serena Williams Credit: Alexis Ohanian Instagram

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
How do you show someone how much you care? You can buy a Hallmark card -- or you can rent four humongous billboards so everyone driving on I-10 into Palm Springs will know how you feel. That's what Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian did for his wife, Serena Williams; she'll probably see the outdoor ads in person in March when she heads to the BNP Paribas Open, her first tournament since giving birth in September. The billboards proclaim her the "G.M.O.A.T" (greatest mom of all time.) But there's a more subtle message hidden in the grand gesture: "Ohanian designed the advertisements with AdQuick, a business he backs through his investment company Initialized Capital," as E! Online writes. How clever: It's not every day that celebrity media outlets write about the outdoor advertising business.
Also: There's actually more Ohanian news; he's supporting Tinder's campaign advocating for emojis that show interracial couples. Read more on the campaign and petition by Ad Age's Garett Sloane, and watch the video.

The Facebook-Trump-Clinton saga
Suddenly, Facebook ad rates have become an acceptable subject of dinner-table conversation for people outside the ad industry. People have been asking whether Donald Trump's team somehow got a better deal from Facebook during the 2016 presidential election than Hillary Clinton's team. And as Ad Age's Garett Sloane writes, a Facebook exec just took the unusual step of releasing a chart meant to counter that narrative. According to Facebook's side of the story, the Clinton team actually paid less than Trump's team in CPMs—the cost for every 1,000 ad views. Meanwhile, the Trump campaign's then-digital operations head, Brad Parscale, says his team made more impact with less money. A BuzzFeed story explains the saga via animated GIFs, under this headline: "This Spicy Drama About Facebook CPMs Has People Like 'Wahh?' And 'Whoaaa."
Also: Parscale, the digital guru for Trump in the 2016 race, has just been named head of Trump's 2020 reelection campaign.

Papa John's sponsorship of the NFL is ending. Bloomberg News reports that the pizza chain says instead it will "focus on doing marketing with 22 specific NFL teams." The relationship between Papa John's and the NFL has been rocky; the chain's founder John Schnatter blamed the league's leadership and its handling of players' protests during the national anthem for falling pizza sales. Those comments sparked a backlash, and Schnatter eventually stepped down as CEO. As for the nitty-gritty of the breakup, Papa John's and the NFL statement say it was "a mutual decision."

Just briefly:
Ad Age is at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona; check out editor Brian Braiker's Ad Remotely Entertaining interview with Mike Troiano, VP of internet of things at AT&T, as well as other videos from the conference.

$3 million: The Facebook Journalism Project is doing a three-month project with several local outlets in the U.S. to boost their subscription efforts, a program with $3 million in funding, as Axios reports. Too little too late?

Steve Wynn: "A woman told police she had a child with casino mogul Steve Wynn after he raped her," The Associated Press and other outlets report. A spokesperson for Wynn declined to comment to the AP on the allegations, which date back to the 1970s. Wynn recently resigned as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after harrassment allegations that also punched the wind out of Wynn Resorts.

Happier meals: "McDonald's and Disney have reunited in a deal that will bring Disney movie toys back to Happy Meals for the first time since 2006," Ad Age's Jessica Wohl reports.

New gig: Pinterest has hired Françoise Brougher as chief operating officer to oversee sales, partnerships, marketing and communications, Recode says.

Quote of the day: "I get a ton of people saying, 'Are you going to do something like Dilly Dilly?' And I'm like 'No, I have to sell beer, not sell a meme." -- Miller Lite marketer Greg Butler, speaking to Ad Age's E.J. Schultz.

Ad of the day: Gap put up an Instagram post showing a model breastfeeding her baby, and people love the simple sweetness it captured. One commenter wrote, "Looks like we have to start shopping at Gap again!!!!" Check it out below, and read more by Ad Age's Alexandra Jardine.

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