Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. Note: Ad Age Next, our conference on the future of marketing and tech, starts today at noon in New York and continues Wednesday. Hope to see you there; it's not too late to get tickets online here.
What people are talking about today
Stan Lee, the iconic Marvel Comics writer and editor, has died at 95, but his characters and legacy live on. He helped introduce Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Iron Man, Thor and Dr. Strange, as Quartz notes. In large part because of Lee, superheroes are still a thing. "Six of the top 10 movies at the US box office this year feature superheroes, and at least three others borrow from their energy," Quartz writes.
A rant: Lee didn't always like what he saw from the ad industry. He was no fan of car ads that just showed cars doing what cars do: driving. ("If that's all it can do, I don't want it.") But Lee did actually star in some car ads, and they were pretty entertaining, Ann-Christine Diaz writes in Ad Age. Watch them here.
Some Fox News viewers just spotted the infamous infomercial for Trumpy Bear, the plush toy with an orange coif that's available for two installments of $19.95. As Ad Age's Simon Dumenco writes, ads for the Trump-inspired stuffed animal debuted last year and have been running off-and-on. The over-the-top spots show the bear riding on a golf cart and a motorcycle. Bonus: There's an American flag/blanket stashed in the bear's body. And while many wonder if the products and the ads are an elaborate gag, they're not. Dumenco writes,
"Since Nov. 1, it mostly has been airing under the radar (of the media-industrial complex, at least) on the American Heroes Channel, INSP and Velocity. And once again the type of shows selected for the campaign suggests an irony-free target audience …"
'Marketing geniuses': Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted, "I am utterly in awe of the marketing geniuses behind Trumpy Bear. They're selling a $7 stuffed animal for $50, and they'll make bank. It's just incredible."
'Big Bang' + Big Pharma
Television audiences are getting older, and the median viewer of TV's most-watched comedy, CBS' "The Big Bang Theory," is 59.3 years old, according to Nielsen figures. Which explains why pharmaceutical companies are using "Big Bang" and other sitcoms as a vehicle for ads about treatments for cancer, arthritis and diabetes, as Ad Age's Anthony Crupi writes. "The opportunity to chuckle along at the multi-cam antics of your favorite comedy stars has been complicated by some real dark-night-of-the-soul advertising," Crupi writes. And the transition from sitcom to drug ad is often jarring: "The journey from laugh track to lymphoma often takes mere seconds," Crupi writes.
Two departures of note:
1. Vice's chief creative officer, Thomas Punch, has left after seven years at the millennial-focused media brand. As Ad Age's Garett Sloane and Adrianne Pasquarelli report, he's heading for a job as global president and chief creative officer of Spring Studios, a creative agency. Punch had also been chief creative at Virtue, Vice's internal agency. As Sloane and Pasquarelli write, "Punch left Vice at a time of flux for the media brand, which installed a new CEO in March, following allegations of a troubled work environment, which dented its image among advertisers."
2. Nick Bell, VP of content at Snapchat, is leaving. "Bell helped pioneer the vertical video aesthetic, and was influential in getting media companies to even think about mobile content in that orientation," Garett Sloane writes.
Just announce it already: Amazon is said to be splitting its second headquarters between New York's Long Island City and Crystal City in Virginia, The Wall Street Journal reports. An official announcement is expected soon (perhaps today).
Gold rush: Digital production agency MediaMonks, recently acquired by Martin Sorrell's S4 Capital, is "expanding its U.S. footprint with a San Francisco office slated to open by the first quarter of next year," Ad Age's George Slefo writes. The move brings it closer to client Google.
Banned ad: A Greenpeace ad about a cute orangutan and the evils of palm oil was repurposed by UK frozen foods supermarket Iceland Foods and became a viral hit; it got publicity from headlines about how it was banned from UK TV airwaves. Wired UK explains what happened (and why it's complicated.)
Keebler elves: Kellogg says it's "considering a sale of its cookie and fruit-snack businesses, including Keebler, Famous Amos and other brands, to focus on products with faster-growing sales," The Wall Street Journal says.
Paywalls: New York Magazine's sites, including The Cut, Vulture and Grub Street, are going behind a paywall, The New York Times reports.
Ad of the day: Tis the season for ambitious Christmas ads from British retailers. Asda, the supermarket brand, and AMV BBDO created "a snow-filled extravaganza that kicks off with a sunglasses-wearing Santa launching a flaming Christmas pudding into the air like a missile," as Ad Age's Alexandra Jardine writes. "We then get an avalanche of dancing skiers, St. Nicks on motor bikes, cowboys riding Christmas trees, yetis and more." It's a lot of fun; watch it here.