Thursday Wake-Up Call: NY Times Sues The Weinstein Co. for Unpaid Ads. Plus, Walmart's New Name

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The New York Times headquarters building in New York, NY.
The New York Times headquarters building in New York, NY. Credit: iStock

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
"The departure of Martin Agency veteran Joe Alexander last week followed an internal investigation into an allegation of sexual harassment" against him, Ad Age's Lindsay Stein reports, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Alexander, chief creative officer, had joined the agency in 1991; the agency's best-known campaigns include its work for Geico. "The Martin Agency is my family," Alexander told Ad Age by email. "Rather than a drawn-out, hurtful investigation, resigning was the proper thing to do to protect my family and all the people I've worked so closely together with in my 26 wonderful years." Read more of Stein's article here.

The New York Times Co. vs. The Weinstein Co.
The New York Times reports that it's suing film studio The Weinstein Co. because it owes the paper $229,567.68 for print ads. The Times writes that:

"It is not uncommon for The Times to turn to the courts to extract payment from advertisers. The news organization has filed 27 such collection actions in court this year."

But this is not exactly a run-of-the-mill business dispute. The studio's co-founder, Harvey Weinstein, was fired after The Times' bombshell investigation in October alleging that he had "paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades," a story touched off the #MeToo movement. And the studio has been under pressure financially too. The New York Times has continued digging into Weinstein's case; this week it reported more sordid details in a story about how he developed a network around him to protect him and keep quiet. According to The Times, he even required female assistants to "procure his penile injections for erectile dysfunction."

The end
A drawn-out saga over the fate of Japan's third-largest ad agency, Asatsu-DK, has come to a close. Bain Capital has acquired 87 percent of ADK through a tender offer. Bain plans to take the agency private; the goal is to work on growth in the agency's digital, data and content businesses. ADK, interestingly, does a lot of animation work -- including on a popular cartoon character called Doraemon, a blue-and-white cat who is a robot and who time-travels.

WPP, ADK's largest shareholder, had initially opposed the deal, saying Bain undervalued the company, but it changed its tune several weeks ago. Read more on Ad Age.

Walmart's name change
Walmart is getting a new corporate name – and though the change might seem small, there's a big message there. Starting in February, company will no longer be Wal-Mart Stores Inc., but Walmart Inc. Dropping the "stores" from the name is a signal about the company's ambitions to grow online and go up against Amazon. As Phillip Davis, president of Tungsten Branding, told The Washington Post: "Walmart is saying it's no longer going to be defined by bricks-and-mortar." It's thinking ahead – because for now, according to The Post, 95% of its sales still come from … stores.

Just briefly:

Glued to the screen: This year's most-watched ads on YouTube "were more than twice as long as last year's," and the most popular ad is a tear-jerker from India. Read more by Ad Age's George Slefo, and watch the ads here.

Top 50: Creative networking site Working Not Working's just released its fourth annual list of Companies Creatives Would Kill to Work for Full Time. As Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz writes, 20 companies have been on the list since it started four years ago, including agencies 72andSunny, Barton F. Graf, Droga5, BBDO, Mother and Wieden & Kennedy. One notable absence this year: Snapchat.

Fake-out: A guy in London turned his garden shed into the city's top-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor by asking friends to write fake reviews. Read more on Vice.

Super Bowl Updates: Avocados From Mexico is coming back to the Super Bowl for the fourth year in a row, Ad Age's Jessica Wohl writes. And E.J. Schultz says Doritos will run a spot by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

Ad blocking: Motherboard writes that "Ghostery 8, the latest edition of Edward Snowden's recommended ad blocker, is now using artificial intelligence to recognize new tracking scripts as it encounters them."

Out: Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review literary journal, has resigned "amid an internal investigation into his behavior toward female employees and writers," The New York Times reports.

Suspended: Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz of WNYC were put on leave "as the company investigates allegations of inappropriate conduct," The Times says.

Trump-free zone: Do you recognize 2017 in YouTube's mostly cheerful year-end "Rewind" video? As Ad Age's Chen Wu writes, "While the point may be to look more positively to the future, all the happy-making feels a bit tone-deaf considering the dramatic events that affected the world all year long." Read more, and watch it here.

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