Teen Vogue removes a gushing Facebook story and S4 merges with Circus: Thursday Wake-Up Call
Plus, John Lewis chief exits and politics meets sitcom in ABC’s 'The Conners'
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Teen Vogue deletes pro-Facebook article
Condé Nast's Teen Vogue has found itself at the center of a storm over sponsored content after it removed a suspiciously complimentary article about Facebook.
The online article, which appeared without a byline, was a Q&A with female Facebook managers about the company’s efforts to prevent misinformation spreading ahead of the 2020 election, reports the Washington Post, which points out that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg liked it so much, she posted it to her own page, calling it “great.”
However, it was so glowingly pro-Facebook that people immediately began to question whether it had been placed. And what happened next was chaotic. Teen Vogue first added an editor’s note beneath the headline that read, “This is sponsored editorial content”—but then that note disappeared, and shortly afterwards, so did the article itself. At one point during the day, reports the Post, “a photographer tweeted a link to the story, asking “What is this @TeenVogue.” The magazine’s own verified Twitter account spoke for many onlookers when it replied “literally idk.”
Condé Nast later said in a statement: “We made a series of errors labeling this piece, and we apologize for any confusion this may have caused. We don’t take our audience’s trust for granted, and ultimately decided that the piece should be taken down entirely to avoid further confusion.”
Sorrell’s S4 merges with Circus
Martin Sorrell, who appeared on stage at CES this week, is on a roll; his S4 Capital has announced a proposed merger with Mexico City-based digital agency Circus Marketing.
As Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse writes, “The move would strengthen S4's presence in Latin America—specifically in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile and Los Angeles—and expand the company's reach to Spain for the first time.”
Circus, which works for brands like Netflix, Spotify, Google, Facebook and Uber, will merge with S4’s global content practice, built around the MediaMonks business it acquired in 2018. When Sorrell bought MediaMonks, he said he was taking the title "senior monk." This time, S4 welcomed Circus to the company in a circus-themed video that starts with a message "to the ringleaders" of data-driven and multicultural marketing, and says that the end goal is "to become the greatest show on Earth.” So, does that make Sorrell The Greatest Showman?
Politics meets sitcom in ABC’s “The Conners”
It seems TV watchers won’t be able to avoid politics this year. As well as both Trump and Bloomberg running Super Bowl ads, now an ABC sitcom, “The Conners,” will air a live episode during the key New Hampshire Primary.
As Ad Age’s Ilyse Liffreing reports, the storyline of the episode on Feb. 11 will be centered on the primary itself and will incorporate the real-time results. Characters will watch the results during the show and comment about why Americans should vote.
As well as being a political first, the move is a vote winner for live TV events. Rival NBC’s “Little Mermaid Live,” which ran in November, was a ratings hit, watched by 9 million viewers and pulling a 2.6 rating among the 18-49 demographic. ABC also has other live TV plans: yesterday it also announced it’s partnering with director and comedian Mel Brooks for a live musical adaptation of his Broadway “Young Frankenstein,” slated for fall 2020.
John Lewis managing director exits amid falling sales
John Lewis may have raised the bar for holiday advertising in the U.K. over the past decade, but this year not even Excitable Edgar the dragon could save the U.K. department store chain from a rough Christmas.
As The Guardian reports, sales fell by 1.8% over the key Christmas period and the retailer announced this morning that its managing director, Paula Nickolds, is to leave the company after 25 years as part of a management restructure.
A new chairman, Sharon White, previously CEO of media regulator Ofcom, starts next month and will be hoping to revive the company's fortunes. But it comes as British retail in general, as in the U.S., is suffering: the British Retail Consortium trade body declared that 2019 was its worst on record.
Jeopardy win: The first night of ABC’s “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” tournament delivered the network’s largest primetime audience of the 2019-20 TV season, writes Ad Age’s Anthony Crupi. The one-hour showdown averaged 14.4 million viewers Tuesday night.
Quibi at CES: Quibi, the new digital video startup founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, showed off some of its new ad formats at CES, reports Ad Age’s Garett Sloane, with executives from PepsiCo and T-Mobile helping to demonstrate the platform's features. Read more here.
Super Bowl update: Heinz’s Super Bowl spot will promote a new mashup condiment, HoneyRacha, which is a mix of honey and sriracha, while Bud Light and Bud Light Seltzer will run a combined spot at the game. Read all the latest news on the Super Bowl advertisers here.
Podcast of the Day: Jeremy Tucker, chief marketing officer of Planet Fitness, talks about making fun of internet “Fitspo culture” on the latest episode of Ad Age’s Marketer’s Brief podcast, and how the chain’s own marketing “promotes authenticity and acceptance.” Its new ad campaign pokes fun at rivals who make a competition out of a spin class. Have a listen here.
Campaign of the Day: Panera Bread has enlisted Phyllis from “The Office” to soothe fans enraged by the absence of the chain’s Bistro French Onion soup, writes Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl. In an online ad, Phyllis Smith, the actress who played Phyllis on the U.S. series, reads out the mean tweets on social media that ensued after the soup was dropped from Panera’s menu. It promotes the fact that the soup is back.
Jobs for the Royals: Game restaurant chain Main Event jumped on the news that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are stepping back from the Royal Family with an offer for them to join the chain as “Royal Patrons of Fun.” In an email to Ad Age, the chain said: “We even took the liberty of creating your employee cards already.” Somehow we don’t think they’ll be taking up the offer.