Brands Brief: Ad-Tech Firms Cut Ties With Newsweek Media Group

Top Stories

  • Newsweek Media Group said it fired two employees linked to a coding issue that some advertising-technology companies alleged caused invalid website traffic. AppNexus, a vendor the company used to sell online ads, and SpotX, an ad-tech company that helps sell video ads, said they ended relationships with the company over concerns of invalid website traffic, while DoubleVerify, which offers software to marketers to verify the quality of the locations where ads appear, flagged invalid traffic on some of the company’s sites to signal a risky buy for marketers. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Inc. said it updated its Alexa voice-based digital assistant for Echo home speakers to fix the strange laughing noises that some users reported hearing at random. An Amazon spokeswoman said the company is changing the phrase that prompts Alexa to chuckle from “Alexa, laugh” to “Alexa, can you laugh?” and changing the response from immediate laughter to include a “Sure, I can laugh” confirmation from the voice assistant. (Bloomberg)
  • McDonald’s announced two major changes to its Happy Meals last month — a lower-calorie menu and a renewed promotional partnership with Walt Disney Co. — and parents say the healthier options are more likely to get them to buy a Happy Meal for their child than Disney toys and packaging, according to Morning Consult polling. Fifty-one percent of parents said the healthier meal options make them more likely to order a Happy Meal for their kids, and a 43 percent plurality of parents said the Disney partnership would make them more likely to order a Happy Meal for their children. (Morning Consult)

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What Consumers Expect From Brands In The Gun Debate

With Americans demanding more from brands on political and social issues, how can companies decide what stances best serve their consumers?


Ad-Tech Firms Blacklist Newsweek Sites, Alleging Website-Traffic Manipulation
Lara O’Reilly and Lukas I. Alpert, The Wall Street Journal

Some advertising-technology companies have cut ties with Newsweek Media Group over concerns about allegedly fake website traffic, moves that threaten to exacerbate the company’s financial difficulties as it contends with a wider fraud investigation. AppNexus, one of the vendors NMG used to sell online ads, and SpotX, an ad-tech company that helps sell video ads, each said they have ended their relationships with the company.

Ad Agencies’ Reckoning on Sexual Harassment Comes on Instagram, Anonymously
Sapna Maheshwari, The New York Times

The advertising industry, expert in the art of attention getting, has found itself riveted in recent months by an anonymously run Instagram account dedicated to exposing sexual harassment on Madison Avenue. The account, @DietMadisonAve, is advertising’s visual version of the Google spreadsheet that circulated last fall with the names of men in the media industry who had been accused of sexually inappropriate behavior.

America’s Oldest Beer Brand Hires a New Agency to Guide Its Expansion
Erik Oster, Adweek

America’s oldest brewery has a new creative partner. D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. selected Chicago-based independent agency Laughlin Constable as creative agency of record for Yuengling, following a review which included incumbent Allen & Gerritsen.

Danone North America Picks Wavemaker As Media Agency Of Record
Megan Graham and Jessica Wohl, Advertising Age

Danone picked WPP’s Wavemaker as its media agency in North America as the yogurt maker aims to better reach consumers, especially younger ones buying plant-based and organic fare. The selection comes in the wake of Danone’s acquisition of WhiteWave Foods in a $10 billion deal in April 2017.

Drawbridge Exits Media Business In Europe Before GDPR Storms The Castle
James Hercher, AdExchanger

The cross-device identity company Drawbridge abandoned its advertising business in the EU and is trying to reconcile its data business with GDPR regulations beginning in May. Drawbridge founder and CEO Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan confirmed the company’s reversals in Europe in an email to AdExchanger.

Media and Entertainment

Univision CEO Randy Falco to Retire Early
Paul Bond, The Hollywood Reporter

Randy Falco is preparing to exit Univision Communications, with the impending parting of the ways coming just days after the nation’s top Spanish-language TV company ditched its effort to go public and replaced its CFO. Investors were clearly disappointed at Univision’s failed, years-long attempt at an IPO, but as recently as four months ago, one of the more prominent of the group, media mogul Haim Saban, expressed his support of Falco.

Sinclair’s new media-bashing promos rankle local anchors
Brian Stelter, CNN

“This is so manipulative.” That’s an anchor at a local TV station owned by Sinclair, describing the company’s latest mandate, a promotional campaign that sounds like pro-Trump propaganda.

Getting The Boston Globe delivered will soon cost almost $1,350 a year
Joshua Benton, Nieman Journalism Lab

For the past decade, one of the very few (relative?) bright spots in newspaper earnings reports has been circulation revenue, which has either held steady or dropped only slightly for many. (Compared to the complete collapse of print advertising revenue, “only down a little” is an offer you’d take.)

Peter Thiel’s Money Talks, in Contentious Ways. But What Does He Say?
David Streitfeld, The New York Times

Peter Thiel is Silicon Valley’s homegrown Cassandra. He warned for years that the big tech companies were arrogant and clueless and less good for mankind than they believed. Comeuppance, the billionaire investor warned, was coming.

NCAA Revenue Surpasses $1 Billion Milestone
Eben Novy-Williams, Bloomberg

The National Collegiate Athletic Association earned $1.06 billion in revenue last year, eclipsing the $1 billion mark for the first time as the governing body defends its business model in court. It’s a 6.6 percent jump from fiscal 2016, in which the Indianapolis-based organization made $996 million, according to audited statements released Wednesday.

Social Media and Technology

Amazon Says It Has Fixed Randomly Laughing Alexa Speakers
Mark Gurman, Bloomberg

Is Alexa laughing at you? In the past few days, some users of Echo home speakers running Inc.’s Alexa voice-based digital assistant have reported hearing strange laughing noises at random.

Snap Plans Biggest Round of Layoffs Yet
Alex Heath, Cheddar

Snap Inc. is preparing its largest round of layoffs to date, Cheddar has learned. The Snapchat-maker plans to announce the cuts internally within a week, according to people familiar with the matter, who required anonymity to discuss confidential information.

Reddit Says It’s Cooperating With Russia Investigations. They’ve Handed Over Zero Documents.
Ben Collins and Spencer Ackerman, The Daily Beast

After a long public silence, the Internet giant Reddit has finally acknowledged the presence of Russian propaganda on its platform—and indicated it’s working with the Congressional probes into Russia’s 2016 election interference. “While I know it’s frustrating that we don’t share everything we know publicly, I want to reiterate that we take these matters very seriously, and we are cooperating with congressional inquiries,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman wrote to the Reddit community in a blog post on Monday.

Publishers Could Get A New Weapon Against Facebook And Google
Nitasha Tiku, Wired

On stage at the Code Media conference last month, Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, fired a warning shot to publishers who think they get a raw deal from Facebook. ”My job is to make sure there is quality news on Facebook and that publishers who want to be on Facebook … have a business model that works,” Brown said.

How the Parkland Students Got So Good at Social Media
Jonah Engel Bromwich, The New York Times

The secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, had only just announced that she would visit Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when the students began to react. “Good thing I was already planning on sleeping in tomorrow,” Emma González tweeted out to her 1.2 million followers Tuesday evening.

How Brands Like Audi and Pez Are Winning the AR Game
Molly St. Louis, Adweek

Pokemon Go made history in 2016 when it amassed $500 million faster than any other gaming app to date. It then broke yet another record by climbing to $1 billion in revenue in just six months.

PR and Marketing

Healthier Choices, Not Disney Toys, More Likely to Get Parents to Buy Happy Meals
Anna Gronewold, Morning Consult

McDonald’s announced two major changes to its Happy Meals last month — a lower-calorie menu and a renewed promotional partnership with Walt Disney Co. — and parents say the healthier options are more likely to get them to buy a Happy Meal for their child than Disney toys and packaging, according to Morning Consult polling.

McDonald’s is flipping its iconic arches upside down in an unprecedented statement
Kate Taylor, Business Insider

People driving by a McDonald’s in Lynwood, California, might be baffled by an upside-down sign. The golden arches, typically standing as an M, have been flipped over to become a W.

Abercrombie & Fitch to close 60 more stores
Lauren Thomas, CNBC

Abercrombie & Fitch announced Wednesday it will be closing 60 stores later this year. The teen apparel retailer, which also owns the brand Hollister, has been reconfiguring its store fleet in malls as more shoppers opt to buy clothes online.

Amazon is taking aim at Walmart by offering a 54 percent discount on Prime memberships for Medicaid recipients
Jason Del Rey, Recode

Amazon is making another move in its courtship of lower-income shoppers, announcing a discount on its Amazon Prime monthly membership fee for recipients of Medicaid. The discount works out to 54 percent.

Instagram’s Slime Stars Pivot to Soap
Taylor Lorenz, The Daily Beast

2017 was the year slime took over Instagram. Gooey videos dominated the Explore page, slime-specific accounts racked up millions of followers, and enterprising teens who began mixing their own slime concoctions began raking in big bucks.

Opinions, Editorials, Perspectives and Research

After Five Years of Leaning In, Everything and Nothing Has Changed
Claire Suddath and Rebecca Greenfield, Bloomberg

Five years ago this month, Donald Trump was planning a Miss Universe pageant in Moscow; the Weinstein Co. was riding high on three Academy Award wins for Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained; and Katie King was a 32-year-old attorney, all wide-eyed because she’d just read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook Inc. Having the kind of career she wanted, King realized, was going to be a lot harder than she’d thought.

Women in majority-male workplaces report higher rates of gender discrimination
Kim Parker, Pew Research Center

The gains women have made over the past several decades in labor force participation, wages and access to more lucrative positions have strengthened their position in the American workforce. Even so, there is gender imbalance in the workplace, and women who report that their workplace has more men than women have a very different set of experiences than their counterparts in work settings that are mostly female or have an even mix of men and women.

Is Pepsi’s Bubly the new LaCroix, or just another cute can?
Maura Judkis, The Washington Post

It’s been bubbling up for years, and now here we are, in the midst of a sparkling-water brand war. LaCroix — the fizzy flavored drink that comes in retro pastel so-uncool-they’re-cool-again cans — is the front-runner, and as Americans drink less and less soda, every brand is angling for its own subtly fruit-flavored water.

Let’s Try To See Clearly On Blockchain For Advertising
Jaisimha Muthegere, Advertising Age

The release of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Blockchain for Video Advertising white paper has the digital ad industry abuzz. The emerging technology, best known for powering cryptocurrencies, is apparently coming to save us!