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Latest news and features from AdAge
Latest News - AdAge
  1. Amazon tests ‘top brand’ label for some big-name fashion sellers Inc. is designating products sold by certain companies as “top brands,” a test that if widely implemented could ease tension between the online retail giant and big-name companies used to favorable positioning at brick-and-mortar retailers.

    The company appended a “top brand” label to products from Speedo, New Balance, Under Armor and Fruit of the Loom in some product search results, Marketplace Pulse, a New York e-commerce research firm, said on Friday.

    An Amazon spokeswoman confirmed the company is testing the label on fashion items, basing the designation on brands that are popular with customers. She said brands don’t pay for the label.

    Amazon already labels certain products “best sellers” or “Amazon’s Choice,” designations that the company says takes into account factors like availability, customer reviews and pricing. Shoppers often see such markers as endorsements, which can boost sales, analysts say.

    The criteria Amazon uses to determine whose products earn those badges have attracted the attention of critics and government officials amid a renewed focus on the market power of online platforms. Critics say the logic behind the labels isn’t always transparent to consumers or brands and fear Amazon could use them to prop up its growing range of private labels.

    In a blog post on Friday, Marketplace Pulse Chief Executive Officer Juozas Kaziukenas said that the top brand label could act much like the account verification badges used by Instagram or Twitter, which are designed to connote legitimacy. The label, if implemented, could have “substantial impact on how shoppers decide which products to buy,” or how brands compete against cheaper private-label products, Kaziukenas said.

    Amazon accounts for about 40 percent of online sales in the U.S., according to researcher EMarketer Inc. and fueled the growth of e-commerce. But the free-for-all of its digital shelves dented the cachet some consumers assign to big brand names. Research by Marketplace Pulse earlier this year showed that roughly 1 in 5 product searches on Amazon included a brand name; more often, customers were content to thumb through Amazon’s catalog.

    Consumer goods makers have long complained that Amazon’s Marketplace, which lets independent sellers list their products on Amazon, opened the door to widespread counterfeiting. Amazon has responded with programs designed to give brand owners more control over how their products appear on the site, including the ability to delete some suspect listings or report them to the company.

    —Bloomberg News

  2. Cheez-It signs on as College Football Playoff sponsor

    Welcome to the latest edition of Ad Age TV Brief, our roundup of news from the world of broadcast, cable, streaming and beyond. *Extremely Mr. Roarke Voice* Smiles everyone, smiles!

    Say Cheez-It: 
    Kellogg’s Cheez-It has inked a multiyear pact to serve as an official sponsor of the College Football Playoff series. Cheez-It joins a rooster of 14 other CFP backers, including the 10 brands that signed on way back in 2014 (Allstate, AT&T, Capital One, Chick fil-A, Dr Pepper, Ford, Gatorade, Goodyear, Northwestern Mutual, Taco Bell), when the new postseason package first began to take shape.

    College football diehards may recall Cheez-It’s inaugural sponsorship of the late-December game that previously had been billed as the Cactus Bowl. (Before that, it was the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. And before that, you either knew it as the Insight or Bowl. Ah, memories.) At any rate, Cheez-It’s first foray into a marquee college football sponsorship was a bit of a jolly nightmare; among the highlights of the game’s drive summary were: 15 punts, 9 interceptions and a missed field goal, all in service of a 7-7 comedy of errors that was settled in overtime with a 27-yard chip shot. Oh, and: TCU quarterback Grayson Muehlstein finished the night with a QB rating of 1.7. So!

    For all the unintentional slapstick that awaited viewers of last year’s TCU-Cal showdown, the Cheez-It Bowl wasn’t a complete dud. Nielsen data ranks it 18th among all 2018-19 bowls, a stat that was likely influenced by the fact that there’s literally nothing else to watch on the night after Christmas. Your other options were a “Guy’s Grocery Games” episode titled “Clash of the Vegetables!” or something called “Iron Nun” on the AT&T/DirecTV channel. At any rate, Cheez-It’s sponsorship likely paid off in the long run; per a recent rEvolution study, bowl sponsorships increased brand opinion from 34 percent to 55 percent and boosted purchase intent from 21 percent to 54 percent between year one and year five.

    As with all previous CFP sales, the deal was brokered by rights holder ESPN, although you wouldn’t have guessed from a glance at the release Disney pumped out on Thursday morning. ESPN is mentioned only at the very bottom of the memo, in a bit of boilerplate having to do with the network’s 2019-20 bowl game coverage. As much as the ESPN ad sales business has been integrated with that of sibling broadcaster ABC, the half-hearted acknowledgment of the sports flagship—not to mention the team that originally booked and maintained these megabucks relationships (pour one out for Ed Erhardt)—is an unfortunate oversight by the usually fastidious Mouse House.

    ESPN’s coverage of January’s championship game averaged 25.3 million viewers (27 million, with out-of-home deliveries factored in) and a 13.8 household rating. Clemson’s 44-16 vivisection of Alabama now stands as the year’s 14th most-watched broadcast.

    Fifty Shades of Grey Gardens
    The broadcast TV audience gets especially creaky during the summer, as younger viewers build campfires, menace strangers on street corners and strive to brew up the mythical fifth Loko. But rather than bemoan the prevalence of aging TV fiends, savvy marketers should look at the sultry season (or what’s left of it) as a time to target older consumers on the cheap. Come on, people: Not everyone’s in the market for an Apple Watch or feels compelled to wear Kurt Cobain’s kicks.

    Come Together
    While Shari Redstone’s bid to future-proof her media empire has only just begun, investors may not have to wait long to see how the reunification of Viacom and CBS will boost the company’s linear TV business. “In the near term, a combined ad sales force with greater digital inventory should drive CPMs and ad revenue higher in next year’s upfront,” MoffettNathanson media analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a note he issued the morning after the merger was announced. (We’ve seen the same dynamic play out with NBC and the NBCUniversal cable nets.) As Nathanson went on to note, Viacom and CBS together account for 23 percent of all impressions but lays claim to just 18 percent of the advertising dollars in play, and a blended sales force could go a long way toward bridging that gap.

    Blocking and Tackling
    Tallahassee Democrat reporter Curt Weiler on Wednesday broke the news that the ACC Network reached a carriage deal with Charter/Spectrum, which is the “second-largest distributor in the conference’s footprint.” The pick-up comes just a week before the ACC Net’s August 22 launch. While securing a place in the Charter/Spectrum lineup is good news for ACC fans in parts of Florida, North and South Carolina, Louisville and New York (Syracuse joined the conference in 2013), Comcast, Century Link and Dish Network subs may be out of luck, as the three carriers remain holdouts.

    Summer Bummer
    But for the unclassifiable funhouse mirror/soap opera that is Fox’s “BH90210,” all of the summer’s top-rated broadcast series are unscripted efforts. Hanging onto the top spot by the merest of threads is NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” which in its 14th season is averaging 9.43 million viewers and a 1.5 in the demo, which represents a year-over-year loss of around 2 million viewers per week and a 29 percent drop in the number of adults 18-49 tuning in. Rounding out the top five are ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” which closed out its 15th season flat with an average draw of 5.85 million viewers and a 1.5 rating; “BH90210” (3.19 million viewers/1.3 rating); ABC’s “Bachelor in Paradise” (4.08 million/1.2) and CBS’s summer warhorse “Big Brother” (4.17 million/1.1). “Big Brother” is currently averaging a 1.4 in CBS’s adults 25-54 demo, down 21 percent versus the year-ago 1.9 rating. In July, broadcast C3 ratings fell 19 percent in the 18-49 demo, as commercial deliveries for the Big Four networks averaged out to a 0.5 rating.

    Social Disease
    In a single bound, the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint dropkicks the Extremely Online® Yashar Ali and a lightweight NBC News story.

  3. Agency Brief: Recession looms, Gary Vee publicly shames an intern, but we still have Shatner

    As reports circulate that a recession could be on the horizon “a lot sooner than anyone thought,” Keith Johnston, Forrester vice president and research director, global CMO practice leader, and a former executive at agencies, including T3 and MullenLowe, says brands are going to use this economic downturn as “an opportunity to acquire talent.”

    “Certainly higher-salary, high-risk employees will look for safe havens and in-house is an option,” Johnston tells Ad Age, adding that as agencies “shake the waste if you will,” brands that “want a chief creative in-house” will try to recruit them at a lower salary than they could in a booming economy. “A lot of the tech titans go hunting realizing they can grab some folks,” he says.

    Johnston predicts agencies could lose 3 to 30 percent of their revenues during a recession as brands will shift increasingly more to project work. Those that he estimates will weather the storm best are shops that are “nimble” and have already restructured their infrastructures to adapt to a project-based model, as well as those that have already “invested in their technology.”

    “The needs of the clients shift drastically in a recession,” Johnston explains. “There’s already a call for more efficient, measurable media. There’s going to be a greater squeeze on that.”

    Christie Cordes, an industry recruiter and founder of Talent Acquisition Recruitment & Strategy, tells Ad Age “most advertising creatives and executives say to us that client-side is something they are very interested in considering.”

    “They feel the agencies are unstable, especially now that the holding companies are consolidating,” Cordes says. “The latent pool in 2019 is repeatedly expressing that agency work is avalanching onto them and their teams; more work is expected in less time for smaller client budgets. The recession fears are only exasperating the insecurity.”

    One creative director, who tells Ad Age he’s been at a boutique agency for over a decade, is considering going in-house with his sights set on Netflix, Apple, Facebook and MedMen, among others. “Things are looking pretty dang hairy for the future,” he explains. “Feel like there’s going to be bloodbaths on the agency side of things soon.”

    There is such a thing as a stupid question!
    VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk’s “empathetic and kind” leadership qualities he boasts of apparently do not extend past the four walls of his agency. This week, a hopeful intern texted Vaynerchuk (who’s tweeted out his number so anyone in the industry can pick his brain), in the hopes of landing a role at the agency for the summer, but in doing so, drew the ire of the internet personality and agency owner, who was then quick to publicly shame him for it.

    Here’s what went down.

    Nick Anderson (Gary Vee also kindly makes the person’s name public) texts Vaynerchuk, “Can I intern for you?” It appears this was not the first text exchange with Vaynerchuk, and the CEO was affable at first, responding with “When ? Email Drock” (referencing Video Editor David Rock, duh!). Anderson texts back “Next summer” and then “What’s his email?” That last text will likely haunt Anderson for the rest of his days. It doesn’t appear that Vaynerchuk responds, at least initially, but instead screen shots the conversation (name included) and tweets it out with the caption: “If you want to intern for me and can’t figure this out on your own, :(“.

    Ouch. To all elementary school teachers spreading the lie of “there’s no such thing as a stupid question,” you are failing in preparing kids for the real world full of Gary Vees. Sure, Rock’s email is probably easy to Google or figure out by trial and error, but any sane person would likely think, “instead of wasting my time trying various compilations of name plus @ plus agency plus .com, I’ll just directly ask the guy right in front of me who knows the email.” To all the people looking to intern at VaynerMedia in the future, just know that Gary Vee makes you work for it. In defense, Vaynerchuk says it was all in good fun and he has “great vibes” with Anderson so chill out, man.

    “To work as an intern you have to have the ingenuity to find an email address,” Vaynerchuk tells Ad Age. “However, I have no interest in harshness or calling out names. This is someone I’ve interacted with multiple times, and the tone has been grossly misunderstood—it was more tongue-in-cheek. We have great vibes and he understood the vibes of my message, and I will continue to have a relationship with him.”

    Cryptocurrency woes have William Shatner robbing banks

    When a frustrated William Shatner tries his hand at trading crypto and finds the exchange too slow, he resorts to bank robbery in this new 60-second ad from Oberland in New York for, a provider of cryptocurrency. The teller manages to talk Shatner out of the crime, persuading him to use’s “PIT” exchange instead. The spot is part of a global digital campaign, called “Don’t get held up. Level up in The PIT,” to promote the PIT. “After years of turbulence and hype, euphoria and disillusionment, we’re at a stage where real-world applications of cryptocurrencies are having tangible impacts around the world,” says Haider Rafique, head of growth at Blockchain. “Campaigns that drive education, awareness and that first purchase of crypto are vital to keeping this momentum moving forward and growing the community of crypto users.”

    When interns take over

    The day before TBWA’s summer internship comes to an end in New York, the budding creatives transform the office into a pop-up shop. The interns were tasked with creating unique merch that “embodies the spirit of the company,” TBWA says, but it was also aimed to be a test on how they “function as their own agency.” TBWA poses as the client in this situation, giving the interns a set deadline and budget. The interns conducted research, finding the agency’s staff didn’t want anything “generic or overtly branded.” What they came up with was “Undeniable Goods” that includes eight designs that pay tribute to TBWA’s history such as its iconic 1984 commercial for Apple. The interns delivered, leaving the client happy.

    “These kids told a great story,” says TBWA\Chiat\Day New York Rob Schwartz. “They didn’t just answer the brief, they delivered something we didn’t think possible.”

    The wins of the week
    Car insurance carrier SafeAuto selects Joan as its agency of record to lead strategy, digital creative, design and production across video and audio. The agency, which will also help manage special projects and partnerships for the Columbus, Ohio-based company, beat out seven other agencies in the pitch for the account. Joan expects to debut its first work for the company sometime in 2020.

    Hyundai’s Innocean wins lead media planning and buying duties for UC Davis Health in California following an RFP process initiated in April. The agency will also be tasked with developing a communications plan for reaching diverse audiences. Innocean is the network’s first AOR in several years.

    Bondi Sands, an Australian brand of self-tanning and sun care products, names Hertfordshire-based search marketing agency Honchō as its agency partner to boost its digital marketing footprint in the U.K. As its U.K. search marketing agency of record, Honchō will be tasked with driving greater visibility of Bondi Sands’ through its SEO and content marketing services. “In the U.K., tanning and beauty markets are increasingly competitive; so naturally, the sites and brands with greater visibility on Google search results pages, for example, will see greater traffic and conversion figures,” says Syed Ali, head of performance at Honchō.

    Iron Mountain, a storage and information management services provider, names Centerline Digital, a self-described business-to-business customer experience marketing shop, as its agency of record in a two-year deal. Centerline Digital is tasked with delivering global campaigns and strategic content development for Iron Mountain. Rebecca Sandrue, director of content, brand and events at Iron Mountain, says the appointment follows a review that initially included 18 agencies. “We were looking for an agency that certainly had strong global experience,” Sandrue adds, and “not just a partner that’s really strong in creative” but one that has a deep understanding of the Iron Mountain brand.

    This week’s hires and promotions
    BBH New York hires Tom Callard as head of planning. Callard, who worked at BBH London from 2013 to 2015, most recently was group strategy director at 72andSunny New York where he led strategy for Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Spotify Premium, Autotrader’s brand relaunch and Smirnoff.

    Mother is welcoming four new creatives to its Los Angeles office. Pilar Peace joins from Mother London as head of art. Chris Vernon also comes aboard from Mother London, as a writer and director. Andrew Livingston and Simon Bruyn both join as creative directors from TBWA\Chiat\Day. The additions follow Mother in L.A. winning Sonic Drive-In’s creative account in August.

    Mcgarrybowen’s “ideas” agency Swirl in San Francisco names Ryan Lindholm president. This marks Lindholm’s return to the agency world after stints at apparel brand RYU (Respect Your Universe), Nature’s Path, Clif Bar and Nike. Before shifting brand side, he held positions at AKQA, Razorfish (which has since been folded into Publicis Sapient), J. Walter Thompson (now Wunderman Thompson), DDB and TBWA.

    Independent creative agency Duncan Channon poaches Gary Stein from Eleven as its first chief integration officer. Stein was most recently Eleven’s associate partner and head of activation, overseeing media, planning and data insights. His appointment follows Duncan Channon buying A2G, a shop focused in experiential, influencer and social marketing. Stein is charged with driving collaboration across the agency’s strategy, media and creative departments.

    We Are Social names Lore Oxford as its first global head of culture and insights to diversify the agency’s research and insight function and promote greater collaboration across markets. She most recently worked on the strategy teams at AMV BBDO, on the Bacardi and Samsung accounts, and at Karmarama, on Nando’s and The National Citizen Service.

    Creative digital shop Code and Theory makes the following hires and promotions to “streamline global leadership.” The agency hires Pierre Wendling from TBWA\Media Arts Lab as global head of production, leading a team of 40 people. Dave DiCamillo is being elevated to chief technology officer after leading production and operations for Code and Theory previously. Director of Strategic Partnerships Brent Buntin moves into the role of chief marketing officer.

    Kingston, New York-based digital shop Dragon360 promotes Andy Groller to managing partner and CEO from executive vice president. The agency that works with clients such as NextGen Healthcare, Pantone and Mizuho also elevates Abe Uchitelle to managing partner, while he also maintains his current role as president. Both Groller and Uchitelle become equity partners of the agency that previously was solely owned by Co-Founder Don Tallerman since 2014. Tallerman continues as a partner.

  4. Watch the newest commercials on TV from Google, Gucci, Geico and more

    Every weekday we bring you the Ad Age/iSpot Hot Spots, new commercials tracked by, the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company. The ads here ran on national TV for the first time on Aug. 12.

    A few highlights: Gucci serves up a 15-second TV cut of its trippy Mémoire d’une Odeur ad, starring Harry Styles, that debuted online. To make a point about saving money on your car insurance, Geico celebrates the joy of taking matching socks out of the dryer. And Google wants you to know that Chromebooks can boot up in as little as six seconds.

  5. 3 unique ways to use Facebook to promote your business

    Although it used to be a platform to connect with friends, Facebook is now used globally for businesses to promote their content and grow their following. The platform boasts 1.56 billion daily active users on average, and this number continues to increase as time goes on. If you use the platform to grow and cater to your audience, there’s no doubt it can easily be found and marketed to.

    Many businesses try to promote their brands through Facebook but fail because they don’t have a set marketing strategy in place, nor do they take advantage of special features Facebook offers to grow their business. When you know what features to invest in, you're more likely to see a spike in conversions as well as a growing audience because you’re catering to it in a new, exciting way.

    Let’s look at three unique ways you can use Facebook to promote your business this year:

    1. Run a Facebook Live campaign

    It’s no secret that video has power. When you incorporate video marketing into any strategy, there’s a good chance you’ll see improved conversions because video is captivating, exciting and visually pleasing. What’s more, live streaming is now a popular method marketers use to cater to their audience and improve engagement. 

    Use this to your advantage by running a Facebook Live campaign to promote your business. First, let your audience know ahead of time when you will be broadcasting so they make sure they’re available. The more you promote your live campaign, the better the chances you have of entertaining a larger audience. One way to do this is to write strong, persuasive copy in your video caption so people feel excited to join your live stream. 

    For example, The Hershey Company used Facebook Live to introduce their newest cookie crunch bars and encourage customers to buy. In just under a month, the campaign proved a success, reaching 65 million people and lifting 11 points in brand awareness.

    Additionally, ask users to subscribe to your Facebook Live notifications so that when you do finally go live, they get a notification sent directly to their phone. Take advantage of the eyes and ears you have on your brand by engaging with your audience when you go live. Respond to their questions and comments, and show them they’re more than a number to your brand. Close your live campaign with a call to action telling your audience what to do next, whether that’s following you on social media or subscribing to your newsletter.

    2. Use Messenger bots

    When someone subscribes to your Facebook page, it’s a clear, direct sign they’re interested in your brand and what it offers. It’s easier to market to people when you know they want more of your content and information about your brand. What’s more, chatbots are popping up everywhere and being used in marketing strategies for brands of all types. Facebook research shows that 53 percent of users are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via a chat app. When you put the two together, you’re bound to promote your business successfully.

    Thanks to chatbots, the brand Butterball used Alexa to field more than 20,000 calls over the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday. This wouldn’t be possible without artificial intelligence using its technology to cater to a mass amount of people when using human agents wouldn’t get such a huge job done.

    Implement Facebook Messenger bots into your social media marketing strategy, and use it to share updates about your business, upcoming events, sales, promotions and more. Tailor your messages to your audience’s needs, and write like you’re sending a friendly text, as this is still a messaging app. 

    3. Hold a contest

    You’ve probably seen brands run contests through Facebook before. This is because it’s a highly effective way to get current customers engaged with your brand and invite newcomers to check out what you’re offering. If it entices them enough, you’ll see an influx of new social media followers and subscribers.

    Take London Drugs, for example. The retailer ran a Facebook contest with the goal of increasing followers in their target market as well as engagement. Giving users gift cards as prizes, the company managed to gain 28,000 new followers and increase engagement from 0.5 percent to 2.5 percent. After this, their Facebook page became the leading source of website referral traffic.

    To enter your contest, have users share their email, like your Facebook page, or comment on and like a specific post. This way, you improve your lead generation, and they’ll be happy to know they have a chance to win something. Only those interested in your offer will apply, so it’s safe to say they’ll continue to invest in your brand even after the contest is over. You can track this segment of your email list to continue offering products similar to what they entered to win, increasing your chances of making sales.

    Set clear objectives for your contest and what you want it to achieve for your business. If your goal is to increase brand awareness, keep this in mind when creating your strategy so you create the appropriate steps to achieve it. Make your contest exciting by offering your best content or products so it feels worthwhile for potential customers to enter. When your incentive is enticing, more people will feel encouraged to participate, and you’ll get closer to reaching your goal. 

    Using Facebook to promote your business might be one of the best things you do. Just make sure to keep things interesting and use different ways to cater to your audience's needs and capture their attention. How will you use Facebook to further your brand reach?



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