Welcome to Ad Age’s Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. You can sign up to get an audio version of this briefing on your Alexa device.
Walmart takes a stand
After two shootings killed 24 people at U.S. Walmart stores this summer, “it’s clear the status quo is unacceptable,” the company’s CEO says. The world’s biggest retailer is now asking people not to openly carry guns in its stores. It also says it will discontinue sales of ammunition used in handguns and military-style weapons. “We know these decisions will inconvenience some of our customers, and we hope they will understand,” CEO Doug McMillon wrote in a letter to employees, which is worth reading in full. “As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same.”
There are a few ways to look at this. Certainly, after the shootings at stores in El Paso, Texas and Southaven, Mississippi, Walmart could make more dramatic commitments to gun control, as some people are urging. On the other hand, given Walmart’s strong presence in red state America, its new stance is striking. Walmart isn't just making changes at its own stores, it's asking U.S. leaders to strengthen background checks, and it pledged to work with other retailers on the issue.
Will Walmart's decision have a ripple effect? Hours after the announcement, Kroger also said it was asking customers not to openly carry guns into its stores, as CNN Business reports. Kroger echoed some of Walmart’s language, saying it “respectfully” made the request to customers and adding that it recognized the growing number of Americans who are “no longer comfortable with the status quo.”
Thanks to Walmart and Kroger, the status quo just shifted a bit.
Google under pressure
Over half the state attorneys general in the U.S. are getting ready to investigate Google for possible antitrust violations, The Washington Post reports. (CNN Business, following up on The Post’s scoop, says the investigations focus on Google’s giant advertising business.) As The Post writes, “Over the past year, regulators around the country have grown increasingly wary of the power wielded by Silicon Valley, questioning whether the industry’s access to vast amounts of proprietary data — and deep pockets — allow companies to gobble up rivals and maintain their dominance to the detriment of consumers.” In this case, The Post says, an official announcement on the probes is expected Monday in Washington D.C. Some context from eMarketer: “Google will remain the largest digital ad seller in the world in 2019, accounting for 31.1% of worldwide ad spending, or $103.73 billion.”
Ariana Grande vs. Forever 21
These are not-so-great times for Forever 21. Last week Bloomberg News reported that the mall brand is preparing for a potential bankruptcy filing. And now Ariana Grande is suing the brand for allegedly using her image on social media without her permission, and for hiring a “lookalike” model to dress up like Grande in her music video for the song “7 Rings.” The New York Times reports that Grande is seeking at least $10 million in damages, and that the brand disputes the claims. The Times adds:
“After Grande released the hit song ‘Thank U, Next’ last November, Forever 21 reached out to her representatives to suggest an endorsement deal that would be centered on social media, the lawsuit said. Grande’s representatives considered the deal but ultimately declined because the fashion retailer wasn’t willing to pay Grande enough.”
In other words, she told them "Thank U, Next."
Heir apparent: “AT&T Inc. named media honcho John Stankey to the new position of president and chief operating officer, establishing a clear No. 2 to Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson,” Bloomberg News reports.
From magazines to cable TV: AMC Networks “named former Condé Nast Chief Brand Officer Kim Kelleher as its new president of advertising sales and partnerships, effective immediately," Ad Age’s Anthony Crupi writes.
Never mind: “The New York Times has scrapped plans to sponsor one of the world’s biggest oil industry conferences after pressure from climate campaigners,” The Guardian reports. The conference at issue is Oil and Money, set for next month in London.
TikTok + the NFL + brands: “The National Football League announced a new partnership with TikTok, including plans to sell ads together so brands can sponsor the league’s content and hashtags,” Garett Sloane writes in Ad Age.
Wins: Levi Strauss & Co. picked Interpublic Group of Cos.' UM as its media agency of record for the Americas after a review, Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse reports. Also, health insurer Humana selected Interpublic’s MullenLowe as its new creative agency of record.
Podcast of the day: Anthony DeMaio, head of U.S. sales at Bloomberg Media, ran a 100-mile ultramarathon in 97-degree weather this summer. “You need to eat 300 calories an hour and consume 30 ounces of liquid every hour,” he tells Ad Age’s Alfred Maskeroni and I-Hsien Sherwood. His secret: lots of Mtn Dew. Listen to the conversation on this week’s Ad Block podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes or Spotify.
Ad of the day: Singapore Airlines just released a musical track made up of ambient sounds from one of its Airbus A350s, and it’s charming. The airline and TBWA\Singapore worked with Seattle-based musician Chong the Nomad on the track, which celebrates the opening of a new non-stop Singapore-Seattle route. You’ll never hear the “fasten seatbelts” chime in quite the same way again.
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