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Sardines in a Cannes

Cannes Lions says it’s moving ahead with an in-person event in southern France this June. The annual Festival of Creativity will “take place as usual,” according to the Ascential-owned awards show, despite the rising tide of coronavirus cases around the world and the emergence of virulent new strains of the disease.

Agency execs are skeptical. “It’s a pipe dream that it’s going to happen,” one of them tells Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse. “We’re not going to send people from Germany and the U.K. to a small enclave of a town to have drinks and do other silly things.”

Aside from the danger of infection (both for attendees and their families, and communities once they return), there’s also the risk of appearing to celebrate on the Riviera, after a hell of a year for most of the world. Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir!

Red light, green light

Donald Trump made history yesterday as the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. To stem the tide of false claims about the election coming from far-right groups, Google has re-instated its ban on political ads, at least through next week’s inauguration.

It’s not an unprecedented move. The search giant previously shut down political ad buys ahead of the November election and the Georgia runoffs, and last year it curtailed ads that referenced the coronavirus to avoid misinformation in the early days of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Snapchat announced last night it has permanently banned Trump's account from its platform, based on “attempts to spread misinformation, hate speech, and incite violence, which are clear violations of our guidelines,” reports Bloomberg News.

Trump's ousting from most social media sites has made it much more difficult for him to get his message out. Perhaps the president was giving his followers what they wanted. A CNBC analysis finds that as many as 40% of Trump’s most popular tweets included false election information. During his time as president, he used the phrase “fake news” more often than “witch hunt” or even “United States.”

Blast from the past

Even virtual events aren’t necessary going well. CES is underway, but pre-recorded sessions and a lack of the usual hands-on demonstrations of new tech have left it feeling lackluster.

“A panel about the power of Big Tech, exploring the roles of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, couldn’t address the latest developments surrounding those companies, like how they are taking unprecedented steps to control violent rhetoric,” writes Ad Age’s Garett Sloane. “The panel did not mention Trump bans on social media, or the crackdown on apps like Parler.”

Advertising Week made use of pre-recorded sessions last fall, though many of the Q&As afterward were live, offering a bit of an opportunity to address current events.

Money shot

Retailer Dollar General will pay workers half a day’s wages to get the coronavirus vaccine. The company can afford it—profit was up $2 billion in the first three quarters of last year. As an essential business, it stayed open through the pandemic.

While American employment law allows companies to fire most workers who refuse to get vaccinated, there’s been increased talk of incentivizing both workers and the public at large, including direct cash payments for getting shots. Perhaps the carrot will be more effective than the stick.

A pirate's life for me

Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi, co-founder of content piracy site The Pirate Bay, ridiculed right-wing sites like Gab and Parler’s inability to handle being dropped by service providers. For nearly two decades, governments and businesses have been unable to keep the torrent site down for more than a few days at a time. “The reason we did The Pirate Bay was to bring freedom and take back control from a centralised system,” he tweeted. “The reason that Gab et al will fail is because they're just whining bitches that have only one ideology: egotism. Sharing is caring y'all.”

He also noted that Parler has approached his service to host the platform. He declined, citing his commitment to human rights, including “the right to not be killed by extreme right wing terrorists.”

Just briefly

Ante up: Marketers are looking to get in on the $35 billion sports betting industry, Ad Age reports. With casinos closing down due to the pandemic, online bookies are booming. In order to stay on top of a quickly shifting legal landscape, the big players in the market, DraftKings and FanDuel, keep creative mostly in-house. Like cannabis, regulations are tight and vary from state to state, but demand is high. And the house always wins.

In pod we trust: The New York Times has issued mea culpas about its retracted podcast “Caliphate,” which turned out to be based on a fabricated story. But many Times staffers say the paper hasn’t done enough to hold the people responsible accountable, according to Business Insider. Also, the NYT audio division made $29 million in 2019, and everyone wants to host a podcast.

Beauty, a beast: A new report from Sephora says that 60% of its customers have experienced discriminatory treatment while shopping at the store, and two in five have experienced unfair treatment due to their race or skin color. The beauty retailer pledged to increase its selection of Black-owned brands, improve the diversity of its marketing and revamp its security policies.

That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call. Thanks for reading, and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage. 

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