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Welcome to Ad Age’s Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. If you’re reading this online or in a forwarded email, here’s the link to sign up for our Wake-Up Call newsletters.

Game on

Super Bowl ad news keeps coming fast and furious. Some of the latest: Jason Alexander—George Costanza from “Seinfeld”—is the star of Tide’s surreally funny, CGI-powered Super Bowl spot. Bud Light is hyping its new hard seltzer lemonade flavor by playing off the “when life gives you lemons” saying. Lighthearted commercials are an emerging Super Bowl LV trend. The Big Game’s ads are being judged for inclusivity.

In addition to the Tide and Bud ads above, you can also already watch Super Bowl spots from Pringles, Michelob Ultra, Chipotle, Mercari and Vroom. Ad Age’s Jeanine Poggi is keeping track and sharing all the creative in “Super Bowl 2021: Watch all the commercials released so far”—a frequently updated post.

If you also want to see Big Game ad teasers—and get up to speed on everything else Super Bowl-related—bookmark Ad Age’s Special Report: Super Bowl index page—which we’re also constantly updating.

Related:  The Jason Alexander hoodie shown in the Tide ad above doesn’t appear to be an actual thing you can buy—yet, at least—but we did spot an, um, eye-catching Jason Alexander photo collage t-shirt for sale from dye sublimation apparel retailer Subliworks.

Bonus Bud nostalgia trip:  “Budweiser’s greatest Super Bowl commercial hits,” courtesy of Ad Age’s  Ann-Christine Diaz and E.J. Schultz.

Quiz time

Which Subway Tunagate headline is the best Subway Tunagate headline?

A. “Subway’s tuna doesn’t actually have tuna in it, suit claims,” per the New York Post.

B. “Subway accused of selling fake tuna in footlong fraud lawsuit,” Fox News reports.

C. “Subway is sued after tuna sandwiches are ‘revealed to be anything but tuna’ and ‘don’t even contain FISH,’” per the Daily Mail.

D. “Subway’s tuna is not tuna, but a ‘mixture of various concoctions,’ a lawsuit alleges,” The Washington Post reports.

CORRECT ANSWER: Since we’ve got a soft spot for mixtures of various concoctions—like this newsletter—we’re going to go with D.

Essential context:  “There simply is no truth to the allegations in the complaint that was filed in California,” a Subway spokesperson tells the New York Post. “Subway delivers 100% cooked tuna to its restaurants, which is mixed with mayonnaise and used in freshly made sandwiches, wraps and salads that are served to and enjoyed by our guests.” Stay tuna-ed.


“U.S. airlines had their worst year ever in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and a rebound in travel remains elusive for now,” The Wall Street Journal’s Alison Sider reports. Southwest Airlines Co. lost almost $3.1 billion and American Airlines Group lost $8.9 billion.

On the bright-ish side:  “But losses at both American and Southwest were narrower than analysts expected,” Sider notes.

Keep reading here.

Big (box) data

“Walmart has reached a deal with The Trade Desk to develop a programmatic buying platform using the retailer’s data to place ads outside Walmart properties as part of a broader plan to become a top 10 player in the U.S. ad business within five years,” Ad Age’s Jack Neff reports

What that’s going to take:  Neff notes that hitting the top 10 “would likely require north of $10 billion in revenue and push Walmart past the likes of Verizon Media, Discovery and Spotify.”

Keep reading here.

Game(Stop) over?

The epic GameStop drama we discussed in the previous edition of Wake-Up Call continues to fascinate. On Thursday, as GameStop’s stock continued its rollercoaster ride—shedding 44% of its value from Wednesday following a massive, frenzied, logic-free rally driven by retail investors who spend way too much time on Reddit’s WallStreetBets subreddit—a fun-while-it-lasted reckoning began to set in. Thursday afternoon, USA Today published a guest post by Nancy Tengler, chief investment officer at Laffer Tengler Investments, headlined “You want a revolution, Redditors? What’s your plan when GameStop collapses?” (Spoiler: They don’t really have a plan, which makes them somehow ... extra revolutionary, maybe?)

The best line in Tengler’s piece comes right at the end: “There is some wisdom in the old saying: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.”

See also:  “Trading app Robinhood faces backlash after placing restrictions on Reddit-fueled stocks,” per Ad Age’s  Ilyse Liffreing.  

What’s next:  “Senate Panel to Hold Hearing Amid GameStop Frenzy, Brown Says,” per Bloomberg News. The Brown in that headline is Senator Sherrod Brown, the incoming chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Because of course:  “Here Are the 50 Funniest Memes About GameStop and Reddit Trolling the Stock Market,” from BuzzFeed.

Do tell

The upcoming Ad Age Agency Report 2021 will include the industry’s definitive ranking of agencies, agency networks and agency companies. Make sure your agency is included by completing Ad Age Datacenter’s questionnaire. Download it at The deadline is Feb. 5. 

Watch for it:  The 77th annual Ad Age Agency Report comes out on May 3.

Just briefly

Market for diversity:  She Media is launching a new ad marketplace, using the Google Ad Manager platform, that will exclusively serve diverse audiences, Ad Age’s Garett Sloane reports.

Still here:  “Actually, QR Codes Never Went Away,” per The New York Times.

Ad force:  “Facebook Ad Services Let Anyone Target US Military Personnel,” Wired reports.

Clean machines:  “GM aims to stop selling gasoline vehicles by 2035 in carbon neutrality pledge,” per Automotive News.

Driven:  “Toyota tops VW to become world’s No. 1 vehicle seller in 2020,” also per Automotive News.

That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.

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