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Strategic move

Another C-suite exec at Droga5 bows out. This time it’s global chief strategy officer Jonny Bauer, who joined the agency in 2008 and established its highly regarded strategy practice.

“While Droga5 has been heralded for its powerful creative ideas, the agency has gained as much acclaim for the strong strategy that served as the backbone of its work. That can largely be credited to Bauer,” write Ad Age’s Brian Bonilla and Ann-Christine Diaz.

Head of Strategy Harry Román-Torres gets promoted to chief brand strategy officer of the New York office, though the agency won’t be naming a new CSO. Román-Torres was Bauer’s first hire in the discipline, so he’s been there for the big campaigns, including “IHOb” and “The Truth Is Worth It” for The New York Times.

As for Bauer, he’s leaving advertising altogether and is joining Blackstone as head of brand transformation. In February, Droga5’s global chief creative officer Neil Heymann also left, for a post at Publicis.

First and only

The Richards Group hemorrhaged staff and clients after founder Stan Richards casually dropped a racist remark during a review six months ago. Now, the agency—without Richards at the helm, though it still bears his name—has hired someone to fill what its CEO calls “the most important position we've created since the founding of the agency.” Former General Motors exec Nikki Wilson steps in as the shop's first-ever chief talent and culture officer.

It’s an unsurprising move, and one that embattled companies trying to change a toxic culture (or at least trying to appear to change it) have long made. Sometimes it’s a new CEO, but in recent years it’s often been a chief diversity officer or someone in that kind of role, like Wilson will be. But while it’s a positive step, too often those people—hailed as saviors and tasked with righting an entire organization—burn out or find that the structural inadequacies are too great for one person to solve.

Too big to fail

Spotify is under fire after podcast host Joe Rogan advised young people not to get vaccinated, contrary to what every reputable medical authority in the country says. Anthony Fauci quickly pushed back on “The Today Show,” noting that young people can and do get infected. So far, Spotify has shown no intention of removing the episode of Rogan’s show, as it has done previously when the host interviewed white supremacists, conspiracy theorists or other people offering dubious medical advice.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson appears similarly untouchable, even after a recent tirade where he encouraged viewers to call child protective services when they see children wearing masks. Rogan and Carlson host the most popular shows on their respective platforms, drawing audiences hungry for invective and enough ad dollars to shield them from accountability, or even fact checkers.

Has the pandemic reinvented the TV ad marketplace? Find out at Ad Age In-Depth: TV Pivot on May 24 and 25 when executives from NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, Univision, State Farm and more will discuss the impact of the past year. RSVP at

Bouncing baby

Johnson & Johnson shifted its baby brands to MDC Partners’ Doner in a bid to revitalize the once-trusted products. “The account move, which doesn’t affect the Aveeno adult skincare business, comes as the Johnson’s Baby brand looks to recover from years of publicity around litigation alleging Johnson’s Baby Powder caused ovarian cancer,” writes Ad Age’s Jack Neff. “J&J has consistently denied any such link and had mixed results in court. The company pledged to appeal the biggest judgment against it—a $2.1 billion award in Missouri—to the U.S. Supreme Court after losing an appeal late last year before Missouri’s high court.”

Given the baby brands’ legal issues, the accounts have bounced around for several years, from BBDO and VaynerMedia to Omnicom’s Velocity and then DDB. It’s a potential opportunity for a clean slate, since J&J hasn’t run TV spots since 2019, long before the pandemic derailed maost other brand’s campaigns.

Just briefly

Looking up: Interpublic Group of Cos. projected organic revenue growth of 5-6% this year, joining WPP and Publicis Groupe in what appear to be rosy predictions for an industry rebound. Of course, all of that’s dependent on the continued recovery of the economy, and especially progress with the pandemic. And while those are going well for now in the U.S., holding companies are global organizations, so bad news anywhere is bad for business.

Clearing the air: While not as egregious as Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, Tesla is dealing with charges from the U.S. and Germany that the surface coats on its vehicles violate environmental regulations. The EPA wants more info, CNBC reports, but Tesla insists it’s provided what it’s required to. Germany has already slapped the automaker with a $14.5 million fine for failing to take back car batteries from customers.

Pack your bags: Talk about advance planning. The Consumer Electronics Show is officially on for Las Vegas 2022—in person and ready to party, The Verge reports. If you’re the type who loves buffet lunches, gambling and top-of-the-line printers, mark your calendar. Unlike some other more optimistic conferences, this feels far enough out that a de facto declaration that the pandemic will be over doesn’t feel far-fetched. But we’ll see.

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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