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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.


On Sunday afternoon and evening, multiple news outlets were reporting that Verizon Communications was thisclose to selling its media division, which includes AOL and Yahoo, to private equity group Apollo Global Management—a rumored deal that seems on the verge of actually happening, possibly as soon as Monday.

Essential context:  “With the potential sale,” Scott Moritz and Liana Baker of Bloomberg News write, “Verizon would unload the remnants of an ambitious but distracting foray into online advertising. Last year, the telecom giant agreed to sell the HuffPost online news service to BuzzFeed Inc., and in 2019 it sold the blogging platform Tumblr.”

Fire sale:  James Fontanella-Khan and Mark Vandevelde of the Financial Times say the deal would “mark a dramatic about-turn for the US wireless operator, which between 2015 and 2017 spent about $9bn to acquire Yahoo and AOL as the anchor properties of an online media division that became known as Oath.” Apollo is expected to pay $4 to $5 billion.

Ad Age Agency Report 2021 is out today

“Things are looking up,” Bradley Johnson writes in the introduction to the just-released Ad Age Agency Report 2021, citing reports of positive first-quarter worldwide growth by WPP, Publicis Groupe and Interpublic Group of Cos., for starters. What’s clear, though, is that the agency world still has a lot of work to do to fully recover from the damage done by the recession. As Johnson reports, summarizing Ad Age Datacenter’s analysis,

Overall U.S. agency revenue tumbled 6.8% in 2020 as fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the economy—and agencies—into a deep, though remarkably short, downturn. That was the second-biggest drop since Ad Age began publishing the Agency Report in 1945. The sharpest decline (-7.5%) came in 2009 amid the Great Recession.

Some sectors had it better than others. As Johnson notes,

For the agency business, 2020 was a year of the haves and the have-nots. Health care led the haves as demand surged for marketing communications tied to the coronavirus. ... Exhibit A for the have-nots: experiential and event marketing, a category crushed by COVID cancellations of conventions, conferences and consumer events. U.S. experiential and event marketing revenue for agencies plunged 47.9% in 2020, according to Ad Age Datacenter.

For more of Johnson’s executive summary of how other ad-world disciplines—including media agencies, digital agencies and PR—have been doing, keep reading here.

The latest Ad Age ad review column ...

... asks some thorny questions, including (in the headline) “Does ‘Impossible is Nothing’ still work for Adidas in 2021?” and (in the review itself) “Do we really still accept this level of over-the-top celebrity hagiography?”

Keep reading here.


Today at 12:30 p.m. EDT, VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk appears on Ad Age Remotely—just in time to further hype his May 5 reveal of a some sort of NFT project (of course). We’ll also be getting his thoughts on the NewFronts (more on that in a moment). And then, on Tuesday, former Mindshare CEO Nick Emery, who was recently tapped to run a media division for global brandtech group You & Mr Jones, appears on Ad Age Remotely at 10:30 a.m. EDT to discuss how brands are bringing their media capabilities in-house.

Also coming up this week:  Get ready to celebrate a few formal and informal holidays—and watch out for some high-profile earnings reports (from Under Armour, Allstate and MDC Partners, among others). Get our day-by-day rundown here: “Brands seize on Cinco de Mayo, Star Wars Day and Mother’s Day: The Week Ahead.”

It’s all about connected TV

The IAB NewFronts—“the world’s largest digital media content marketplace that gives media buyers a first look at the latest digital content from the biggest names in media and entertainment,” in the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s own words—kick off today at noon EDT. In his preview of the four-day virtual event, Ad Age’s Garett Sloane says that brands are looking to connected TV as the answer to dwindling traditional TV audiences:

Looking to capitalize on the momentum, NewFronts presenters from Amazon and Roku to Samsung and Vizio are bringing new opportunities for brands in the connected TV space. Amazon is pumping Fire TV with more ads; Roku is leaning into programmatic; Samsung and Vizio are cramming ads into smart TVs; and YouTube continues to see more viewership shift to TV screens.

Sloane also rounds up insights on the state of the digital advertising ecosystem from Mark Book, senior VP and head of content at Digitas; Pamela Drucker Mann, global chief revenue officer and president of U.S. revenue at Condé Nast; Peter Naylor, Snapchat’s VP of ad sales in the Americas; Jennifer Kohl, senior VP and exec director of integrated media at VMLY&R; and Sheila Colclasure, global chief digital responsibility and public policy officer at IPG/Kinesso.

Keep reading here.

Previously:  “Roku puts its programmatic platform at center of NewFronts pitch,” from Ad Age.

See also:  “This new Roku-Google fight has big divorced parent energy,” from The A.V. Club.

And keep this bookmarked:  Ad Age’s “TV Upfronts and NewFronts 2021 Calendar.”

Last chance

Thursday is the deadline to nominate candidates for Ad Age Leading Women (formerly Women to Watch), which honors women who are changing the industry in the U.S. and making names for themselves at companies of all kinds—brands, agencies, technology providers and media platforms. Enter here by 5 p.m. EDT on May 6.

Just briefly

Anti-social:  “U.K. soccer leagues, clubs boycott social media in protest of player abuse,” per Bloomberg News (via Ad Age).

Boffo:  “Box Office: ‘Demon Slayer’ Overtakes ‘Mortal Kombat,’” Variety reports.

Big win:  “MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki—and his Big Board—Correctly Pick the Kentucky Derby Winner,” per The Wrap.

Hood rules:  “Robinhood’s Core Business More Than Tripled in First Quarter,” per Bloomberg News. Plus:  “Warren Buffett denounces SPACs and Robinhood at Berkshire Hathaway meeting,” from Axios.

And finally ... “Billie Eilish Already Knows What Critics Will Say About Her Revealing British Vogue Cover,” per HuffPost.

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

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