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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.

Point of sale

Brands are not just interacting with customers on social media anymore—they’re selling product. “Just this month, Hidden Valley seasoning packets took off on TikTok in a random ‘ranch pickles’ party. A TikTok user emptied a packet of the seasoning into a jar of pickles, and pretty soon thousands of people were trying it,” writes Ad Age’s Garett Sloane. “And that’s just one of the trends that the marketing team at The Clorox Co., owner of Hidden Valley Ranch, has seen sprout on social media, helping the company find new relevance—and sales—with younger audiences.”

With consumers parked in front of their phones, even before the pandemic, a well-timed influencer post can empty the shelves as viewers rush to grab the right ingredients for their own version of the video.

And platforms are responding with offerings like digital storefronts on TikTok and shopping channels on Snapchat.

Money moves

Cable networks used to be a great way for advertisers to reach specialized audiences. But with the advent of streaming TV, some cable channels could be the big losers in the battle for media dollars.

“Smaller cable networks are up against declining distribution as more viewers cancel their pay-TV subscriptions, which is further pressuring the value for advertisers that are eager to follow these audiences to streaming,” write Ad Age’s Jeanine Poggi and Ethan Jakob Craft. “As a result, a meaningful percentage of ad dollars that typically go to long-tail cable networks are expected to shift to digital.”

That shift has only accelerated as the golden age of television expands to Netflix and Amazon Prime. No longer just the domain of premium cable, appointment TV is increasingly only available on specific subscription services. Hulu and Disney+ have even adopted some of the weekly release schedules viewers are used to from their TV days.

A house with the Mouse

Disney is launching a new content brand for creators of color. Onyx Collective will be available mostly on Hulu, Deadline reports, and Freeform President Tara Duncan will lead the initiative, which will feature work from creators including Natasha Rothwell (“Insecure”) and Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”).

The first two projects slated for release will be Questlove’s documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, followed by a docuseries from The New York Times’ The 1619 Project, which will be produced by Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate.

Blurple reign

Just a few weeks after walking away from a reported $12 billion buyout bid from Microsoft, online chat platform Discord is rebranding as it stretches beyond its initial audience. “When I did consumer insights in the fall, I found about 78% of people are using Discord for non-gaming or a combination of gaming and non-gaming,” chief marketing officer Tesa Aragones tells Ad Age’s Mike Juang. “We are attracting different types of people who have different interests, and the rebranding really was in response to what we were hearing.”

Discord is also looking to shore up its user base against competition from Twitch and newcomers like Clubhouse. And one point of differentiation the company wants to make is user safety, defining the community as welcoming and safe with codified policies against hate speech and assistance for user-moderators who are the arbiters of what conversations are allowed on the platform’s 19 million servers, many of which are private.

Just briefly

Cross my heart and hope to die: Grocery stores, retailers, coffeeshops and amusement parks are all beginning to loosen mask mandates on their properties, the New York Times reports. On Monday, Starbucks said masks for customers would be optional (but not for employees), and Target’s 1,900 stores will no longer require masks for people who have been vaccinated—both customers and employees. Of course, all of this is still on the honor system, so there’s no real way to gauge how many people will violate those policies.

Road hog: Harley-Davidson will continue its push into the European market, after the EU decided not to hike tariffs on motorcycles by 25%, according to MarketWatch. The U.S. brand’s stock is up 35% this year, as it continues its efforts to redefine itself, not as a boomer luxury but a symbol of American freedom and mobility.

Child's play: GOP lawmakers have asserted that extended unemployment benefits keep people out of the workforce. But UBS economists are blaming school closures and fear of the coronavirus instead, according to Insider. There’s a dearth of people with young children in the labor force, they say, as well as people over 55. Certainly, the pandemic has been hardest on women, due in large part to the unequal burden of childcare at a time when daycare options are hard to come by.

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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